Puck Daddy Countdown: Russia, Carey Price and contract demands

Olympic Athletes from Russia could really use a player like Ilya Kovalchuk. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

8 – Whatever team signed that Matt Moulson contract that it just had to stash in the AHL

I don’t know what team did it, but maybe they put him in the AHL because they don’t have room for him with all their NHL success.

7 – Mother Russia

So the IOC, not surprisingly, made the unprecedented move to basically tell Russia it was not allowed to participate in the Olympics, and that if its (non-doping) athletes really want to show up they can compete as “Olympic Athletes From Russia,” which is a nice little burn on Russia’s whole Extreme Nationalism thing. Those athletes, if they show up and aren’t polonium-ed, will compete under the Olympic flag and only hear the Olympic anthem if they medal.

It’s bad for those people, who probably really like their country.

But the impact on men’s hockey, which was already going to be starving for talent with the NHL sitting it out, is likely going to be severe. There have been threats, which one expects will soon change from threats to action, that if the Russians aren’t allowed to compete under the Russian flag, the KHL would “pull an NHL” and likewise refuse to participate in the Pyeongchang Games.

That, in turn, means probably the best players in the Olympics will be some of the NHL rejects who are playing in the Swiss, German, Swedish and Finnish leagues, and guys on AHL-only contracts. Mix in some college players, maybe major junior guys, and that’s about it.

The real reason this sucks for Russia, of course, is that this was for sure their only real chance to win gold given the current power dynamics in international hockey. There are a bunch of good Russian KHLers. There are not a lot of non-Russian KHLers. It would have given them such a distinct advantage that it might have been a walkover tournament for them.

But alas, turns out if you have a major national doping conspiracy ongoing for a number of years, there can occasionally be very minor consequences.

6 – Scott Wilson

So you’re Scott Wilson, right? You just won your second straight Stanley Cup, you’re getting a not insignificant amount of time on Evgeni Malkin’s wing, and things are looking pretty good.

But then the Penguins realize, “Ah, we forgot to get a No. 3 center this season.” Suddenly you get traded from the two-time Cup champs to the drowning Red Wings, and boy things aren’t going well for you there.

But then, relief. “Hey Scott, you’ve been traded again.” Not that anyone wants to live out of a suitcase again, but getting traded out of the Red Wings organization? I guess you take that. But then where are you traded? Buffalo. Maybe the worst team in the league. Good for your ice time. Bad for literally every other reason.

5 – Erik Karlsson, the bad loser who sucks now

So Erik Karlsson, the best defenseman in the world, is on a nine-game pointless streak, and everyone is saying, “Ah isn’t it so bad, how much Erik Karlsson is the reason the Senators stink on ice?”

Truly an incredible turn of events, because man I could have sworn that even without getting literally any points over the last nine games, he still had 17 in 20 from the blue line despite playing on a manufactured-in-a-lab ankle with a bunch of guys who really aren’t very good.

And boy wouldn’t you know it, Karlsson continues to be a huge possession driver on a team that basically doesn’t have anyone else to do that. And also the team is shooting like 2.4 percent when he’s on the ice over the last nine games.

So is it his fault? I’m going to say: Yes.

4 – Edmonton taxpayers

Darryl Katz just bought the most expensive house in the history of Los Angeles, a real estate market that is absolutely, positively known for its modest prices.

Meanwhile, the very nice people of Edmonton who just like their damn hockey team and didn’t want it to leave, let this guy — who by the way is a billionaire — bully them into paying for a pretty good chunk of the arena’s price tag.

Also their team sucks.

Great deal the city negoatiated, for sure.

3 – Carey Price

Must be nice to be a goalie like Carey Price, in a market where mysticism is very much en vogue whenever anything goes even slightly wrong.

The team was bad before, right? Is it because the team was shooting like 3 percent collectively for the first month of the season? No, that couldn’t be it. Price was old and bad, Max Pacioretty needed to be traded, Alex Galchenyuk should have been deported, all that stuff.

But then Price actually takes the time to get healthy again for the first time in a while and oh jeez look at that, this world-class goalie is world-class again. And literally only coincidentally, the guys on the team started scoring again.

So not only were they getting routine 30-of-31 performances from the big-money goalie, but the team started filling the net in a way it hadn’t all year. Montreal’s back in a playoff spot, and you know why? Cuz Price had an effect on his teammates and made them start scoring again.

Truly an incredible ability that Price guy has. Wonder why he doesn’t do it every game, right? The Habs would go 82-0!

2 – Contract demands

I must bless up Karlsson and Drew Doughty for both basically saying someone’s gotta pay them an absolute crapload of money in summer 2019. Very against type for any hockey player to talk about that kind of thing so openly, but it’s how these things should be talked about. Karlsson, I hope and pray, will get a bunch of money from a team with more than three other actual talented players. For Doughty, one wonders whether the Kings will still be good when he needs to be re-signed, or if they’ll even have the cap space to do it.

The rumors right now are that the cap could basically go up by like $5 million this season, which is huge growth we haven’t seen in years. That might help make everything work, but also the idea that NHL players should always re-sign with their current teams is not good. They should test the market, pit teams against each other, and find the destination that works best for them and get a bunch of money.

Both these guys are probably worth $10 million-plus. If they take less than that, it seems like a mistake. And it’s cool that both of them seem to recognize it.

1 – Seattle

Wow, there’s going to be 32 NHL teams just a few years from now! And enough talent for like 26 of them to be half-decent! What a time to be alive.

(Not ranked this week: Anyone who is still dumb enough to watch Olympic hockey in the middle of the night.

You’re basically going to be watching ECHL hockey, which is fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but this is the Olympics in the middle of the damn night.

Here’s a question: Is it worse that people are going to be expected to watch these rotten games at like 3 in the morning, or if it were on a North American time scale and therefore we all had to collectively watch them in prime time? I don’t know if there’s a good answer to that but it just made me want to cry.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)

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