AHL All-Star wrap up, great deals for Del Zotto and Subban and The Great One opens up

AHL All Star logo 2013Ryan Hamilton of the Toronto Marlies completed a hat trick with just over 11 seconds remaining in the third period to give the Western Conference a 7-6 win over the Eastern Conference in last night’s American League All-Star Game. He was named MVP of the game, scoring each of the West’s final three goals and helping the Western Conference to their second win of the weekend after taking the Skills Competition 12-11 on Sunday night.

A few of the other top performers on the night were Mark Arcobello (Oklahoma City Barons) who assisted on all three Hamilton goals, rookies Jason Zucker (Houston Aeros) and Drew Shore (San Antonio Rampage) with a goal and an assist each and goalie Justin Peters (Charlotte Checkers) who stopped 12 of 13 shots in the third period for the Western Conference.

Chad Kolarik (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) led the way for the Eastern Conference with two goals while defenseman Radko Gudas (Syracuse Crunch) had two assists and rookie Tyler Toffoli (Manchester Monarchs) had a goal and an assist. Curtis McElhinney (Springfield Falcons) was named top goaltender, stopping 15 of 16 shots in the second period.

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The New York Rangers didn't break the bank on Michael Del Zotto's contract. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

The New York Rangers didn’t break the bank on Michael Del Zotto’s contract. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Damien Cox of The Toronto Star praises the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens for not overpaying their young defensemen, Michael Del Zotto and P.K. Subban, in their restricted free agent deals. Both blueliners were signed to two-year contracts worth $2.55 million and $2.875 million a season, respectively, even though both were looking for long-term deals, the likes of which were eliminated in the recent CBA.

Of course, Cox mentions the risk as both Del Zotto and Subban could play their way into bigger contracts into two years, perhaps even more than they were asking this time around. He mentions Taylor Hall, a player whose $6 million contract will likely be a good deal for the Edmonton Oilers a few years down the line; though collectively players would likely benefit from a gradual financial growth. From Cox:

Defenceman Erik Johnson, the first overall pick in 2006, has developed slowly. St. Louis, at the start, preferred to limit their exposure because they were unsure of Johnson’s development. Traded to Colorado in 2011, Johnson signed a four-year deal last summer for $3.75 million per that will make him a UFA in 2016.

All in all, this seems a sensible progression from prospect to young player to established player, and Johnson has hardly had to cry poor along the way. One wonders how (Phil) Kessel, drafted four slots behind Johnson, might have benefitted with more gradual financial growth and less pressure. Ditto for (Dion) Phaneuf.

In that light, it was at least refreshing to see New York and Montreal hold the line with players who, like the others, have no real leverage and limited arbitration rights. With unrestricted free agency at 27 or even 25 in some cases, NHL clubs have less time than once was the case to control their costs with such players.

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NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen sat down with Wayne Gretzky for his series “Five Questions With…”

The Great One, content to be just a fan for the time being, discusses which team he thinks will win the Stanley Cup this season, which players he loves to watch, his opinion on Kyle Turris and the Edmonton Oilers who once again have an abundance of great young talent.

Said Gretzky of his favorite player to watch:

My favorite player over the last 10 years has been [Henrik] Zetterberg. I think Zetterberg is the best player in the game at a 28-year-old age. He’s been so physically beat up from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Olympics, all that goes with that, but he’s just very special. I think he’s the best Swedish player they’ve ever put into the National Hockey League, and there has been a lot of great ones, from [Borje] Salming to [Nicklas] Lidstrom.

He also talked about the Oilers and how the future success of the team relies on more than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov.

The key for them [the current Oilers] is not so much those kids. Those kids are going to get better and be a big part of their success, but the key to them will be the intangibles around it. Can they find the leadership and the unselfishness of guys like Lee Fogolin and Kevin Lowe. Everybody loves to score goals, but we didn’t need Craig MacTavish to score goals and he understood that. His job was going to be our third-line checking center, a faceoff guy, penalty kill, and he accepted that responsibility. Those guys become such a factor in the success of a team, and to me those are the intangibles they’re going to need to find to go to the next level.

Check out the link for more from Gretzky.

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