There’s no shortage of ill-advised contracts in the NHL. Most teams have at least one player earning more money than his contributions warrant. But while it’s disappointing to watch a $4-million player toil on the fourth line or third defensive pair, that disappointment reaches new levels when the player becomes a healthy scratch – when he’s getting paid not to play.
A coach’s greatest weapon is his ability to control his players’ ice time, and sometimes, sitting an under-performing millionaire is the perfect way to get him motivated.
Other times, becoming a healthy scratch simply signals that a player is on the down side of his career.
Either way, a healthy scratch inherently sparks questions about a player’s future. Is he on the trading block? Will he walk as a free agent this summer? Is his career in jeopardy? And how is the team going to deal with his big-money contract?
Here are the most expensive players to draw a pay check from the press box this season.
The Toronto rumor mill continues to churn with speculation over possible moves by the struggling Maple Leafs leading up to the March trade deadline. TSN’s Darren Dreger believes the next few weeks will determine if the Leafs become deadline buyers or sellers.
Over the weekend, the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran cited a source claiming the Leafs were quietly shopping defenseman Dion Phaneuf, winger Phil Kessel and others exclusively to Western Conference teams. McGran claimed nothing was imminent, suggesting interested clubs could wait until the deadline to pursue Phaneuf and Kessel because of their hefty contracts. Read more
If you don’t know by now the NHL’s points system is essentially a competitive funhouse mirror designed to give more teams the appearance they’ve got a shot at a playoff spot, you should. The league has, to the credit of its business acumen, recognized more teams can sell tickets to fans deeper into their regular-seasons if those fans see the teams are only four or five points out of a post-season berth; now, there’s very likely a very slim chance that team can leapfrog a bunch rivals playing each other down the stretch for one of the last playoff positions, but that’s not the point. It’s a mirage of sorts, and it works.
But the way things are shaping up in the Eastern Conference this year, not even the “loser point” looks like it’s going to create the illusion of competitiveness between the teams that make the post-season and the ones that don’t. Of course, most teams still have approximately 35 games to play, so you can’t be sure about anything just yet, but with the trade deadline set for March 2, it’s starting to look like the East’s eight non-playoff teams are going to serve as a feeder system for the much tighter West. Read more
Veteran right winger Radek Dvorak, who played 1,260 career regular-season NHL games with eight teams over 18 years, retired Tuesday.
The 37-year-old Dvorak was drafted by the Florida Panthers 10th overall in 1995, and developed into a solid, if unspectacular forward who could play defense (he still holds Florida’s team record for most shorthanded goals, with 16). He had a 31-goal campaign for the Rangers in 2000-01, but never scored more than 20 in a single season after that. Having had two separate stints with the team, he’s second in Panthers franchise history in games played (613), but also spent time with the Blueshirts, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, Atlanta Thrashers, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks and the Carolina Hurricanes. And he represented his homeland at the 2002 Olympics, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, and numerous IIHF World Championships. Read more
With the 2015 NHL All-Star Game now history and teams returning to action on Tuesday, the focus shifts toward the approaching NHL trade deadline on March 2. It’s expected trade activity will increase over the next five weeks as more clubs fall out of playoff contention.
As the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch observes, only four teams – Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers – can be considered non-contenders and therefore sellers in the trade market. Between now and the trade deadline, Garrioch believes they will be joined by the Columbus Blue Jackets, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers. Read more
When you think of players who scored 1,000 points in the NHL, the last name to come to mind is often Ray Whitney. And on Wednesday, one of the NHL’s best and quietest scorers called it a career.
Whitney, 42, was prolific with every team he ever went to, and a model of consistency. He was a 10-time 20-goal scorer, nine-time 60-plus point getter, yet was only named to any of the league’s season-ending all-star teams on one occasion, a second team nod in 2011-12. Read more
The Carolina Hurricanes are on a hot streak of late, winning six of the last 10 games entering the All-Star break. Despite this improvement, however, the Hurricanes remain mired near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, sitting 19 points out of playoff contention.
It’s assumed Hurricanes GM Ron Francis will be a seller by the March 2 trade deadline. Defenseman Andrej Sekera, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, could attract the most interest. The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson thinks Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, who acquired Sekera during his tenure as Hurricanes GM, might come calling now that Olli Maatta is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Read more
So let’s take inventory from the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Monday night. Four – four! – Leaf sweaters tossed to the ice, plus a waffle. Two fights, one win for each team. And, we’re told by Leafs coach Peter Horachek, that the Leafs outchanced the Hurricanes 29-19. One goal, for only the second time in five games and a fifth straight loss.
When asked about seeing sweaters tossed to the ice, Phil Kessel was as eloquent as he’s been since he joined the Maple Leafs. By Kessel’s standards, it was right there with Phil Esposito admonishing the fans of Canada during the 1972 Summit Series.