Don’t blame owners for trying to win

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If the owners are so worried that the players are making too much money, why do they keep handing out long-term, front-loaded contracts that maximize what they’re allowed to spend under the CBA?

A popular answer to that question is, “because they’re hypocrites.

Personally, I think the answer is, “because it’s the only way to sign good free agents and good players are an integral part of winning hockey games.”

Unfortunately for the NHL’s financially challenged franchises, the price for free agents is set by the teams that can afford them.

Some of those teams can afford them because they’re profitable businesses that get even more profitable when they win.

Others can afford them because they have owners that are so rich they don’t care if the business makes money – they just want to win a Stanley Cup.

The common theme is – because they want to win.

Meanwhile, the NHL’s money-losing clubs that don’t have Terry Pegula signing checks and shooting guns into the air are dragged into a game they can’t afford to play, but one they can’t simply walk away from either.

You want Shea Weber, Nashville? The Flyers have set the price. Take it, bite the financial bullet and see if you can claw something back in the new CBA, or leave it and go explain the decision to your fans. Sorry, but the Flyers aren’t going to worry if they hurt the Predators; they’ve got their own rather demanding fans to answer to. Unless you’ve got a problem with that, Flyers fans. Is your heart aching for Preds ownership? Or are you more concerned that Chris Pronger might never play again and Kimmo Timonen is 37?

And that’s the way it should be — each team looking out for its owns fans.

Come to think of it, the only team that seems to care about the rest of the league is the richest of them all – the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“These deals that are front-loaded and have small amounts at the back end, in my opinion, are designed to circumvent the salary cap,” said Leafs GM Brian Burke after failing to land prized free agent Brad Richards last summer.

“I won’t do them, I never have, I’m not going to. That’s not a contract structure we’re interested in.”

So Richards went to the Rangers, who were prepared to give him the front-loaded deal he wanted.

Fortunately, the Leafs are stacked down the middle so it wasn’t a big deal. Oh wait, no they’re not. They haven’t had a legitimate first-line center since Mats Sundin.

What do Leafs fans thinks of Burke’s refused to hand out front-loaded contracts? Let’s ask Leafs fan Sean McIndoe, aka @DownGoesBrown.

“Whether it’s some sense of duty to the league, or some sort of personal moral code, or just plain old self-promotion, Burke has a tendency to give the impression that he has quite a few priorities beyond doing whatever it takes to win,” McIndoe told PHT in an email.

Not that McIndoe is devastated the Leafs lost out on Richards, or any other free agent that signed the type of contract Burke eschews.

“Big-dollar UFA deals usually end up being a mistake, and Leaf fans know that as well as anyone,” said McIndoe.

But Burke isn’t telling Leafs fans – the same fans that pay the highest ticket prices in the NHL and haven’t experienced a playoff game since before the lockout – he won’t sign those deals because they’re not good for the team. And that’s what hard for Leafs fans to take.

“If Burke just sold it that way I think a lot of fans would be on board,” said McIndoe. “But instead he gets up on his soapbox and turns it into some sort of ethical issue, and that’s when fans start tuning him out.”

Look, I’m not saying the players should bend over for the owners in the CBA negotiations. The owners need to institute a more progressive revenue-sharing program. And the players shouldn’t be held responsible for things like the money pit in Glendale.

But let’s not spend too much time ripping owners for trying to win. Isn’t that what you want your team to do? Win?

Related: Reaching a new CBA is a negotiation, not an exercise in fairness

‘We need more’ — Struggling Habs demote slumping Galchenyuk

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The Montreal Canadiens, as an entire team, have been mired in a brutal scoring slump to begin the season.

The result has been a seven-game losing streak that, believe it or not, took an even uglier turn last week when the Habs were swept in embarrassing fashion on a three-game trip through California.

Among the players continuing to have difficulties producing is Alex Galchenyuk, who has one goal in eight games, produced one shot on goal in more than 18 minutes versus the Anaheim Ducks last week and only 14 shots on the season, and practiced on the fourth line with Michael McCarron and Nikita Scherbak ahead of tomorrow’s home game with the Florida Panthers.

