- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Another lifetime contract inked

Henrik Zetterberg signed a 12-year, $73 million contract extension that should keep him with the Red Wings for the rest of his career. It is another shrewd move in Hockeytown: locking up one of the top 10 players in the sport to a deal with a salary cap figure $2 million to $3 million below what he is worth.

Still, the deal has been criticized by some in the hockey community. There are people who are concerned about the number of “lifetime contracts” being handed out. To this point, these deals have gone to guys like Alex Ovechkin, Mike Richards, Vinny Lecavalier and Zetterberg — faces of their respective franchises who are worth the long-term commitment (even if some members of Tampa Bay’s management are getting cold feet before Lecavalier’s extension kicks in after this season).

Lifetime contracts are not a bad thing for a franchise-type guy — unless a goaltender is involved (see: DiPietro, Rick) because of the natural instability of that position. There could be a problem, though, with the financial payout of Zetterberg’s deal.

It is really a 10-year, $71 million pact with two years at $1 million apiece tacked on to lower the annual cap hit. This is a loophole for GMs to help manage the cap while making it easy to buy out aging veterans at the end of their deals. This isn’t a new phenomenon; players like Michael Nylander, Scott Gomez and Danny Briere all have front-loaded contracts.

That said, the NHL might want to consider limiting the disparity from year to year on salaries. What is to stop a team with deep pockets from tacking a year or two at the league minimum to the end of contracts for every older player? Those players know they are getting their money, and a team with six or eight guys with front-loaded deals could undermine the idea of leveling the playing field with a salary cap.


New Jersey Devils

The Devils weren’t considered one of the NHL’s elite teams at the beginning of the season — and that was before all-world goalie Martin Brodeur was lost for months with an arm injury in early November.

Still, here are the Devils — riding an eight-game winning streak and competing with the Washington Capitals for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Part of the reason has been the play of Brodeur’s replacement, Scott Clemmensen. The 31-year-old journeyman has 22 wins and a .920 save percentage this season, which began in the American Hockey League.

Another reason for the team’s success is one of the deepest forward contingents in the league. Zach Parise is the team’s next franchise player once Brodeur retires, but guys like Patrik Elias, Travis Zajac and Dainius Zubrus are also having nice seasons, and the Devils are scoring more than three goals a game.


1. Bruins (last week: 2)

Blake Wheeler was an enigma in college; now he’s a Calder candidate.

2. Sharks (1)

Devin Setoguchi shouldn’t be a surprise — he was the No. 8 overall pick in 2005.

3. Devils (8)

Goalie Scott Clemmensen never started more than nine games before this season.

4. Red Wings (3)

Jiri Hudler has 40 points but barely plays more than 13 minutes a game.

5. Capitals (4)

Tomas Fleischmann had 10 goals last year — he’s on pace for 24 this season.

6. Flames (5)

Rene Bourque and David Moss have combined for 31 goals to support Jarome Iginla.

7. Blackhawks (6)

Kris Versteeg (rookie-best 38 points) was a fifth-round pick in 2004 by Boston.

8. Canadiens (7)

Who expected 38-year-old Robert Lang to lead this team in goals with 18?

9. Flyers (9)

Just being on this team for 39 games was a big surprise for rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa.

10. Rangers (10)

Sure, Nikolai Zherdev oozes talent, but he has been less mercurial since moving to New York.



1. Zdeno Chara, Bruins; His 113 hits are most among top-40 scoring defensemen.

2. Dan Boyle, Sharks; He has eight points in his past eight games.

3. Mike Green, Capitals; He would be on pace for 86 points without the shoulder injury.


1. Bobby Ryan, Ducks; He’s averaging a goal every other game since being recalled.

2. Blake Wheeler, Bruins; Think the Coyotes could have found a spot for this guy?

3. Steve Mason, Blue Jackets; A battle with mononucleosis is derailing his bid for multiple awards.


1. Claude Julien, Bruins; Like the Caps, Boston was unfazed by several key injuries.

2. Brent Sutter, Devils; Historically boring club is scoring eighth-most goals a game.

3. Wayne Gretzky, Coyotes; This team has nine regulars under the age of 25.


Now showing: Riku Helenius, Lightning

Helenius made his NHL debut Friday in relief of starter Mike Smith. A first-round pick in 2006, he has been competing with fellow Finnish goaltender Karri Ramo for the “goalie of the future” tag in Hockey Bay and should continue to do so for the next couple seasons.

Coming soon: Dustin Tokarski, Lightning

Sure, he’s got the two guys from Finland (mentioned above) ahead of him on the depth chart, but Tokarski’s turn as Canada’s No. 1 goalie at the world junior championship in Ottawa put him on everybody’s radar. He was only a fifth-round pick in June, but remember that Steve Mason was a mid-round selection as well.

Show’s over: Olie Kolzig, Lightning

Godzilla is likely lost for the season because of arm surgery, and now his career could also be in question. Kolzig hasn’t ruled out a return, and he deserves a better ending than this. He has 303 wins and a Vezina Trophy to his credit.

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