Five players to watch as the KHL crisis unfolds

Josh Elliott
Ilya Kovalchuk

The Russian ruble and the price of oil have tanked, putting Russia’s KHL in crisis mode and casting doubt on the future of the league. Owners are crying poor, players say they’re not being paid and the league’s new commissioner is stuck trying to figure it all out.

That means hard times ahead for hockey in Russia, and while it’s hard to believe the KHL will outright fold, chances are the league’s oil baron owners will look to slash salary so they don’t lose their shirts paying for hockey. They may even have to contract the league.

Which brings us to the big question: what impact will the ruble crash have on players if the KHL is no longer a financial draw?
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Top 10 Vezina candidates of 2014-15: Rinne rules

Pekka Rinne (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Goaltending can make or break a team’s season. Just ask the Edmonton Oilers, who for years have looked promising but have been unable to secure a goaltender to give them the big save they need.

You won’t find either Oilers goaltender, Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth, on this list of the top 10 Vezina candidates. Nor will you find Michael Hutchinson, who currently leads the league in save percentage and is second in goals-against average. The reason being Hutchinson just hasn’t had the workload, and including his numbers also put goaltenders like Colorado’s Calvin Pickard and injured St. Louis netminder Brian Elliott into the conversation.

Instead, many familiar faces are among the contenders, though not a single one has won the Vezina in their career. Read more

Replacement coach power rankings: It’s Dan Bylsma, and…

Matt Larkin
Dan Bylsma is the biggest fish in the pond of replacement NHL coaches. (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

The writing was on the wall. It’s since been wiped clean by the custodian.

Goodbye Paul MacLean. Goodbye Dallas Eakins. The Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers were the first teams this season to fire their coaches. Though both have filled their positions – Ottawa with Dave Cameron, Edmonton with the Craig MacTavish/Todd Nelson Sith Lord apprenticeship – axing MacLean and Eakins got the hockey community chattering excitedly about best and biggest names next in line for head coaching gigs.

With that, I present the Replacement Coach Power Rankings. Excluded from the list are any NHL head coaches currently employed but nearing the end of their contracts (i.e. Mike Babcock). That leaves (a) unemployed coaches; (b) Gainfully employed coaches in other leagues (AHL, KHL, etc.); (c) active NHL assistant or associate coaches.

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From Comeau to Hemsky, cost per point helps show the most (and least) effective off-season signings

Ales Hemsky featured

When the Dallas inked Ales Hemsky to play alongside the newly acquired Jason Spezza it was heralded as a tremendous signing. So far, however, the Stars aren’t getting their money’s worth.

Following Saturday night’s game against the Devils, Hemsky has only registered eight points in 26 games and is on pace for the lowest full season point total of his career. Suffice to say, Hemsky is far short of where the Stars GM Jim Nill had likely hoped he’d see the winger’s point total. At a salary cap hit of $4 million for the next three seasons, Dallas isn’t getting the bang for their buck as they’re on pace to pay Hemsky nearly $170,000 for every point he’s on pace to score this season.

But it’s not just Hemsky, as several stars are making GMs second-guess some off-season signings. On the other hand, there are several who are far exceeding their salary expectations. Read more

As Thornton passes Beliveau, five milestones to watch for this season

Roberto Luongo (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, with two assists, Joe Thornton passed Jean Beliveau on the all-time scoring list. His 1220 points are one more than the legendary Beliveau, and bump ‘Jumbo’ inside the top-40.

While passing an all-time great is an incredible feat, there are several other NHLers who are well on their way to reaching some outstanding milestones this season. Below you can find the top-5 milestones that can be hit by season’s end.

Honorable mention goes to Scott Gomez, who is seven games from 1000 played in his career, Carey Price, who sits six wins from 200, and Henrik Sedin, who is a mere 32 points from reaching the 900-point plateau. Read more

Reimer steals win for Leafs; where does he rank on list of goalies available via trade?

James Reimer (Getty Images)

Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer has lost the starter’s job to Jonathan Bernier, but despite not starting since Nov. 18, he stopped 41 of 42 shots Wednesday to steal two points in a 2-1 shootout win over Detroit:

That won’t change his status with the Buds, who are committed to Bernier for now and the future, and Reimer is well-aware his best chance to start on a regular basis again lies outside Toronto. But where does Reimer rank among goalies who are or might be available on the market between now and the March 2 trade deadline? Let’s have a look at who else is out there:

– Carolina’s Cam Ward has a winning pedigree, but the 30-year-old’s stock has plummeted in recent years and he still has another season left on his contract at a $6.3 million salary cap hit. He’s played decently at times, but that salary alone will make teams in need of netminding hesitant to take a chance on him when there are cheaper options available.

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Steven Stamkos’ race to 250 goals even more impressive than it sounds

Ryan Kennedy
Steven Stamkos (Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Early in the second period last night, Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos wheeled around and fired a wrist shot from just above the hashmarks, beating Washington goalie Braden Holtby through a crowd of Caps. It marked Stamkos’ 250th career goal and at the age of 24 years and 305 days, ‘Stammer’ became the 10th-youngest player in NHL history to achieve the mark. The list of players ahead of him is impressive:

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Five franchise players who finished their careers with other teams

Mats Sundin Vancouver Canucks

There’s been a lot of talk about legacy lately with Daniel Alfredsson signing a one-day deal to retire as an Ottawa Senator, and Martin Brodeur joining the St. Louis Blues after serving as the face of the New Jersey Devils for two decades.

It’s odd to see Brodeur with the Bluenote on his jersey and mask, and it was strange to see Daniel Alfredsson skating for the Detroit Red Wings last season.

But as hurt as some fans were by the Brodeur and Alfredsson defections, the history books will still remember them for what they accomplished with the franchises they came to represent.

We saw that already in Alfredsson’s retirement ceremony in Ottawa on Thursday, and we’ll see it again with Brodeur when he hangs up his pads.
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