Ryan Lambert

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  • Market value for NHL goalies is quickly becoming awful (Trending Topics)

    Getty ImagesIn the past few summers, the size of contracts given out has obviously expanded along with the salary cap, and often it's some of the league's more mediocre players reaping the benefits. One need look no deeper than David Clarkson's contract, for instance, to see that guys who've never had a 50-point season in their lives can still cash in if you can find someone dumb enough to believe in “intangibles.”

    But one area in which contracts have seemingly exploded within the last three seasons or so is when it comes to long-term contracts for goaltenders. While the ability of teams to succeed to one extent or another on relative bargain basement netminding — which just about everyone briefly bought into — typified by the Blackhawks, Capitals, Flyers among others was probably always overblown, things have very quickly swung in the opposite direction, and teams are once again willing to pay the toppest of top dollar for goaltenders they consider to be elite.

    Since the 2004-05 lockout, only three goaltenders have ever signed deals that assured them $7 million or more against the cap, and all three have been signed since November 2011, when Pekka Rinne got seven years and $7 million per from David Poile. Since then, Tuukka Rask (eight years, $56 million) and Henrik Lundqvist (seven years, $59.5 million) have gotten in on the action.

    This is interesting for a number of reasons. The first is that position players have been getting $7 million per season for as long as there's been a salary cap. Jarome Iginla, for instance, got that much when the 2005-06 season began, and the salary cap at that time was just $39 million, but what's interesting about that is that even as the ceiling has gone way, way up in the years since, very few top-flight forwards have found their salaries exceeding that $7 million plateau.

    Currently, just 19 non-goaltenders (and only four of them defensemen) make more than that amount, and for the most part, they are pretty elite players. The only exceptions to this are, at this point, probably Dany Heatley and Alexander Semin, and the former's contract is a soon-expiring holdover from the days when he was a regular 40- or 50-goal scorer.

    For reference, 19 skaters makes up a top-line or -pairing defenseman on slightly more than half the league's teams, and if you consider that each has five of these players, that's 19 out of 150 players who are considered — either by default or because they're just that good — to be players that would be in a team's starting lineup. Obviously your mileage will vary, because guys who get 20 minutes a night in Calgary, for instance, often wouldn't crack the top two lines enjoyed by a legitimate contender.

    We're only just now starting to see goaltenders move into this territory. Three is obviously just 10 percent of the total starting goalie pool in the league, but it's interesting that it's only recently occurred to GMs league-wide that they might want to approach their goaltenders in this same way. In recent history, and only for a little while, Ryan Miller and Cam Ward were the only goaltenders making north of $6 million, before Carey Price joined the party last season. Corey Crawford will do so next year. Even Conn Smythe winner and legitimate Hart candidate Jonathan Quick couldn't get more than $5.9 million (albeit for 10 years) out of Los Angeles after that one Cup-winning season.

    One suspects that this is perhaps the result of the contract that Chicago gave Nikolai Khabibulin immediately after the 2004-05 lockout, which was commensurate with what Iginla and the league's other stars received in the new cap environment. Four years, $6.75 million per, and a disaster on the ice. His stats improved as the time went along, though one suspects that this was largely due to the quality of the team in front of him, but by the end he was in a 1a/1b tandem with Cristobal Huet. The .886 save percentage he posted in his first 50 games of that deal, though, was probably put everyone off that type of contract for a while.

    This all of course circles back to the contract Lundqvist signed this week, which will pay him $8.5 million a season against the cap until he is 39 years old. That's a lot of money for any player, regardless of who it is. He now makes more money against the cap than everyone in the entire league except former Hart Trophy winners Corey Perry ($8.625 million), Sidney Crosby ($8.7 million) Evgeni Malkin ($9.5 million), and Alex Ovechkin (more than $9.53 million). All of those forwards, by the way, are in their mid- or late 20s today. Perry, the oldest and coincidentally least-great of these, signed his deal when he was still 27.

    Which is to say that the Lundqvist contract is not a good investment for the Rangers, especially because his stats are down this year, and we have no idea how he's going to respond to the new pad restrictions put in place by the league over the course of 82 games, let alone the following 574.

    The arguments about why that doesn't matter are, despite this, perfectly reasonable, and also myriad.

