Around the Rink
Jason Spezza signed a four-year, $30-million contract with Dallas Friday, locking him up through age 35, after he came to the Lone Star State in an off-season trade. It is an interesting signing for both the player and the team.
The Stars obviously hope to contend and Spezza is both talented enough and young enough that giving him a fairly big contract isn’t crazy. On the other hand, he is now their highest paid player by quite over the Stars’ true franchise players Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Seguin and Spezza will be free agents in the same year, while Benn will be a free agent two years earlier. It’s pretty likely that revenue for Dallas will continue to increase (and along with it the salary cap), but they just put more pressure on their budget when they already have some dead weight like the Ales Hemsky contract.
Has Spezza earned this deal, which is a raise over his expiring contract he signed in Ottawa? He is a point per game player in his career, but it has been several years since he performed at that level and his best seasons are behind him. That said, he has 18 points in 20 games teaming up with Benn and Seguin. He brings depth to the Stars who can now spread out some of their offense and have a second line that causes other teams to worry. Perhaps he brings something to the locker room with his upbeat personality and goofy laugh. Ultimately, Spezza may just be at the front end of a wave of big new contracts fuelled by the new TV money, but this seems like an overpay on the surface of it.
As a Senators fan, I have lots of good memories of Spezza. His arrival (in one of the most lopsided deals in NHL history) coincided with the team’s run near the top of the league every year. It was disappointing that he wanted to leave, but if this was the price of keeping him around, Sens fans should be happy to wish him well.
Now, onto the preview of Sunday’s games.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
For updates on the projected goalies later in the day, check out our Projected Goalies Grid.
St. Louis Blues (Jake Allen) at Winnipeg Jets (Ondrej Pavelec), 4:30 PM
Montreal Canadiens (Dustin Tokarski*) at New York Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist*), 7:00 PM
Arizona Coyotes (Devan Dubnyk) at Anaheim Ducks (Frederik Andersen), 8:00 PM
Chicago Blackhawks (Corey Crawford) at Vancouver Canucks (Ryan Miller), 9:30 PM
Injury News For Teams Playing Wednesday
Michael Bournival, C - Bournival (shoulder) skated on his own before Saturday's morning session, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports. (11/15/2014)
New York Rangers
Ryan McDonagh, D - McDonagh (shoulder) believes he's close to resuming skating with the team. (11/22/2014)
Brandon Gormley, D - Gormley will miss at least a week with a lower-body injury, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (11/18/2014)
Martin Hanzal, C - Hanzal (lower body) was not on the ice for warmups and will not play Saturday, the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reports. (11/22/2014)
David Moss, RW - Moss (upper body) is hoping to return to practice next week, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports. (11/19/2014)
John Gibson, G - Gibson has been diagnosed with a groin injury, but has avoided any kind of tear, Curtis Zupke of NHL.com reports. (11/5/2014)
William Karlsson, C - Karlsson (illness) was placed on injured reserve Thursday. (11/20/2014)
Chris Wagner, LW - Wagner (upper body) was reassigned to AHL Norfolk on Tuesday. (11/20/2014)
Dany Heatley, LW - Heatley was placed on injured reserve Friday with a groin injury, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (11/14/2014)
Mark Fistric, D - Fistric (back) practiced with the team Saturday, Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register reports. (11/22/2014)
Patrick Sharp, LW - Sharp (leg) has resumed skating in Chicago, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports. (11/22/2014)
Andrew Shaw, C - Shaw, who has been ruled out for Saturday's game against the Oilers, is doubtful to play Sunday against the Canucks as well. (11/22/2014)
Antti Raanta, G - In a last-minute change, the Blackhawks will start Corey Crawford on Saturday against the Oilers instead of expected starter Raanta, who is ill, CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers reports. (11/22/2014)
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D - Van Riemsdyk underwent successful surgery Thursday to repair his broken kneecap, Brian Hedger of NHL.com reports. (11/20/2014)
Alex Burrows, RW - Burrows (upper body) wasn't present for Saturday's practice. (11/22/2014)
Dan Hamhuis, D - The Canucks are fearing the lower-body injury that forced Hamhuis out of Thursday's game may be more than a day-to-day concern, Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province
Ryan Strome, C – A year ago, Strome was one of the most hotly anticipated prospects coming into the NHL. After a season in which he put up strong numbers in the AHL (49 points in 37 games) and a had a reasonable showing on Long Island with 18 points in 37 games, for some reason he seems like a forgotten man. Strome is only owned 15% of Yahoo leagues, but his recent play should go a ways to rememdy that. The young pivot has eight points in his last seven games, including two multi-point efforts, and a very nice 15 points and plus-8 rating in 19 games. You’d like to see him getting a bit more than the 14:08 per game he is so far, but 2:26 of that is coming on the power play and that should allow him to putting up decent points.
Aaron Ekblad, D – Speaking of highly touted prospects, Ekbald was the first overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. While it wasn’t a huge surprise that he made the Panthers his play early in the season has opened lots of eyesIt’s Ekbald’s offensive game that has been the most pleasant surprise – he has 10 points and a plus-1 rating in his first 17 games – nearly a 50-point pace. He is more likely to finish closer to the 32 points Rotowire projected him for before the season, but when you consider he is averaging 22 minutes of ice time per game, including nearly 3:00 on the power play, and taking nearly two shots per game, the point is that he is already a star.
Corey Perry, RW – In fairness, the guy did have the mumps. Since returning to action three games ago, Perry has managed just one assist, a minus-4 rating, and only five shots. The question with players who suffer from unusual ailments or injuries is whether the recovery is sufficient and if there will be any lingering effects. It’s too early to say that’s the case with Perry, but his owners should be making modest revisions to his projections for the year.
Ryan Miller, G – Miller has been fairly ordinary over the course of the season so far stopping just a 90% of the shots he has faced, but recently he has hit a major slump. In his last four starts Miller has given up at least three goals in every one and posting a 84.2% save percentage. Vancouver has been a surprisingly successful team in the early going, but they need Miller to turn it around to have serious aspirations to contend.
Devan Dubnyk, G – Dubnyk remains the clear backup in Arizona behind incumbent Mike Smith, but the 28 year-old is out playing his teammate so badly that he is worth a speculative pickup if you have the bench depth. Dubnyk’s 92.5% save percentage and 2.25 goals against dwarf Smith’s results (89%, 3.30 respectively) and unlike in past years when Thomas Greiss was the backup in the desert, Dubnyk has starting experience and seemed like he could be an average (maybe better) NHL goalie not that long ago. Mike Smith hasn’t been even that good for a while.