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What We Learned: Yashin’s NHL return maybe the biggest joke ever

Ryan Lambert
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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.

Remember when the Islanders bought out Alexei Yashin because he wasn't good enough to earn his contract any more (if indeed he ever was (and he wasn't)), and didn't really seem to care too much about things like playing hockey?

Of course you do. Everybody does.

Yashin signed that insane, insane, insane deal on draft day in 2001, and it has haunted the Islanders ever since. He got 10 years and $87.5 million.

People give the Islanders a lot of somewhat-justified-but-not-entirely-due grief about the Rick DiPietro contract, but the Yashin deal might be the worst in NHL history. If it's not, it's a close runner-up to that Bobby Holik contract. He played just five seasons for the team before being mercifully bought out. During that time, his highest goal total was 32 (in his first season on Long Island), and that was not coincidentally the only time he broke 70 points.

Because of that buyout, Yashin will be costing the Islanders a little more than $2.2 million against the cap for four more years.

None of this is new or surprising, of course. But that's what makes it so brain-meltingly insane to think that he might, for some horrible, awful reason, be back with an NHL team this year or indeed ever. Certainly, it should never ever ever be the Islanders.

But I guess I should amend my earlier statement that "everybody" remembers how bad the Yashin-and-the-Islanders situation went. What I should have said was, "Everybody who is not Charles Wang."

It came out on Friday that the Islanders have not only had contact with Yashin about a possible NHL return, but also actually offered him a contract. And I think the only logical reaction to this news is this:

"Are the Islanders actively trying to be the worst-run franchise in the league?"

(Coming Up: Jonas Enroth almost goes to the KHL; Kris Draper wants to comeback; Rocco Grimaldi's a swell guy; Josh Gorges re-signs with Habs; Preds marketing to Thrashers fans; Nik Zherdev's still available; Arron Asham is also a swell guy; A surprising Kevin Bieksa and Dustin Byfuglien stat; Jets fans love the new logos; Sir Chara; a highly unlikely Luke Schenn trade proposal.)

Garth Snow has, to his credit, done some very good bits of business this summer in locking up both Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner to five-year deals. Both were extremely affordable and show a commitment to winning and growing the team's success over time. The goaltending situation is still a bit of mess, obviously (entering the season with DiPietro and Al Montoya?), and one has no doubt that John Tavares will get a really lucrative deal when his turn comes up next summer. But the team is very obviously going in the right direction. Snow, in fact, has largely been the picture of sensibility with regard to his personnel decisions.

It's difficult, if not impossible, however, to say the same for his boss. Charles Wang is clearly one of the worst owners in professional sports today: a not-yet-senile Al Davis without the hockey background that the Raiders' despotic owner had in his own sport. He insists on backseat driving his own franchise, and yet the only place he's navigating it is right off a cliff.

The fact is that if Yashin were to be lured back to this hemisphere, it would only to be a sizeable deal that got the job done. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the deal is worth the same as what Jaromir Jagr got from the Flyers: $3.3 million for one year. Can't see him returning to Nassau for much less than that, right?

They would, in essence, be paying Alex freaking Yashin the equivalent of $5.5 million against the salary cap for this season despite the fact that he hasn't played in North America or even against major international talent as part of the Russian national team since 2007.

Hell, paying him the $2.2 million he's getting from the buyout seems like it would probably be drastic overpayment for a guy who scored 33 points in 52 games in the KHL last year, finishing fifth on his team in scoring. And that's behind names like Mattias Weinhandl, 2000 Minnesota Wild draft pick Maxim Sushinski, Petr Cajanek and the hilariously named Anton But. Not exactly the '76 Habs.

Garth Snow's name will be on the paperwork, but this deal has Wang's fingerprints all over it. For a team already largely considered a laughingstock for many reasons (continuing to employ a real-life Ogie Ogilthorpe like Trevor Gillies, its horrible arena and, well, that Yashin contract chief among them), this really isn't helping.

Already, there's a perception that the Islanders are a bush league franchise that would succeed if only their owner weren't a meddling, egotistical know-nothing that's acting as an anchor around the neck of his own team. No team has done anything nearly so embarrassing as this in a long, long time.

If Charles Wang wants his team to be successful going forward, he doesn't need a new arena.

He needs to get the hell away from it.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Hey don't worry, Wisconsin fans. Justin Schultz probably won't go pro for the Ducks organization this summer.

Boston Bruins: Who will the Bruins use to replace Mark Recchi and/or Michael Ryder in the lineup? It's probably Tyler Seguin or Benoit Pouliot, but it could also be a rookie.

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Buffalo Sabres: Jhonas Enroth almost went to the KHL, but then realized that the Sabres are also willing to overpay mediocre players and didn't want to pack up all his stuff.

Calgary Flames: The team's official website calls Paul Byron "one of the Flames' most promising prospects." Whether that speaks well of Byron or poorly of the Flames is up to you. (P.S. it's the latter.)

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes had their annual fanfest on Friday. Said one diehard, "I'm very interested to see how we're going to do this year." You don't get more committed than "very interested."

Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks' various performance overages cost them $4.1 million at the start of last season, but this year, it's only $100,000. Getting Dale Tallon to take half your bad contracts really helps a lot, it turns out.