    Read More »from Market value for NHL goalies is quickly becoming awful (Trending Topics)
  • [Author's note: Every sports website on earth dedicated to covering just one league publishes a weekly power ranking, and we here at Puck Daddy have finally decided to do the same. However, the problem with power rankings in general is that they are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    8. George McPhee (again)

    Last week Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee made the rankings because Martin Erat, a forward for whom he traded prized prospect Filip Forsberg less than a year ago, a) sucks now, and b) demanded a trade. Puts McPhee in rather a difficult position. If he can find someone to take Erat's salary — which is unlikely — the return he gets for him might be a Filip Forsberg rookie card with one of the corners bent.

    And now, for the second time in less than a week, a Capital has demanded a trade. This time it's 22-year-old defenseman Dmitry Orlov who wants out, and it's not only because of how coach Adam Oates is using him. Instead, it's because of how McPhee is using him. He's been assigned to and recalled from Hershey six(!) times since March and it wasn't until this trade demand came that he even got into his first career NHL game this season, in which he got just 13:41 of grudging ice time. And while he might have gotten used to the Hersey-to-Washington drive, the not-playing had to be maddening.

    So now, naturally, he wants out. That Adam Oates couldn't find a spot for him a defense that includes Steve Oleksy and John Erskine would make anyone want to get the hell out of there.

    Read More »from Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Toronto hockey failures, Couture shaves, Patrick Roy
  • What We Learned: Stop the NHL Canadian TV deal, I want to get off

    Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

    Viewers across North America received their first glimpse at what they can expect next season when Rogers takes over the Hockey Night in Canada property.

    The results were, shall we say, mixed.

    The in-game production was of course fabulous, as one might expect. So too was After Hours, as well as a lot of the pregame stuff, including producer Tim Thompson's wonderful introduction of the Leafs/Habs “Forever Rivals” game set to Luciano Pavarotti performing Puccini's “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot. But everything else, as one might have come to expect from Hockey Night in certain regards, was iffy at best.

    There was, to start, the point at which Don Cherry essentially told his new employers to leave him and his portion of the broadcast alone. In comparing what he

    Read More »from What We Learned: Stop the NHL Canadian TV deal, I want to get off
  • Getty ImagesThe most goals Alex Steen has ever scored in an NHL season is 24, and on Wednesday night he scored his 20th in 24 games.

    The accomplishment moved him into a tie with the revitalized Alex Ovechkin for the league lead, and both were well ahead of Patrick Kane's third-best 15 after he embarrassed the Calgary Flames in the third period. That Steen is there at all has been something of a curiosity, but it has been exceedingly entertaining.

    This is astonishing, this is fun to watch, and is a race that has as many smoke and mirrors than the last six David Blaine specials combined.

    There are exactly two explanations for Steen's explosion into the top of the goalscoring race, and both are very simple. The first is that he's shooting the puck slightly more often per game than he has in the last few seasons, which is the kind of thing that's always going to result in more goals.

    The reason why “more goals” now apparently means “an absurd number of goals” is that Steen is currently shooting 25.3

    Read More »from The least-exciting NHL goals ‘race’ in recent memory (Trending Tropics)
  • Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Tears for TSN, Torey Krug’s Olympic chances

    AP

    [Author's note: Every sports website on earth dedicated to covering just one league publishes a weekly power ranking, and we here at Puck Daddy have finally decided to do the same. However, the problem with power rankings in general is that they are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    1,024,342. TSN

    With the new Canadian TV deal, it seems that pretty much the only hockey TSN — Canada's answer to ESPN — will get to air any time soon is the annual pasting the nation's best U-20 players receive at World Juniors.

    It's a tough bounce.

    There's little debating that TSN has long been the go-to source for NHL coverage on either side

    Read More »from Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Tears for TSN, Torey Krug’s Olympic chances
  • What We Learned: In the East, it’s the Boston Bruins and everyone else

    Getty ImagesHello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

    The idea that the Western Conference is so much better than the East as to be laughable is, at this point, well-trodden ground.

    Of course it is. Miles better.

    We have been constantly reminded over the last week or so that the East-leading Bruins, with their 32 points from 23 games, wouldn't even be a playoff team in the West. That is obviously a mind-boggling statistic, especially given the fact that they've enjoyed the benefit of playing Eastern teams far more often than their Western counterparts — i.e. 18 of their 23 games — but the fact remains that you don't get to pick the conference you're in unless you're the Red Wings.

    (And by the way, that's starting to look like a very judicious temper tantrum on Detroit's part; their point total would be 10th

    Read More »from What We Learned: In the East, it’s the Boston Bruins and everyone else
  • NHL’s all or nothing approach needs to stop (Trending Topics)

    Getty ImagesIt's going to come as no surprise at all, to anyone who's paid even the slightest bit of attention, that the National Hockey League is not perfect. The number of ways in which it is not perfect are myriad.

