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CRACKS OF DON: Siding with ‘Smarty Marty’ on goalie contracts

Goaltender Braden Holtby, then of the Washington Capitals, sprays water during a stoppage in play.

Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images

Martin Biron probably would admit he always talked a better game than he played — and over a career that spanned 16 seasons, he was a pretty decent goalie.

As an analyst for Buffalo Sabres games on MSG Western New York, Biron has been telling everyone who has asked over the past week that he thinks a couple of teams spent too much money on contract extensions. This is rare, as former players never say, publicly at least, that today’s players are being over-rewarded financially, but Biron has never been shy about sharing his true feelings.

Speaking Tuesday on TSN 1200, the 43-year old, a first-round draft pick of the Sabres in 1995, stated again he believes the Vancouver Canucks made the best free-agent signing when they had Braden Holtby agree to a two-year $8.6-million contract. And he again said he thinks Ottawa and Calgary spent too much respectively on Matt Murray and Jacob Markstrom.

“I think that’s a lot of money for a goaltender who is very inconsistent in what he’s been able to do so far in his career,” Biron said of the four-year, $25-million contract Ottawa gave Murray after acquiring him in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “You can’t take away the two Cups that he’s won, but if you put that aside, and you just look at the goalie, and you say: ‘Is Matt Murray a six-plus million dollar goaltender in the NHL without the Cups?’ I don’t think the answer is yes. I think he’s a very solid four and a half to five, maybe five and a half million dollar goaltender. But over six, I think that’s a little rich for my blood.

“There’s going to be a lot of pressure that’s going to come with number one, the trade to bring him in, the contract, and this is a rebuilding team. I am skeptical that it’s going to all work out.”

Biron has similar feelings about the six-year, $36-million deal Markstrom signed with the Flames.

“I think that is going to be one that, in two or three years down the road, the Flames may regret,” said Biron. “If you look at Markstrom over the last few years, has he elevated himself to be in the same discussion as (Andrei) Vasilevskiy, as Pekka Rinne, Tuukka Rask, as the top goaltenders in the NHL? I don’t think so. For me, it’s still a little too much to give a goaltender as a free agent. I wouldn’t have gone past $5 million. Maybe sweeten the deal to $5.5. But $6 million was a little bit too much.”

They don’t call him Smarty Marty for nothing … they probably don’t call him that at all …. but in what he thinks about the money spent on Murray and Markstrom, I agree with Biron.

Those are two contracts Ottawa and Calgary will regret.


There’s a lot to be impressed about with Patrick Marleau, who on Tuesday signed another deal with the San Jose Sharks and is now poised to break Gordie Howe’s record of 1,767 career games played. Marleau needs nine more to move past Ron Francis for fourth, 11 more to pass Jaromir Jagr for third, 34 more to supplant Mark Messier for second, and 45 more to take over possession of first on the list from Mr. Hockey. Not counting the messed up 2019-20 schedule, the 41-year old product of Swift Current has played the last 10 seasons without missing a single game. In his first 21 seasons, he was unavailable for just 31 games. That’s some kind of durable … Bruce Cassidy’s coaching skills will be put to the test if the 2020-2021 season starts in January, as is the plan. That would leave the Bruins without two-thirds of The Perfection Line for a significant time,  as the team has announced Brad Marchand (sports hernia) and David Pastrnak (hip) had surgery in September that will keep them sidelined for four and five months, respectively. With Torey Krug now in St. Louis, the top-rated power play in the NHL will be a mere shadow of its former self out of the gate … Charlie McAvoy also had right knee surgery in September, but he’s expected to be ready to go for the start of the season …

ON THIS (Oct. 14) DATE

Exactly 41 years ago, Wayne Gretzky scored his first NHL goal, giving the Edmonton Oilers a 4-4 tie with 1:09 left in the third period against the Vancouver Canucks. Exactly eight years later, The Great One scored his 545th goal to move ahead of Rocket Richard on the career goals list … Also 41 years ago on this date, the Philadelphia Flyers began a NHL record 35-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the fabled Spectrum. The run, which consisted of 25 wins and 10 ties, came to a crashing halt in a 7-1 road to the Minnesota North Stars 85 nights later … Exactly 53 years ago, another great one scored the first two goals of his NHL career in a 4-2 Los Angeles Kings win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The first one, by Brian Kilrea, was also the first in Kings history … Exactly 28 years ago, Tom Henke induced a Ruben Sierra fly-out to Candy Maldonado as the Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Oakland A’s to win their first AL pennant in their 16th season of existence. Ten days later, the Jays bumped off the Atlanta Braves to become the first team outside of the U.S. to win the World Series …


Cows are still on the other side of the fence along the 10th fairway at the very nice and challenging Stittsville Golf Course, just as they were when the place was known as Glen Mar. But never before had I encountered the two very huge birds who stood and watched me chip out of the woods on No. 12. “I guess spending all season training those turkeys paid off,” said Greg Robertson, the course owner. It was a nice touch on Thanksgiving Monday …. He was a great broadcaster on Sunday night baseball games for so many years, but I first became a big fan of Joe Morgan when he was in Cincinnati and playing second base for the Big Red Machine. He provided power and speed for the Reds in the 1970s, and as a left-handed batter myself growing up, I sometimes copied the chick flap he did with his left arm as he waited for a pitch. Along with Rod Carew’s light grip, Carl Yastrzemski’s exceptionally high bat, Jeff Bagwell’s wide feet, and the utterly bizarre approach of Kevin Youkilis, Morgan’s signature batting stance is one I’ll always remember.

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