What We Learned: NHL teams keep throwing money at their rotten cores

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

About a week ago, the Winnipeg Jets got Zach Bogosian signed up for another seven years at more than $5.1 million per season, which is a lot of money and term for almost any player in the league.

There are a lot of reasons you would, if you had Bogosian as a restricted free agent, be very wise to make such a deal. He’s very good in all three zones, he’s young at just 23 years old and he’s therefore part of what you would call your core. And where the last point is concerned, it’s something that Jets worked on throughout the entire month of July. In addition to Bogosian, they also locked up Blake Wheeler for six years and Bryan Little for five.

That gave them three more good young players signed through at least the end of the 2017-18 season, in addition to Evander Kane and Tobias Enstrom. They also joined Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Grant Clitsome, Jacob Trouba, Mark Scheifele and Ondrej Pavelec, among players who were signed at least until the end of 2016.

These are, for the most part, big-money deals, only Scheifele, Clitsome and Trouba are making less than $3.9 million AAV against the cap during that time, and that would probably be higher if they’d done the smart thing and not let Alex Burmistrov walk to the KHL.

And it also leads neutral observers to a pretty simple question with a not so simple answer: “Why are the Jets committing a little more than $45.4 million per season to 11 guys who have wholly failed to get them into the playoffs?”

The thing I wrote last week about Blake Wheeler applies to pretty much all these guys (save for Pavelec, who is awful): These are perfectly good hockey players, and some of them are even great when they’re playing to their capabilities. That you’d want to lock them up makes plenty of logical sense. But at the same time, the Jets are a garbage fire of a hockey team. They’ve earned just 134 points from their last 130 games, missing the playoffs in both seasons in Winnipeg, and don’t seem likely to weasel their way in any time soon under the divisional realignment. It’s almost impossible to think they’re better than four of Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis, at least going into this season.

I get that teams want to be optimistic about their chances for improvement with young players especially, but a lot of these guys aren’t exactly “young” at this point. Wheeler will be 27 by the time the season starts, Little’s going to be 26 by year’s end, Ladd’s 27, Enstrom and Clitsome and Byfuglien are 28, Pavelec turns 26 at the end of the month. The point at which their production is statistically likely to increase has passed.

Certainly, even if you expect that Trouba and Scheifele can be impact NHLers in their rookie years, you’re really not looking at much in the way of an improved roster around them (bringing aboard Michael Frolik and Devin Setoguchi doesn’t count much) to carry you over the hump from being a slightly-better-than-.500 team, and that’s not doing you any favors.

And the thing is, it’s not like the Jets are alone in this strange trend.

Carolina has gone about getting everyone signed up for a good long time, and they’re worse than Winnipeg. They have Eric and Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Gleason and Cam Ward signed through 2016 to a combined $36.025 million against the cap.

Why? Who knows?

Phoenix, too, has Mike Ribeiro, Shane Doan, Antoine Vermette, Martin Hanzal, Lauri Korpikoski, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Keith Yandle and Mike Smith making a total of $36.567 million for the next two seasons. This is at least a little interesting because of how many actual old guys there are in that group, as half of them are already north of 30, but they’ve at least been to the playoffs in two of the last three years, including getting their brains bashed in by the Kings in the Western Conference Finals two years ago.

Of course, past success is no indicator of future success, and it seems that Smith in particular got paid on the basis of his one career outlier season, rather than this one and the several that preceded it.

The Coyotes are interesting, at least, insofar as Ribeiro is actually considered a reinforcement despite the numbers in Washington; and that they likely view last season as a hiccup or quirk of the shortened schedule, rather than a sign things need to overhaul. This was a mistake Calgary made for the better part of a decade, and it’s therefore certainly nothing new, but look where that kind of thinking generally tends to land teams.

It would be truly shocking for any of these three teams to make the playoffs under an 82-game schedule, particularly thanks to the new divisions, and for the most part it seems as though that probability will continue more or less unabated for the next few years unless they get extraordinarily lucky. And with all this money being committed to these deeply mediocre “cores,” it doesn’t seem probable that meaningful reinforcements are going to be on their way before the cap hits $80 million or so, by which point it’ll be time to start thinking about re-signing these guys.

Which GMs will do. Because it’s important to retain your core, apparently.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Teemu Selanne could be back with the Ducks next year “if he wants it bad.” If he only kinda wants it, he can take a hike!

Boston Bruins: The Bruins are probably going to have to rely pretty heavily on relatively inexperienced NHL defensemen Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, and Dougie Hamilton on the blue line next year, which doesn’t sound like a recipe for disaster at all just kidding.

Buffalo Sabres: Statistics say the Sabres will probably be the worst team in the league this season. Sabres fans say statistics are bad and dumb and wrong.

Calgary Flames: The puck from Mark Cundari’s first-ever NHL goal was supposed to be framed and sent to him, but it was being kept in the Saddledome when the flood hit, so that’s probably not good news. “But I haven’t gotten it yet, so, maybe I’ve gotta call someone down there and get them to send it over if they still have it,” he said. Yup, that’s concern No. 1 over there.

Carolina Hurricanes: What the hell happened to Chad LaRose? After 10 years in the organization, he didn’t show up for his annual exit interview with the coaching staff and hasn’t answered a number of calls and texts. I knew he shouldn’t have booked that summer vacation to the Bermuda Triangle.

Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp recently did a commercial for the Illinois Lottery in which he pretended to be a room service waiter and brought food to a few Blackhawks fans. Incidentally, you probably have a better chance at having Patrick Sharp bring you room service than you do of winning the lottery, so that’s fun.

Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene just got a massive new contract, an Olympic camp invite and is training with Sid Crosby all summer. So I guess things are going pretty well for Matt Duchene, except for that whole “being on the Avs” thing.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Well, folks, we found it. It’s the most boring interview of all time, starring Jackets first-round pick Kerby Rychel. Truly a momentous day.

Dallas Stars: Here’s something crazy: The 2013 Stars will only have six players on the roster who were with the team just two years ago. Six! If you can name all of them, you are Jim Nill.

Detroit Red Wings: You know who else’s number they should retire in Detroit after Nick Lidstrom? Chris Osgood. Hahaha.

Edmonton Oilers: NHL.com really went out on a limb this weekend, saying that the Oilers “youthful core will be key” for this coming season. I don’t know if I buy it. I mean, if Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov, Justin Schultz and Devan Dubnyk don’t perform to their capabilities, they could still be decent, right?

Florida Panthers: This says the Panthers’ training camp will be interesting, and that will make it the only interesting thing about the 2013-14 Florida Panthers.

Los Angeles Kings: Kyle Clifford re-signed with the Kings for two years following a 14-point season, and will probably get a bigger role with Brad Richardson and Dustin Penner skipping town this summer.

Minnesota Wild: So the Wild are going to ask a lot of the young kids on their roster —your Charlie Coyles and Jason Zuckers and Mikael Granlunds and Nino Niederreiters — this season. Yeah, they’re not going to make the playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens: Danny Briere is excited to join the Habs. Or, perhaps more accurately, he is excited someone is going to pay him a lot of money for the next two years after how the last season went.

Nashville Predators: The Predators All-Time Team really depressed the hell out of me.

New Jersey Devils: The Gatineau Olympiques just made a move that makes Anthony Brodeur a likely roster goaltender for next season, which may not be the best decision for him to make, from a developmental standpoint.

New York Islanders: Matt Carkner is really trying to not get injured this season because he’s played just 51 regular-season games since 2011. Ah, but hey, the Islanders gave him three years anyway, so in the end does it really matter that much?

New York Rangers: Hey Ryan McDonagh, you’re a 24-year-old and an outstanding defenseman who just got invited to Olympic camp so maybe you need to start scoring more points or something I guess.

Ottawa Senators: Is this the point at which newly re-signed Stephane Da Costa sticks with the Senators’ big club? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s almost certainly his last chance to do so.

Philadelphia Flyers: Peter Laviolette is excited and optimistic for the new season which leads me to believe he probably hasn’t looked at the team’s goaltending depth chart.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes are assuring everyone that they’re going to complete their sale on time before the deadline. Which is to say, today. This is the ultimate “I’ll believe it when I see it and not a second before” situation.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Boy isn’t Sid Crosby great? Don’t you just love him? Isn’t he wonderful? He’s still the biggest name in the sport. Wow he’s the best. We can’t get enough of him. Signed, The Pittsburgh Media.

San Jose Sharks: Jeepers creepers guys, One Direction all wore Sharks jerseys at a recent concert in San Jose. This kind of shameless nonsense makes the Sharks look so stupid, right? Who cares because boy bands are dumb and hockey is for real men only. Also, it’s pretty cool when pro wrestlers do this same stuff in my opinion.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues say they aren’t close to getting a new deal agreed with Alex Pietrangelo. They keep insisting that a “bajillionty” dollars isn’t a thing they can offer him.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Nov. 27 will be Vinny Lecavalier’s first game back in Tampa. Mark your calendars because, “But as far as Philly is concerned, the Flyers-Lightning rivalry is one of the most heated in Bolts team history.” Did you know that? Did anyone? Is this because of that in-game 1-3-1 protest a few years ago? Conversely, on a list of rivals, where do you think the Flyers have the Lightning? A millionth place?

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are acting like they’re not going to just hand Jonathan Bernier the No. 1 starter job the second training camp opens. So cute.

Vancouver Canucks: “Another 29 people, including two minors, have been charged in Vancouver’s Stanley Cup riot.” You get the feeling this is just what happens on a slow news day in Vancouver now.

Washington Capitals: Everyone seems to have agreed at this point that the Capitals have to be the team to make a run at Mikhail Grabovski but I wonder if it’s based on anything more than “His name sounds Russian and he’s a center.”

Winnipeg Jets: “Why the Jets core wasn’t ready upon relocating to Winnipeg.” Blame Atlanta for everything! Lock up all the players that came to you from Atlanta anyway. That’s the Winnipeg Way!

Gold Star Award

That Antoine Roussel story over the weekend is awesome. What a dude.
Minus of the Weekend
Had a nice conversation over the weekend about how poorly run the Leafs are. It’s fun to laugh about hockey!

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “Vatican Roulette” doesn’t seem to understand how hockey works.

To Phoenix: Eriksson
Kelly

For

To Boston:
Yandle
Summers

Signoff

It was one of those lady cops ya hear about.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don’t you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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