Are ultra long-term contracts a blessing or curse for the teams that issue them?

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Since the salary cap era started, teams have been becoming more and more open to signing players to extremely long-term (basically lifetime) contracts in an effort to provide themselves with cost certainty. It also allows them to give players the type of money they want now, while keeping the overall cap hit low by frontloading the deal. In turn, players get the security that a long-term deal provides.

It seems like a win-win scenario, but of course it’s not that simple.

The NHL owner’s initial CBA proposal sought to limit contracts to five-years in length, but even if these types of ultra long-term deals are still an option next season, should GMs be interested in signing players to them?

To get a better idea of the potential pros and cons, let’s take a look at the five longest active deals that have been in effect for at least three full seasons.

Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders – 15 years, $67,500,000) — Obviously, this deal perfectly sums up the risks involved. The deal began in the 2006-07 campaign and at this point a $4.5 million cap hit is pretty low for an all-star caliber goaltender.

The problem, of course, is that DiPietro is not an all-star caliber goaltender. He’s been plagued by injuries over the last four seasons and hasn’t even been that good during the brief periods where he’s been healthy.

At this point, he’s the Islanders backup goaltender and someone who probably wouldn’t be able to find a one-way contract as an unrestricted free agent. All the same, the Islanders have made a commitment to him that lasts through the 2020-21 campaign.

Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals – 13 years, $124,000,000) — Going into this deal, Ovechkin looked like about as safe a bet as you could get. Sure, his $9,538,462 cap hit was excessive for the time and is still the biggest in the NHL, but could you blame Washington for locking up a man that promised to be one of the greatest goal scorers of his generation?

To an extent, yes. It doesn’t matter who the player is, assuming that he’ll be among the league’s elite for the next 13 years is a big gamble. It hasn’t exactly blown up in Washington’s face, but Ovechkin’s 38-goal, 65-point 2011-12 campaign certainly leaves something to be desired given his contract. Still, Ovechkin is young and over the span of his career, last season might prove to be the low point.

Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings – 12 years, $73,000,000) — Zetterberg’s deal has fared better than most. His $6,083,333 cap hit is looking increasingly favorable given how much the market have risen in recent years. His offensive output did decline a bit in 2011-12, but he remained the team’s point scoring leader.

Mike Richards (Philadelphia Flyers/Los Angeles Kings – 12 years, $69,000,000) — This one is a bit harder to judge. The Philadelphia Flyers eventually decided to go in a different direction, but, in part due to his reasonable $5,750,000 annual cap hit, they were able to trade away his contract for a pretty nice haul.

He then went on to record just 44 points in 74 games in his first season with the Los Angeles Kings, but he stepped up in the playoffs and helped them win the Stanley Cup. His deal certainly can’t be called a failure, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to build off of his strong playoff run and have a more productive all-around season in 2012-13.

Marian Hossa (Chicago Blackhawks – 12 years, $63,300,000) — For the most part, this contract has worked out fine so far. Hossa helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and it’s hard to argue with that. His $5,275,000 cap hit is also pretty friendly and has made the deal justifiable even though he’s missed a decent amount of playing time due to injuries.

With Hossa, even after three seasons under the deal, the jury is still out. He’s already 33 and he’s signed through 2020-21. It might not be too long before his contract starts to look like a drag on the team.

In a way, Hossa’s deal encompasses the risks that we still can’t fully explore. Seeing as these types of deals gained popularity with the new (soon to be old) CBA, we haven’t gotten to see these deals play out through to their conclusion. However, we can already clearly see examples of the big risks these contracts come with.

Video: AHL goalie Jonas Gustavsson scores his first career goal

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He didn’t shoot, but Jonas Gustavsson still scored.

The former NHL netminder, now with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL, scored his first career goal Friday, as part of his team’s victory over the San Diego Gulls.

From the AHL:

With San Diego goaltender Dustin Tokarski on the bench for an extra attacker and the Gulls working on a power play, Gustavsson made a save before an errant San Diego pass slid down the length of the ice and into the vacated net at 16:56 of the third period.

