Rick DiPietro

NHL has reason to fight for maximum contract lengths


NHL owners and general managers need to be protected from themselves. This much we know, and the league doesn’t deny it.

Even the last CBA – the one with the hard salary cap that was supposed to be bulletproof – had loopholes that GMs exploited to sign free agents.

The most notable loophole allowed teams to offer “back-diving” contracts that gave players lots of money up front and practically none as the term expired. Not only did these deals artificially deflate the cap hit by tacking on years past a player’s probable retirement date, it also gave the player the bulk of his money sooner than later, which is better than the opposite.

It’s hard to imagine those back-diving contracts will exist once a new CBA is signed. The owners will fight too hard for them to be nixed.

However, some observers think owners will stand less firmly on another demand, that being maximum contract lengths of five years.

Under the last CBA, there was no such thing as a maximum contract length. Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick DiPietro signed for 15 years each. Shea Weber got 14. All told, 16 players notched deals for 10 years or more.

Players like long-term deals because they offer security. NHL contracts are guaranteed, so once they’re signed they can’t be canceled, even if the player stops producing or gets hurt.

Which brings us to our point: If the salary cap restricts how much a player can earn and there’s no way to front load deals, what do you think a prized free agent is going to ask for in negotiations if there’s no cap on contract lengths?

The answer is term. If only because there’s nothing else to ask for.

And if meeting that demand is the only way one team can beat out another team to sign the player, he’ll get it. (Let’s face it, GMs know they can be fired tomorrow, so what do they care if the team has a problem down the road? See: moral hazard.)

Long-term contracts aren’t necessarily a terrible thing, but believe it or not there have been athletes that got a little too comfortable once they cashed in on a big deal.

There have also been players whose health issues kept them off the ice. (Or, in the case of DiPietro, severely restricted their time on it.)

Maybe a few long-term contracts gone wrong is simply the price owners will have to pay to get a new CBA. And there are probably owners and GMs that don’t want five-year limits; they want to lock up their stars as long as possible.

Then again, maybe it’s a battle NHL commissioner Gary Bettman thinks is winnable (the NBA won it), so he might as well win it.

Goalie nods: Dubnyk looks to turn tide for slumping Wild

WINNIPEG, MB - OCTOBER 25: Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild blocks a shot on goal in second period action in an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre on October 25, 2015 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)
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Devan Dubnyk will look to snap Minnesota’s three-game losing streak tonight and, at the same time, look to bump a slump of his own.

On a personal two-game losing streak — and having lost five of his last six — Dubnyk gets the call in Chicago when the Wild take on the ‘Hawks at the United Center.

After a banner ’14-15 campaign that culminated with a Vezina nomination, Dubnyk has failed to match those (admittedly high) standards this season. Though his record is OK — 11-7-2 — his GAA (2.55) and save percentage (.909) leave plenty to be desired. He’s also given up three or more goals in four of his last five starts, including four goals against both the Penguins and Bruins in mid-November.

For Chicago, Corey Crawford will get the start in goal.


Cory Schneider‘s in net for New Jersey as the Devils host the Avalanche. Colorado played last night — a 5-3 loss to the Isles, in which Semyon Varlamov allowed four goals on 27 shots — so it has yet to name a starter. Safe money’s on Reto Berra in the second of a back-to-back, though.

Mike Condon, back in the No. 1 role with the injured Carey Price out six weeks, goes for Montreal against Columbus. Sergei Bobrovsky starts for the Blue Jackets.

— It’s Steve Mason versus Craig Anderson as Ottawa invades Philly. Anderson, now the full-fledged No. 1 with Andrew Hammond (concussion) out, went 6-2-2 in November with a .925 save percentage.

Linus Ullmark goes for Buffalo in Detroit, while the Wings counter with Petr Mrazek.

Mike Smith‘s back in goal for the Coyotes after Anders Lindback started on Saturday. The Preds are likely to go with Pekka Rinne.

— Good matchup in St. Louis tonight, as veteran Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo goes up against one of the best young ‘tenders in the game in Jake Allen.

— The Flames are going back to the Karri Ramo well tonight when they host Dallas. With Kari Lehtonen still hurt, Antti Niemi looks likely for the Stars.

— No confirmations out of Los Angeles yet, but Jacob Markstrom is likely for the Canucks while Jonathan Quick is likely for the Kings.

— No confirmations out of San Jose-Pittsburgh, either. But since neither team played last night, it’s likely both No. 1s, Marc-Andre Fleury and Martin Jones, will be in net.

More injury trouble for the Rangers — Klein out 2-3 weeks

Kevin Klein, Gustav Nyquist

As if losing Derek Stepan wasn’t going to be hard enough, the New York Rangers will also be without defenseman Kevin Klein for the next little while.

Klein has a “strained oblique,” the club announced today. The 30-year-old suffered the injury early in yesterday’s 4-3 win over Carolina. He’ll be out 2-3 weeks.

Klein, a right shot, has spent time paired with Marc Staal, Keith Yandle and Ryan McDonagh this season. The way Dan Girardi and Dan Boyle have struggled (see: here and here) on the right side, you could make the argument that Klein was the last defenseman they could afford to lose. (You may not win the argument, but you could sure make it.)

With Klein out, Dylan McIlrath will get back into the lineup tomorrow in Brooklyn.

Currently, the Rangers have just six healthy defenseman on their roster.

Kane, Holtby, Duchene named NHL’s three stars for November

Patrick Kane

A winger, a goalie and a center were the NHL’s three stars for October.

And now a winger, a goalie and a center are the NHL’s three stars for November, too.

On Tuesday, the league announced that Chicago’s Patrick Kane, Washington’s Braden Holtby and Colorado’s Matt Duchene were the first, second and third stars for the month, this after naming Dallas’ Jamie Benn, Montreal’s Carey Price and Boston’s David Krejci as the three stars last month.


Kane led the NHL with 15 assists and 23 points, registering at least one point in all 13 November games to guide the Blackhawks (13-8-3, 29 points) to a 7-3-3 month and third place in the Central Division.

Holtby went 9-2-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .927 save percentage and one shutout to pace the NHL in wins and backstop the Capitals (17-5-1, 35 points) to a 9-3-1 month and second place in the Metropolitan Division.

Duchene paced the NHL with 11 goals and ranked second with 20 points in 14 games to power the Avalanche (9-14-1, 19 points) to a 6-8-0 November. In doing so, he became the first Avalanche player to score 11 or more goals in one calendar month since February 2003 (Milan Hejduk: 12).

Kane, of course, is also currently riding a 19-game point streak, the longest by an American-born player in NHL history and the longest by any player since Sidney Crosby had a point in 25 straight games during the ’10-11 campaign.

Kane will look to extend his streak tonight, when the ‘Hawks take on the Wild (NBCSN, 8 p.m. ET).

Strome, Marner highlight Team Canada’s World Junior roster

Connor McDavid
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Hockey Canada announced its roster for the World Junior selection camp on Tuesday and, unsurprisingly, the list is filled with first-round picks.

Chief among them? Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner, taken third and fourth overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Strome, property of the Arizona Coyotes and Marner, property of the Maple Leafs, are just two of nine first-rounders from this June’s draft heading to camp; the roster also includes five first-rounders from the ’14 draft.

Thirty players in total were invited. That means there’ll be some stiff competition for roster spots, though not in goal, where only Calgary and New Jersey prospects Mason McDonald and Mackenzie Blackwood will attend.

The full list of invitees:



As for the fate of two WJC-eligible NHLers — Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen and Jared McCann — Hockey Canada head scout Ryan Jankowski said his organization is holding out hope both will be available for selection.