Colorado Avalanche: "Here is your biggest reason for optimism in the Avalanche for 2011-12," proclaims Adrian Dater, almost stereotypically. What's that then? Matt Duchene? Paul Stastny? Maybe even Gabriel Landeskog? No, you idiot, it's a rookie defenseman's plus-minus rating in the WHL. This is gonna be one long-ass season.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Vinny Prospal is a solid addition to the Blue Jackets but there's no way in heck he produces as well as Kristian Huselius. Decent stopgap and almost certainly the second-best they could have done after Nik Zherdev, but obviously there was no way they were going down that road again.

Dallas Stars: Is Jamie Benn the one player under 24 who you would pick to start your franchise? A better question would be: "Is Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty or Matt Duchene or John Tavares or Jonathan Toews or PK Subban or Taylor Hall or Patrick Kane dead in this scenario?"

Detroit Red Wings: Kris Draper wants to come back this season. But only with the Red Wings, who of course have no need of a largely-useless 58-year-old wing who's only still in the NHL because Ken Holland is loyal to a fault. So he'll probably not be back at all. Let the Hall of Fame debate begin. But not really.

Edmonton Oilers: In terms of shots per 60 minutes of power play time, the Oilers' best season since 2006 was when they finished 28th in the league in the '06-07 season. Every one since has seen them finish 30th. That's pretty bad.

Florida Panthers: Everyone loves Rocco Grimaldi so much. Like, no one can find the slightest bad thing to say about him. It circles out of being sickening and back into being adorable.

Los Angeles Kings: Simon Gagne "should be" an upgrade over Ryan Smyth? Is. Simon Gagne is an upgrade over Ryan Smyth.

Minnesota Wild: One has to feel really and truly bad for the six (as of 7:40 p.m. EDT, Sunday) who think the Wild will win their division and finish third in the conference. There's delusion, and then there's insanity. In all, 86 percent think they'll make the playoffs. Oh yeah sure they will.

Montreal Canadiens: Josh Gorges signed, and the Habs are done dealing for the summer. Gonna be one hell of a fifth-place finish. Oh man.

Nashville Predators: The Preds are really pushing hard to attract literally-disenfranchised Thrashers fans from the Atlanta area. Because if they wouldn't drive half an hour to see the Thrashers, they'll definitely go four and a quarter to see the Preds.

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New Jersey Devils: Pete DeBoer wasn't always easy to get along with in Florida, and now he'll have to be, or the Devils will have to deal with being really terrible again, just like the first half of last year.

New York Islanders: Evgeni Nabokov will definitely be with an NHL team this season. If you want to call the Islanders that.

New York Rangers: Derek Boogaard's brother has been charged with giving him the illegal pain pills that caused his death. "Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman said Derek Boogaard, 28, had asked Aaron for the drugs because he was preparing for a night of drinking and clubbing after completing a stint in an alcohol rehabilitation program." Yikes.

Ottawa Senators: Sure would be nice if Filip Kuba wasn't terrible for the Sens this year. It would also be nice if Dany Alfredsson was 25 again but that's not gonna happen either.

Philadelphia Flyers: Hey why hasn't anyone signed Nik Zherdev yet? He's really good and stuff. Your team should try to sign him. Cuz like look how good he is. Wow! That's good!

Phoenix Coyotes: The Phoenix Coyotes are in the top five in the league in terms of season ticket renewals which is really cool until you realize only another 2,000 people are going to show up for mid-week games in January when they're 15 points out of a playoff spot.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Arron Asham made a sizeable donation to his own charity and it's like the fifth article I've seen this summer where he was raising money or donating to some cause or another. So I guess what I'm trying to say is Arron Asham seems like one hell of a good guy.

San Jose Sharks: Brent Burns is very excited about how well the Sharks could do this season. He really should be.

St. Louis Blues: Hey remember when Blues owner Dave Checketts said the team would be sold before the start of the season? Here's Dave Checketts on that shocking statement: "That didn't come from me." Well alright then.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Hey remember how Ryan Malone was gonna miss a ton of time this year? The Bolts say he's not. Deal with it.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Will the Leafs make the playoffs? My guess is that they will just miss the cut but can make it if they try really hard. Phil Kessel can be in charge of bringing the orange slices.

Vancouver Canucks: Kevin Bieksa was third in the league last year among defensemen in takeaways at even strength. Dustin Byfuglien was No. 1. I would never have guessed either of those guys to be in the top three with 20 guesses.

Washington Capitals: The Capitals' goaltending situation is ranked fourth in the league. 'Course the Islanders are fifth and the Bruins are seventh so who knows what the heck?

Winnipeg Jets: Breaking: People in Canada will buy shirts featuring the logo of a hockey team. For the record the logo is cool, and the word mark is not.

Gold Star Award

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Zdeno Chara wrapped his celebration day with the Stanley Cup by getting knighted. If only they hadn't cast someone to play Sir Gregor Clegane on Game of Thrones.

(Sorry about the nerd joke, everyone.)

Minus of the Weekend

The Toronto Star rated whether or not some of the guys in the league who make $7 million or more are "worth it" or "not worth it."

Between Rick Nash and Vinny Lecavalier, one fell into each category. WHICH DO YOU SUPPOSE WAS WHICH?

"And while his scoring has declined, the intangibles he brings to the team are on the rise. As the team's captain and highest paid player, he takes the heat off Stamkos." Ahahaha.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "Neeraj" is not off to a good start:

Leafs trade:
Luke Schenn (sign and trade) + Jussi Ryanas

Edmonton trades:
Jordan Eberle

Signoff

Give me five bees for a quarter, you'd say.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently 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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