This isn’t the first time this season that head coach Claude Julien has skated Galchenyuk on the fourth line. He offered a rather simple explanation on Monday, after situating a 30-goal scorer from only two years ago — and a player signed to a three-year, $14.7 million contract extension this summer — now situated in the bottom six of a lineup that is dead last in the league in scoring.

“Right now, I don’t think Alex has given us enough to … continue playing on our top line for the time being,” said Julien. “We certainly need more. At the same time, hopefully those guys I put him with are going to make him work and hopefully get better. At one point you’ve got to do something as a coach to get players that maybe deserve to be up, such as (Paul Byron) — he needs to be up there because he’s playing well, he’s scoring goals. You reward people that deserve it and at the same time, other guys have got to give you more.”

The aforementioned Byron, who skated Monday on the top line, Jonathan Drouin and Brendan Gallagher are currently tied for the team lead in goals — with two each. That’s through eight games. Yes, it’s bad. Max Pacioretty, a five-time 30-goal scorer, has just one so far, and he’s been candid about his complete lack of production so far.

“That is the challenge … how am I going to go tell my teammates that we got to be better when I’m the worst one on the ice,” he said last week, per Sportsnet.

There are individual players, specifically Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov each with 10, who have scored almost as many goals as the Habs as an entire team.  And after such a disastrous start, the heat is now on general manager Marc Bergevin for some of his moves in recent years, and for him to try to turn it around by perhaps pulling off a trade to upgrade their offensive attack.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

Flames place Jagr on injured reserve

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The seemingly ageless Jaromir Jagr has been placed on injured reserve, after he left Saturday’s game versus the Minnesota Wild with what the club called a lower-body injury.

After going the entire summer without inking a contract before eventually signing a one-year, $2 million deal with the Flames earlier this month, the 45-year-old Jagr has appeared in five games with Calgary, and had points in back-to-back games before the injury occurred in the first period versus the Wild.

In a corresponding transaction, the Flames have recalled 23-year-old center Mark Jankowski from the American Hockey League.

Selected 21st overall by the Flames in the 2012 NHL Draft, Jankowski has turned into a promising prospect following a four-year college career and turning pro. Last season, the towering 6-foot-4 tall middle man compiled 27 goals and 56 points in 64 games with the AHL’s Stockton Heat and was in the running to potentially land a roster spot with the Flames after an impressive showing during training camp.

Read more: Looking to make the leap — Mark Jankowski

“For me, personally, I want to get called up based on my merit — I don’t want to just be an injury replacement guy,” Jankowski told the Calgary Herald. “I want to be someone who forced management’s hand, saying, ‘he needs to be here because we think he can help us win.’ That’s my mindset.”

Since going down to the AHL at the conclusion of camp, Jankowski has continued his productive ways with five goals and eight points in six games. Based on reports from Monday’s practice, Jankowski will remain at center with the Flames, which will move Sam Bennett over to the wing.

Following a playoff berth last spring and an active offseason, including the deal to land Jagr to play right wing, the Flames were expected to perhaps take another step toward competing for the Western Conference this season. It’s still early, however, through eight games, they sit with a 4-4 record, which includes losses in three of their last four games.

Their schedule doesn’t get any easier to close out the month. They’re on the road this week for two games on back-to-back nights in Nashville and then St. Louis, before they return home to face Dallas and Washington.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

Fantasy adds and drops: Reimer’s stock is trending up

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Every week, PHT will be providing its readers with some fantasy advice. This column will dissect the waiver wire by looking at potential additions that are owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues and potential drops that are owned in more than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues.

Here’s this week’s list:

ADDS:

Derick Brassard-C-Ottawa Senators (owned in 42 percent of leagues)

Brassard is coming off a three-point performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. He has seven points in his last five games, which is rather impressive. He’s up to six goals, four assists and a plus-10 rating in eight contests.

Jason Pominville-RW-Buffalo Sabres (owned in 37 percent of leagues)

No one really expected Pominville to be fantasy relevant this year, but he’s been pretty productive so far. The veteran already has five multi-point games in 2017-18. It’s incredibly unlikely that he’ll be able to keep this up though, so ride him while he’s hot. Pominville has five goals, six assists and a plus-4 rating in nine games.

Sean Couturier-C-Philadelphia Flyers (owned in 46 percent of leagues)

Couturier hasn’t really been a point producer since coming into the NHL, but the Flyers are giving him a shot to play with some of their better offensive players so that could change this season. He has four goals, three assists and a plus-9 rating in eight games.

