On the first day of the government shutdown, the Washington Capitals arrived in Chicago, looking to bring a momentous occasion to a screeching halt. Though the organization has long since dropped the ’90s look — a jersey featuring the Capitol building and two crossed sticks — the Caps, backed by a scorching power-play unit, had every intention of playing spoiler. Not that Blackhawks fans are particularly adversarial with this altogether random opponent. When the second Stanley Cup banner in four years is raised to the United Center rafters, one assumes a storied rival would be on hand. But such is the new normal in a realigned NHL featuring more conference crossovers.
The last Blackhawks banner raising, in 2010, was soured by a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the team shoehorned into every ceremonial slot in Chicago since before I can remember — not that we had many before the Rocky Wirtz era. The 2010 home opener is something of a blur now, and Hawks fans sincerely hope the Wings enjoyed their sendoff to the Eastern Conference, courtesy of a floater from Brent Seabrook.
Thanks to Roberto Luongo, Vincent Lecavalier, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Rick DiPietro, the past week of NHL transactions will probably be remembered as the Revenge of the Long-Term Contracts. With Luongo trapped in Vancouver and the other three players receiving buyouts that total almost $80 million, teams that tried to beat the system with extended deals are starting to feel some serious pain.
After years of teams signing players to ridiculously long-term deals, often front-loading them to exploit a salary-cap loophole, the NHL moved to put a stop to the practice in the last CBA by limiting contracts to a maximum of eight years. But the contracts signed under the old CBA still remain, and many of them don’t look good.
So I thought it would be a good idea to go through the full list of contracts longer than eight years that were signed during the salary-cap era and do a player-by-player breakdown of all [checks CapGeek] 21 of them.
Wait, 21? I’ve got to be honest, that’s way more than I thought there would be. What the hell, NHL owners? This is going to take a while.
[Strongly considers introducing an arbitrary cutoff like “12 years” and going to lunch early.]
[Ah, screw it, let’s do this.]
Here’s a look at each of those 21 contracts of nine years or longer, as we try to answer one question: In hindsight, did any of them actually turn out to be a good idea?
Welcome to a weekly grab-bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
This Week's Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.
The third star: Steve Pinizzotto
If you've never heard of Steve Pinizzotto of the Vancouver Canucks, it's because he spends most of his time on the bench. Which is why you'd think he'd be able to successfully sit on one. No such luck.
The second star: Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff
Oh, just two dudes shooting the breeze before last Saturday's game. Your typical post–trade deadline chitchat. I can't imagine what they may have been talking about. The only thing missing here was James Reimer wandering up behind them and earnestly asking "Whatcha talkin' 'bout?"
Welcome to a weekly blog post of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
The Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three moments or personalities from around the league that produced the most comedic fodder for fans this week.
The third star: Zac Rinaldo, dreamer
Flyers fourth-liner Zac Rinaldo thinks he can catch Phil Kessel with his head down, which is adorable in much the same way as a child who thinks his cardboard box can fly to the moon. I’m sure Kessel, one of the league’s best skaters, was completely terrified during every shift against Rinaldo that at any moment he could have his head down and then suddenly he would be viciously — oh, no, wait he just scored instead.
We’ll use the same format as we did earlier this week — expectations, reality, and whether it will continue — but add a special fourth category to deal with the possible fallout if the player continues to struggle.
In any other year, the news that Russia's Kontinental Hockey League reached a deal with ESPN to broadcast some of this season's games on ESPN3 (the broadcaster's online streaming channel) would be a relatively ho-hum announcement. And in truth, in years past, it has been a ho-hum announcement. Most people, upon hearing of the arrangement, probably didn't know this actually isn't the first time that KHL games will be aired on the ESPN3 feed.