One potential option for clubs looking for center help ahead of the deadline was removed with the St. Louis Blues locking up Patrik Berglund to a five-year, $19.25MM deal. On the surface that might appear to be a hefty commitment for a player who hasn’t quite lived up to his advanced billing as a former first-round pick. Berglund is a skilled player with great size at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds but has failed to register more than 38 points in any of his five previous campaigns and likely won’t reach that mark this year either. Yet Benjamin Hochman of the St. Louis Post Dispatch argues the Blues and Berglund settled on a fair agreement for both sides.
Hochman references a point made by fellow hockey scribe Greg Wyshynski in his “Puck Daddy” blog; Berglund’s new deal is identical to that which was signed last summer by Darren Helm. The Red Wings forward has six goals and 11 points in 32 games this season. Berglund, conversely, has 17 goals in 60 games. Ultimately Hochman’s argument boils down to his view that Berglund is at worst a solid third-line center capable of playing in all situations and contributing 20 goals a year. Based on the likely cost to replace that production on the free agent market, $3.85MM is a good deal.
Elsewhere in the West:
- With Arizona one of the few declared sellers and the team yet to approach soon-to-be free agent center Martin Hanzal about a new contract, the big pivot knows his days with the only NHL organization are nearing an end. As Sarah McLellan of AZ Central writes, in the nearly 10 years Hanzal has spent with the Coyotes organization, he has developed from a young player who as longtime teammate Radim Vrbata observed, “I don’t think he understood what it meant to be an NHL player,” into one who routinely matches up against the opposition’s best night in and night out. Of course that’s exactly why Hanzal is being targeted by so many clubs looking for forward help going into the playoffs. The 6-foot-6 center can play in any situation and is also a threat as a net-front presence on the man-advantage. Reports indicate that Coyotes GM John Chayka has placed a high price tag on Hanzal and it’s easy to see why.
- Colorado, in the midst of an agonizingly bad season, received some good news with word that top defenseman Erik Johnson and veteran forward Rene Bourque have both pronounced themselves healthy and fit for duty, reports Terry Frei of The Denver Post. The absence of Johnson, out since early December with a broken fibula, has been an especially difficult one for the Avalanche. At the time of his injury, Colorado had a record of 9-13-1. In the 36 games the veteran blue liner has missed, the Avalanche have amassed a paltry 16 points. Obviously Johnson’s return comes far too late to impact the team’s on-ice fortunes much but a stretch of solid play might enhance his value as an offseason trade asset should the Avalanche embrace a full rebuild this summer. Johnson is in the first year of a seven-year, $42MM pact and at 28-years-old, the contract is expected to cover the downward slope of the defenseman’s career and certainly complicates the notion of a trade. Bourque meanwhile, is one a cheap, one-year deal and has contributed nine goals in 43 games with Colorado. If he can get back in the lineup and play well for a couple of games, it’s conceivable a team looking for bottom-six depth might take a flier on him at the deadline.