Josh Elliott is a stay-at-home web editor for Post-to-Post on weekends and a contributor to The Hockey News magazine. From drafts to contracts to trades, he loves the business of hockey and plays nothing but Dynasty Mode in EA’s NHL video games. He’s a Western Journalism grad, a hockey addict and a closet comic book junkie.
In a salary capped NHL where every dollar spent on a superstar is one not spent on roster depth, it can be easy not to notice the rookies and journeymen making $1 million or less at the bottom of the pay scale. But those players can play a crucial role in their team’s success, supplying the offense of a much more expensive player while making pennies on the dollar.
Every general manager is working with the same salary range, but the savvy ones have found ways to acquire cheap secondary scorers who are more than worth their annual salary.
Oftentimes these bargains take the form of phenomenal rookies on entry-level deals, but other times they’re former stars taking a one-year deal to prove their worth, or career journeymen who are steady but unspectacular.
A look at the top teams getting points from their bargain players shows it’s not just the rebuilding teams who are buying points on a budget.
And in most cases, one spectacular scorer on an entry-level deal is not enough to elevate his team onto this list. For instance, Vladimir Tarasenko has 10 goals and 21 points for the St. Louis Blues on a contract that pays him $900,000 in base salary, but there are no other significant players on entry-level deals playing with him. The next-highest scorer on his team making six figures is Joakim Lindstrom and his three goals.
Los Angeles is buoyed by Tyler Toffoli (eight goals, 18 points on a $685,000 salary) and Tanner Pearson (seven goals, 10 points and $775,500 this year), along with million-dollar-man Jake Muzzin and his one goal and seven points. But the Kings haven’t used many young players beyond those three, and so they don’t have the production to crack the top five.
Here’s a look at the five teams getting the most point production out of their players making $1 million or less in salary this year.
Note that this is based on what players are making this year – not on their cap hits, which can be much higher than $1 million for entry-level players with bonuses in their contracts.
Puckhandling goaltenders are a dying breed in the NHL, and the league couldn’t be happier about it.
Gary Bettman and company have been trying to cut back on goaltenders venturing out to play the puck since the 2005 lockout, and it appears their efforts have paid off. In today’s NHL, even a routine dump-in can be dangerous for a goalie to stop, and their efforts to corral the puck can easily end in disaster.
That’s what happened to Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson in a 4-2 loss to Calgary on Saturday.
Evgeni Malkin is either having a really bad week, or a really good one.
The big Pittsburgh Penguins center has had an extra hint of snarl to his game lately. On Saturday night, he looked like a black-and-gold missile when he smashed New York Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi behind the net.
Girardi never saw Malkin coming, and had to be helped off the ice after the hit.
It happened behind the Rangers’ net, with the score tied 2-2. Marc Staal slipped the puck along the boards to Girardi, and Girardi was about to slide it into the corner when Malkin came streaking in.
Malkin caught Girardi looking the wrong way and slammed into him with his hip and back. Girardi went down on his back and did not get up.
The hit touched off a scrum, and Malkin got a minor penalty on the play.
Nashville Predators centerman Mike Ribeiro is hardly the center of attention on his team, and that seems to suit him just fine. The 34-year-old is quietly but consistently contributing on a line with prized Preds off-season pickup James Neal, and young team scoring leader Filip Forsberg.
For Ribeiro, the key word in that sentence is “quietly.”
He certainly wasn’t getting all the attention in the Predators’ 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, but he was instrumental in helping Neal score Nashville’s first goal, and nearly had one of his own.
He’s the greatest Buffalo Sabre to never play the game: Taro Tsujimoto, a dynamic forward drafted out of the Japan Ice Hockey League who never made the leap to the NHL. But it wasn’t size, talent or conditioning that kept Tsujimoto from cracking the Sabres’ lineup in the 1970s.
It was the fact he didn’t exist.
The most famous made-up hockey player in history turned 60 on Sunday, according to the birthdate provided by his hockey ‘dad,’ the late coach/GM legend Punch Imlach.
The 2014 Hall of Fame class is now in the books, with Mike Modano, Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek and Rob Blake filling out the four player slots this year. So now it’s time to look ahead to 2015, and who might receive one of hockey’s highest honours next November.
It’s a rather light class of first-year eligible players, but Detroit Red Wings legend Nicklas Lidstrom is an easy slam dunk first-ballot choice. No one will argue against the four-time Stanley Cup winner’s seven Norris trophies, his Conn Smythe Trophy or his Olympic gold medal.
Ditto for Lidstrom’s former teammate, Sergei Fedorov, who won three Stanley Cups in Detroit and tore up the league in an unforgettable 1994 season, winning the Hart, Pearson and Selke trophies. Fedorov would win another Selke in 1996, and still holds the record for most goals and points scored in the NHL by a Russian-born player.
But the pool of eligible players drops off considerably after Lidstrom and Fedorov, meaning some who have been overlooked in past years might have a shot at cracking the Hall’s four-player limit in 2015.
Here are some candidates who could make noise in the 2015 discussion.
The Columbus Blue Jackets won their first game in three weeks on Friday night, snapping their franchise record-tying nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Scott Hartnell‘s return to the City of Brotherly Love. But the Blue Jackets now find themselves at the bottom of a very deep hole, sitting second-last in the Eastern Conference after 16 games.
Next weekend marks American Thanksgiving, a quarter pole of sorts when teams usually have a sense of whether they’re a playoff team or not. Very few teams make the playoffs if they’re not within four points of a spot at Thanksgiving, and Columbus is a far cry from that right now.
Still, Friday’s win comes as a relief for the injury-ravaged CBJs, who are missing key players like Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Nathan Horton and Sergei Bobrovsky from their roster. ‘Goalie Bob’ returned Friday to back up on the bench, but Dubinsky is recovering from abdominal surgery, Anisimov is still out with a concussion and Horton is more worried about his quality of life than an NHL return at this point.
He terrorized enemy shooters for years in Buffalo with his wild acrobatics and nigh-unbeatable glove, and now, former Sabre Dominik Hasek’s number will take a permanent place in the rafters of First Niagara Center in Western New York.
The Sabres will retire Hasek’s No. 39 jersey at a ceremony in Buffalo on Jan. 13 before a game against the Detroit Red Wings. It’s yet another honour for the award-winning ‘Dominator,’ who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in June.