Jeff Carter, Mike Richards

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.

Sharks defeat Hurricanes, but Vlasic exits game with lower-body injury

Marc-Edouard Vlasic
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Talk about the ideal start.

Patrick Marleau scored just 12 seconds into the first period and the San Jose Sharks had a 2-1 lead before Saturday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes was even four minutes old.

The Sharks held on for a 4-3 win over the Hurricanes, Kevin Labanc‘s goal late in the second period standing as the winner, as the two teams traded three goals in the span of just over three minutes.

It remains awfully crowded in the Pacific Division. The Flames lead with 34 points, while the Sharks, Ducks and Oilers are all one point back.

The victory came with bad news for the Sharks.

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic left the game in the second period and didn’t return. He’s now day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to coach Pete DeBoer following the win.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.