Paul Stastny-C-St. Louis Blues (owned in 32 percent of leagues)

The Blues have been decimated by injuries early this season. One guy who has missed plenty of time in the past is Paul Stastny. But so far, he’s played in all nine of St. Louis’ games, and he’s been really good. Stastny has eight points in nine contests this season. The fact that he averages over 20 minutes of ice time certainly doesn’t hurt.

Chris Stewart-LW/RW-Minnesota Wild (owned in 17 percent of leagues)

Wait what? Stewart has been nothing short of remarkable this season. He’s scored in all but one of Minnesota’s games, which no one saw coming. Like Pominville, this probably won’t last. But if you’re in a deeper league that awards more points for goals, he could be an intriguing short-term add. Stewart has six goals and two assists in eight games.

[More Fantasy: Check out RotoWorld’s weekly In the Crease column]

Josh Manson-D-Anaheim Ducks (owned in 19 percent of leagues)

The Ducks have been without Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen this season, so there’s been more minutes to go around. Manson has four assists and a plus-7 rating in seven games. He’s also averaging 22:26 of ice time in 2017-18. Those numbers will come down when Anaheim gets healthy, but for now he’s a suitable fantasy option.

Dion Phaneuf-D-Ottawa Senators (owned in owned in 46 percent of leagues)

Don’t roll your eyes at me! Phaneuf, who was once heralded as the most overrated player in the league, has quietly put together a nice start. He’s already up to four points in eight games, and he’s playing between 19 and 25 minutes per game.

James Reimer-G-Florida Panthers (owned in 32 percent of leagues)

Reimer and Roberto Luongo have pretty much split the starts this season. But now that Luongo (hand) is going to miss some time, it opens up the door for Reimer to play more. Reimer is coming off a big performance in a win over the Capitals on Saturday night.

[Fantasy Podcast: Rotoworld on Kucherov’s Historic Start]

DROPS:

Zach Parise-LW-Minnesota Wild (owned in 62 percent of leagues)

For some reason, 62 percent of Yahoo fantasy league players are holding out hope on Parise, who’s missed every game this season. It’s become pretty clear that he isn’t the same player he once was, so it’s not like he’s expected to light it up when he does return. He can be dropped.

Chris Kreider-LW-New York Rangers (owned in 63 percent of leagues)

Kreider has hit he 20-goal mark in each of the last three seasons, but he’s off to a slow start this year. He’s picked up just one goal in the first nine games of the season, which is less than ideal. On top of that, he’s played under 14 minutes in two of his last three games.

Ryan Kesler-C-Anaheim Ducks (owned in 58 percent of leagues)

Again, I’m not too sure why so many people are holding on to an injured Kesler. The Ducks are hoping to have him back by Christmas, which is still pretty far away. You can drop him and add him again when his return date gets closer. Don’t lose sleep if someone else picks him up in the meantime.

‘We should be embarrassed’: Blashill rips Red Wings after latest loss

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The Detroit Red Wings got off to a terrific start in 2017-18, as they were able to collect victories in four of their first five games of the season.

What made their start even more impressive, is that four of their first five contests were played on the road. They opened the season with a home win against Minnesota, and then took home two points in Ottawa, Arizona and Vegas. Their lone loss came in Dallas.

That positive start seems like it was a lifetime ago. The Red Wings have now dropped four games in a row to Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington and Vancouver.

After Sunday night’s loss to the Canucks, head coach Jeff Blashill had some choice words for his team’s lack of desire.

“It was a brutal effort,” Blashill said, per MLive.com. “I thought it was an embarrassing effort, not even close to the level of competitiveness you have to have. We should be embarrassed of ourselves, from me at the top all the way on down. We got out-competed, outworked, out-detailed.”

Detroit was outshot (37-21) and outchanced by a significant margin. And no disrespect to the Canucks, but they aren’t exactly a top team in the league.

(As you may have guessed, the Canucks are represented by the light blue line in hockeystats.ca’s possession chart).

Things aren’t going to get any easier for the Wings. They’re going to spend the week on the road (they’ll play three games in five days), as they’ll travel to Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Florida.