Tyler Seguin

Four reasons why owners have been willing to sign players to long contracts

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The New York Post’s Larry Brooks took the NHL to task today, slamming the likes of Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Jets owner Mark Chipman for signing players to six-year contracts right before the old CBA expired, then having the gall to demand five-year limits during current negotiations.

It wasn’t the first time the owners have been accused of hypocrisy, and the players are justifiably upset with the NHL’s demands. Nobody wants their employment freedoms restricted.

That said, there are good reasons owners have been willing to sign off on long-term deals.

Here are the four main ones:

1. Because the players are young. Tyler Seguin (six-year deal) is only 20. So is Taylor Hall (seven years). Evander Kane (six years) is 21 and Jordan Eberle (six years) is 22. All four are franchise players that will still be in their 20s when their contracts expire. For that reason, the NHL may be willing to soften its position on term limits for restricted free agents. Maybe it’s a six-year max, maybe it’s eight.

2. To reduce the cap hit. It’s the back-diving type of contract the NHL won’t allow to exist in a new CBA. The league should have addressed this loophole before it signed the last CBA, but there’s no point crying over spilled milk. Currently there are 16 players with contract lengths of 10 years or longer. Of those 16, only a handful signed with the expectation they’ll still be playing when their deals expire. Take Roberto Luongo’s 12-year, $64 million contract that’s set to expire when he’s 43. In reality, it’s only a nine-year deal; the last three years are for minimal salary. In hindsight, the Canucks probably shouldn’t have agreed to it, given they’re now trying to trade him and his contract is the biggest impediment to a deal. But looking back, without Luongo’s artificially lowered cap hit, they likely wouldn’t have been able to acquire Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre at the trade deadline prior to their run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2011. Both players were key additions that year.

3. To get the player. You can argue all day about the wisdom of Wild owner Craig Leipold for committing a combined $196 million to sign unrestricted free agents Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to identical 13-year deals this summer. But that was the market and it was the only way he could win the bidding war for their services. Again, you can question the wisdom of the deal, but Leipold felt he needed to make the investment to invigorate a fan-base that had grown tired of losing. Given there weren’t many Wild fans complaining, it’s hard to argue he failed in that regard.

4. To keep the player. See: Shea Weber, who forced Nashville’s hand when he inked a 14-year, $110 million ($58 million) offer sheet with the Flyers. The Predators had already lost Suter to free agency; they felt they couldn’t lose their other franchise defenseman. Was it smart? Guess we’ll find out. But like Suter and Parise, Weber was going to get big dollars and term wherever he ended up. For Nashville, it was either buck up or start rebuilding again. Suffice to say, Preds fans were glad ownership chose the first option.

For the NHL, demanding term limits on contracts is no different than demanding a salary cap. It’s being done to level the playing field and protect owners from themselves.

Lightning, Islanders make East playoff races even more confusing

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 01: Ben Bishop #30 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes the third period save as Ryan Strome #18 of the New York Islanders looks for a rebound at the Barclays Center on November 1, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Whenever you groan at what seems like a quiet trade market, take a step back and ask yourself this: “Who is really out of it?”

For a while there, it felt reasonable to dismiss the chances of teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Now? There’s probably only a handful of teams that can really be comfortable, at this very point, with calling themselves sellers.

The Islanders took care of their business with a 3-1 win against the fading (probably selling?) Detroit Red Wings, even with Petr Mrazek making a save like this.

Meanwhile, Ben Bishop might just be putting his game together (while Nikita Kucherov‘s game remains very much together) as the Tampa Bay Lightning throttled the Edmonton Oilers 4-1. Bishop might just end up being indispensable – or at least not worth trading – as he’s on a five-game winning streak.

With those wins, the races for the last seemingly available Eastern Conference playoff spots just get that much muddier.*

Third place in the Atlantic: Maple Leafs – 67 points in 59 games, 28 wins, 27 ROW

Second wild card: Panthers – 66 points in 58 GP, 28 W, 25 ROW

Bruins – 66 points in 59 GP, 30 W, 28 ROW
Islanders – 66 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 27 ROW
Flyers – 63 points in 59 GP, 28 W, 23 ROW
Lightning – 62 points in 59 GP, 27 W, 25 ROW
Sabres – 62 points in 60 GP, 26 W, 25 ROW

Wow, that’s crazy-close. Naturally, teams like the Islanders and Flyers lack the luxury of having a third spot in reasonable reach – unless things get truly wild – but that’s quite the congested group of playoff hopefuls.

And, sure, the Bolts are among those facing longer odds, but the way things keep swinging wildly this season, who knows? Especially with a team with a track record of success and high expectations like the Lightning.

* – We’ll arbitrarily cut off the East race at the Devils, but just in case you’re wondering, they have 60 points, the Red Wings have 58 and the Hurricanes have 56. Also, the Ottawa Senators hold the second spot in the Atlantic with 70 points and the Montreal Canadiens lead the division with 72, so that group could see quite a bit of movement over the last quarter of the season.

Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames

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If you want to summarize the kind of night the Nashville Predators experienced, you could do worse than to draw parallels to Filip Forsberg‘s experiences.

The highs were quite high, you see. Forsberg & Co. carved away at the Calgary Flames’ 4-1 lead as his hat trick (see above) eventually gave the Predators a fleeting 5-4 edge.

We all should have seen more drama coming … and it did. Forsberg ended up being at the wrong place at the wrong time in overtime; the Flames’ 6-5 overtime winner ended up going off of his foot. Ouch.

Mark Giordano ended up being credited with that goal. The game was just a barn-burner.

While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.

Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).

The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 65 points and a game in hand on the Flames.

Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points

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If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.

It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.

Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:

Central Division title chase

1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)

Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.

Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).

The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.

Also, tonight marked a nice milestone for Joel Quenneville:

Matthews, Leafs get last laugh in OT vs. Laine and the Jets

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Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.

Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.

Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.

This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.

MORE on that goal and the violence that ensued here.

But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)

The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.

Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).

In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.

You might even be tempted to believe the hype.