Gustavsson is the fifth AHL goaltender to be credited with a goal without actually shooting the puck into the opposition net. In addition to his goal, Gustavsson stopped 30 of 31 shots in the Condors victory.

Bolts and Islanders both win, which is bad news for Bruins

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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each had to work overtime to decide their separate games, but when they ended, both clubs were victorious.

And that makes things even more interesting in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

With their shootout win in Pittsburgh, the Islanders tie the Bruins in points but take over the final playoff spot for now with fewer games played. The Lightning, despite an abundance of injuries all season, are just a point back of Boston and New York.

Nikita Kucherov scored the winner for Tampa Bay against the Red Wings. He’s up to 38 goals, which is second most in the league behind Sidney Crosby, currently at 42 goals.

Sellers leading up to the trade deadline, and without Steven Stamkos since the middle of November, the Lightning are in the thick of this race, even if others may have counted them out.

“Once again, people counted us out,” defenseman Victor Hedman told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we showed a lot of character. And we’re right back in it.”

The Bolts don’t play again until Monday, when they host the Chicago Blackhawks — only one of the hottest teams in the league.

Meanwhile, Saturday’s busy slate of games includes a showdown between the Bruins and Islanders. For Boston, it’s a chance for redemption after a particularly costly third period against Tampa Bay on Thursday.

What is wrong with the Sharks?

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Not that long ago, the San Jose Sharks appeared well on their way to winning the Pacific Division title.

On March 14, they had a seven-point lead on both Anaheim and Calgary. Gone is that advantage. Not only have the Ducks surged back into the fight for the division, but the Sharks have lost five in a row and are having a terrible time of late creating any offense.

The Ducks defeated the Jets on Friday, moving into a tie with the Sharks at 91 points.

San Jose’s struggles hit a new low Friday with a 6-1 loss to the Dallas Stars, a team with its own flaws and nowhere close to a playoff position.

At one point midway through the second period, the Sharks trailed the Stars by four goals and had only six lousy shots on goal. During this skid, San Jose has scored only five goals.

Earlier this week, members of the Sharks said they weren’t terribly worried about this losing streak. The losses, they had said, were in close games, which is true: San Jose lost three consecutive one-goal games.

“When I look at the losing streak, we dominated some of those games for long periods and found ways to lose. You never like to lose, but I’m not that concerned,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “We’ve got to obviously end it. We’ve got to get healthy. I don’t see a bunch of symptoms of a team that can’t get this fixed pretty quickly.”

This, however, was a blowout. Adam Cracknell recorded the hat trick, pushing his single-season career-high in goals to 10.

The performance at one point forced DeBoer to take a timeout, in which he expressed his displeasure.

Making matters worse for the Sharks: Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game early in the third period and was put under further evaluation. He didn’t return.

The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Halak and the Islanders defeat Penguins, move into wild card spot

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Quite a hockey game between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

It offered plenty to enjoy — Phil Kessel‘s dominant but unfruitful shift in overtime, a combined 86 shots on goal between both teams, a showcase of skill from the likes of John Tavares and Sidney Crosby, and two strong goaltending performances from Jaroslav Halak and Marc-Andre Fleury.

Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, which is just fine in the eyes of Mario Lemieux, set up Brock Nelson‘s goal in the second period.

The Islanders and their fans probably aren’t hung up on style points at this juncture of the season. They just care about wins and points in the standings, and those are exactly what New York accomplished with a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh.

Anthony Beauvillier and Tavares scored for the Islanders in the shootout. Halak made 37 stops, including a game-saver in overtime off Matt Cullen. Halak trapped the puck, which was right on the goal line, between his legs on a chance from in front. The play was reviewed but no goal.

The win gives the Islanders 82 points, which is the same total as the struggling Boston Bruins.

However, the Islanders, with one game in hand on the Bruins, take over the final wild card spot in the East for now.