It’s time to recap what went on in the NHL this week — including Patrick Kane’s career milestone, the Dallas Stars in free fall, budding star Kirill Kaprizov and the worst contracts in the NHL.
Patrick Kane scores goal number 400…
Patrick Kane is adding to his hall of fame resume after scoring his 400th career goal in a 7-2 thrashing of the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday. The Chicago Blackhawks forward is now just the ninth American-born player in NHL history to reach the milestone. With three Stanley Cups and 1,056 career points, Kane is arguably a top-three American-born player in the history of the NHL and is 318 points away from tying Mike Modano as the leading point-getter for U.S. skaters.
Kane’s 34 points through 23 games has the Blackhawks off to a surprising start. Playing without captain forward Jonathan Toews and future star forward Kirby Dach, the Blackhawks are still somehow in the conversation for a playoff spot in a stacked Central division, but they have a brutal schedule in March, including five games against the NHL’s best Tampa Bay Lightning, which could see them slip towards the bottom of the standings.
Dallas Stars in freefall…
After starting the season 4-0-0, the defending Western Conference Champions looked to be picking up right where they left off in last year’s playoffs. Since then, the Stars are 2-6-4 and losers of eight of their last nine games. So what exactly is going wrong?
The Stars have been playing the entire season without their best goalscorer, forward Tyler Seguin and their starting goaltender Ben Bishop. They have also been playing without forward Alexander Radulov, who has been out with a lower-body injury for the last eight tilts, and young speedster defender Roope Hintz has been in and out of the lineup as well.
While the Stars saw a ton of success in the Edmonton bubble during the playoffs, they are also suffering from the consequences of such a grueling schedule. Both Seguin and Bishop sustained their injuries during the playoffs, and the team has looked lethargic and appears to be experiencing a Stanley Cup hangover through the first quarter of the season without them.
Goaltender Anton Khudobin — who was brilliant in the postseason and is a large reason for their success — has been underperforming, and it’s almost impossible to win when you don’t score. The Stars have a combined six goals in their last four games, one of which was into an empty net.
It will only get tougher, as two delays in their schedule have the Stars playing 43 games in 76 days. If they are going to survive until the return of Seguin and Bishop, it will have to be a full-team effort along with stellar play in between the pipes.
Kirill Kaprizov and the Wild…
Minnesota Wild rookie forward Kirill Kaprizov is averaging nearly a point per game and is playing the Wild into playoff contention in the West division.
The Wild are clicking and are winners of six straight. Kaprizov’s six goals and eleven assists have him running away with the Calder Trophy, awarded to the league’s best rookie each year. Perhaps even more impressive than his production is his defensive play, which is usually lacking in young players. Kaprizov sports a plus-nine rating on the year and gives the Wild reason for excitement, landing them their first appearance in my power rankings this week.
March is going to be a busy month for the Wild, who are playing the Vegas Golden Knights four times in the first ten days. This is a prove-it month for the Wild where we will learn just how good this team really is.
The worst contracts in the NHL…
Last week I covered the dumpster fire that is the Buffalo Sabres, and attributed some of their troubles to the god-awful Jeff Skinner contract. It was so fun that I have decided to cover the five worst contracts in the NHL right now. One bad deal can really sink a franchise’s hopes for years.
This list is ranked by which contracts hurt their team the most as of today — the most painful contracts are those on a team that are on the cusp of winning, or are wasting the prime of a superstar player. Therefore, someone like Drew Doughty, who has a horrid contract for the Kings, will not be making the list, as the Kings are amid a rebuild and are not really hurt by his bad contract right now.
Honorable mentions: Carey Price of the Montréal Canadiens and Sergei Bobrovsky of the Florida Panthers, two goaltenders signed to long-term deals that pay them $10 million per season. Both are playing like the second-best goalie on their respective teams right now… ouch.
*Cap hit is the average annual value of a contract and the amount that counts towards the salary cap each year. It is the best way to measure a contract because it shows how much could be spent on other needs, per season.
5. Suter and Parise — When the Minnesota Wild landed both forward Zach Parise and defensemen Ryan Suter in the offseason of 2012, the hockey world pinned the Wild as sure contenders. They signed identical deals for thirteen years, $98 million, which will continue to haunt this team until 2025. Their combined cap hit is over $15 million each year. This team could be a Stanley Cup threat if they had put that money toward more depth and goaltending.
4. Kyle Okposo — Sabres forward Kyle Okposo has three years left on his deal that has a $6 million cap hit. Okposo has played in fourteen games this season and has a total of one point to show for it. Unfortunately, Buffalo has not seen its last player on this list.
3. Loui Eriksson — Vancouver Canucks forward Eriksson has a $6 million cap hit through the end of next season. With three young stars in defenseman Quinn Hughes and forwards Brock Boeser and Elias Petterson, the Canucks should be contenders for years to come; they got within one game of the Western Conference Final last year. Eriksson’s $6 million cap hit, however, made it impossible for the Canucks to afford to retain the likes of defensemen Chris Tanev and goaltender Jacob Markstrom, two keys to their success last year. Oh, and Eriksson has just one point on the year and has been scratched more than he has played. The damage of this deal is immeasurable for the Canucks future.
2. Andrew Ladd — New York Islanders forward Andrew Ladd has three years left on a deal that has an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. The Islanders are running out of time to win their elusive fifth Stanley Cup. They have an aging core and could desperately use some of Ladd’s money on other ventures. Similar to Vancouver, they lost a great player in defensemen Devon Toews because they couldn’t afford to pay him. Meanwhile, Ladd is so washed that he can’t even make the roster.
1. Jeff Skinner — If you want to hear me rant about this situation, you can see last week’s article. The bottom line is that Jeff Skinner is a $9 million cap hit for the next seven years in Buffalo. By my estimation, that just about covers all of forward Jack Eichel’s prime. Skinner has one point in sixteen games this season.
Peter’s Power Rankings: The Top 10 Teams Right Now.
Last week’s ranking in parentheses.
- Tampa Bay Lightning (4)
- Toronto Maple Leafs (1)
- Vegas Golden Knights (6)
- Carolina Hurricanes (2)
- Minnesota Wild (not ranked)
- Colorado Avalanche (5)
- Winnipeg Jets (8)
- Florida Panthers (7)
- Philadelphia Flyers (10)
- Boston Bruins (3)
What to watch this week…
Washington Capitals at Boston Bruins: Wednesday, March 3 at 4 p.m. PST.
Minnesota Wild at Vegas Golden Knights: Wednesday, March 3 at 7 p.m. PST.