    Therefore, to rely upon the kind of logic the League regularly uses: To list them all would be too time-consuming and therefore pointless.

    The latest and perhaps most bizarre example of this comes to us this week from Darren Dreger, who reported on the league's progress toward trying to get every goal call right. This all came about as a result of an incident in Tuesday night's game between Ottawa and Philadelphia, in which Kyle Turris appeared to score a late go-ahead goal despite the fact that Nicklas Grossmann blocked the shot with both skates.

    Video review seemed to show that Grossmann's feet were behind the goal line, and that the puck had definitively crossed, but the call on the ice having been no-goal, immediately. The fact that an overhead view revealed nothing more than the top of Grossmann's helmet, it was decided there was not sufficient evidence to overturn the original call despite the fact that it was, again, clearly a good goal. The Sens gave up two quick ones in the immediate aftermath and lost 5-2.

    This was a situation in which the referee involved — Paul Devorski, whose angle when he waved off the goal would have required him to see through Grossmann at the time the puck crossed the line — likely knew that he had punted it, but Toronto saw no way it could overturn the call on the ice. It's difficult to say that such a decision in and of itself cost the Sens two points, but it certainly took a game that would have been 3-2 with 10:35 or so left and dramatically altered the proceedings.

    Obviously the NHL has been pursuing a way to better ensure that its goal reviews are as correct as they possibly can be, because they're supposed to help officials absolutely and positively get it right. Dreger noted that the NHL has examined all kinds of systems, including those utilized in tennis, sensors in pucks, goalpost cameras, and tracking software.

    All have been ruled not good enough because they were did not meet two qualifications: being “worth the cost” and able to “guarantee perfection.”

    Read More »from NHL’s all or nothing approach needs to stop (Trending Topics)
  • [Author's note: Every sports website on earth dedicated to covering just one league publishes a weekly power ranking, and we here at Puck Daddy have finally decided to do the same. However, the problem with power rankings in general is that they are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    5. Overdoing It

    The number of ways in which you used to be able to hear hockey players say Bad Words on television used to be limited to when the mics at ice level picked up the occasional arguing between benches or “[expletive]-in' right, Dougie!” on a goal celebration.

    But filming for 24/7 starts very soon, if they haven't done some of the work

    Read More »from Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Disrespecting America’s hockey power; ‘HBO 24/7’ overkill
  • Why firing your coach in a rebuild is nonsensical (Trending Topics)

    Getty ImagesThe Buffalo Sabres fired both general manager and relatively new head coach in a sweeping attempt by a fanboy owner to get everyone to think about when the team was actually good. It's a cautionary tale in the NHL today that one can choose to follow, or not.

    On the subject of the move itself, though, it's important to acknowledge that this kind of thing has long been a tactic in the NHL, as though leaning on nostalgia and nostalgia alone (rather than, say, merit) is the answer to all your problems. Out goes Darcy Regier, in comes Pat LaFontaine as team president to choose Regier's replacement — remember gang, he played 335 games here! Out goes new guy Ron Rolston, and in comes Ted Nolan — he won a Jack Adams! Forget about those guys fans grew to hate because they stood as a symbol of all that unfortunate losing the Sabres had been doing in the last few years, fire up NHL94!

    What's a little bit mystifying, though, is how Nolan is any more qualified to watch more or less helplessly as this poorly-built embarrassment of a team shambles its way to a 20-win season than Rolston. There's a lot to dislike about the way in which the latter coached, obviously, given his penchant for team-mandated mayhem handed down to him from Regier, but he was: a) doing his job, and b) handed a heaping pile of chicken feces and asked to make chicken salad from it. His failure to do so says nothing about him as a coach, and everything about Regier as a team-builder.

    So now the Sabres, rife with youngsters as they are, are on their third coach in 53 games. Doesn't that seem like a problem to anyone?

    Read More »from Why firing your coach in a rebuild is nonsensical (Trending Topics)
  • [Author's note: Every sports website on earth dedicated to covering just one league publishes a weekly power ranking, and we here at Puck Daddy have finally decided to do the same. However, the problem with power rankings in general is that they are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]

    7. The New Hockey Hall of Famers

    This was supposed to be a glorious day in the lives of some of the greatest players and personalities the sport has ever seen, and yet because Chris Chelios was a Red Wings, everyone had to put up with Kid Rock all day.

    Poor Scott Niedermayer, only one Norris trophy in his career, finally getting some recognition

    Read More »from Puck Daddy Power Rankings: Hall of Famers, Nashville’s struggles and the Yak drama

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