Capitals collapse, Patrick Marleau and Matt Duchene (Puck Daddy Countdown)

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

9 – Brian MacLellan

It’s rough, y’know?

You push all in because you have to, given your roster. You win two Presidents’ Trophies out of the deal. You still don’t advance out of the second round. And now you have to sit there and say, “Well, that about does it for us.”

Man, it’s hard to imagine putting together a better team than that and coming up without even a Conference Final appearance.

When we look back in 10 or 15 or 20 years, I think we’ll have to regard the Caps as one of the most talented teams of the era. The quality of player they had for these last two postseasons was incredible, at every position. Great coaching, too. They won 13 playoff games.

The sport’s not fair sometimes.

8 – That Marleau contract

It’s incredibly bad. He’s 38 when the season starts. He’s somehow the team’s highest-paid player. He puts them over the cap (in fake money since Nathan Horton’s LTIRed forever and Joffrey Lupul might be too).

Does he help? In Year 1. Maybe.

But in Years 2 and 3? Might want to start looking at rental properties on Robidas Island.

7 – Being Jaromir Jagr

This is, I suppose, what being a 302-year-old free agent gets you.

But let’s keep in mind: Despite a pretty good number of minutes — second among Panthers forwards for the season, in fact — he led an admittedly mediocre team in relative percentages for the following categories: corsi, fenwick, shots, and high-danger chances.

He also ranked second in percentage of chances, goals, and high-danger goals.

This is a guy who helps anyone who signs him. It’s remarkable, but it’s true. I mean, look at this:

This guy is 45! Come on!

6 – Calgarys Flames

After the trade for Eddie Lack, the Flames’ two goaltenders for next season have a combined three-year save percentage of .908. Better hope all those good defensemen can figure out shot quality against, because… yeesh.

And what’s that? With their new coach last season, they had the 20th-ranked team save percentage? Cool cool cool. Should go great.

5 – That Price contract

Well you gotta pay your stars, and they’re doing it now. A whopping $10.5 million AAV over eight years for a guy who probably delivers a huge chunk of that value in the first four or five years of the deal alone, given his quality. Then again, he turns 30 in less than a month and a half, and one wonders

4 – That Radulov contract

I obviously get why people are iffy on this Alex Radulov contract, but my take on it is this: It either works for them over the next two years or it doesn’t.

Within the next two seasons, the Stars have contracts expiring for Jason Spezza, Marc Methot, Dan Hamhuis, Stephen Johns, Kari Lehtonen, and most importantly Tyler Seguin. A lot those guys will be quite expensive to replace (Hamhuis and Methot) or re-sign (Seguin certainly, Johns maybe).

The Stars are in win-now mode and you have to say they’ve gotten a lot better this summer. Martin Hanzal is better than Cody Eakin by a good margin. Radulov is better than Patrick Sharp by an even better one (I think Radulov helps a lot with secondary scoring). Ben Bishop is probably at least a little better than Antti Niemi. Methot is better than whoever their previous last defenseman was. Ken Hitchcock is a huge upgrade over Lindy Ruff.

Question is: Where’s that get them? They missed the playoffs last season but I think that was a bit of a fluke. They only shot 8.9 percent as a team in all situations (18th in the league), and with that talent level the number should be higher. Get a better goaltender, and maybe cut your goals-against number by like 10-15?

No one could be deluded into thinking this is a meaningfully competitive team. They’re probably not the fourth-best team in their own division. Maybe if Bishop gets hot at the right time blah blah blah but this strikes me as a team built to make the second round and get drubbed.

Anyway, point is if you don’t win in the next two years, ya might as well blow it up and keep Radulov and Bishop around as your mandatory too-expensive, signed-too-long veterans.

3 – Buyouts

It’s nice to see teams actually realize they can use their buyouts. There were a ton this year, no doubt spurred by the whole expansion draft thing. It’s good to see, and not only because it’s just another step toward NHL teams being well-run overall.

But the fact remains: If you were to ballpark it, you’d have to say about 80 percent of bought-out contracts are very clearly objectionable if not outright bad on Day 1. So you figure it out.

2 – The Rangers?

Really tough to figure out what, exactly, the Rangers plan to do this season.

They’ve said it’s a rebuild on the fly, but They’re running Mika Zibanejad (yet to be re-signed as an RFA) and Kevin Hayes down the middle with a few other decent top-nine forwards on hand.

And that blue line is still a mess, even with the addition-by-subtraction of Dan Girardi’s buyout and the addition-by-addition of Shattenkirk. But their big free agent swoop only gives them, what, two guys who can effectively move the puck at the NHL level?

And Henrik Lundqvist is still on the team. And still 35. And now backed up by Ondrej Pavelec, which strikes the reasonable observer as a bit of a downgrade.

The Rangers are wise to blow it up, and frankly a lot of the guys on the team are on the right side of 30.

Honestly, the idea of trading Lundqvist somewhere is going to be unpalatable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is finding a team with the need and cap space to take him on, but if you’re going to rebuild, why do it when he’s still with the team? The fact that he’s now going to grind out the last few years of his career on a team that’s actively rebuilding is, to me, kinda sad.

1 – Wishin’ and a-hopin’

Matt Duchene is still on the Colorado Avalanche. That seems weird, right?

Those dreams of him going to the Predators seem unlikely to come to fruition at this point. Columbus is now the oft-whispered destination, though Boston has been in the mix as well.

The holdup? Joe Sakic wants the moon for him, and why not? Just before the free agency period began, Bob McKenzie reported that Duchene hadn’t forced his hand by actually asking for a trade.

He probably will be dealt this summer, no question. But Colorado also has no real reason to just accommodate a team on this kind of swap for a 26-year-old center who had 41 points on a rotten team last season, and with a shooting percentage below his career average. That’s a solid No. 2, and most teams don’t have that. So why not see what you can get out of them?

It’s July 5. You have until early September to make the trade, probably.

Twist the knife.

(Not ranked this week: Jimmy Hayes and years-old Seguin takes.

The inevitable, judicious buyout of Jimmy Hayes closed the book on every last piece of the Tyler Seguin trade on Boston’s end. Hayes had been acquired when Boston sent Reilly Smith — now with Vegas — to Florida. The Bruins also previously lost Loui Eriksson to free agency, Joe Morrow to being non-qualified, and Matt Fraser to waivers.

And you can say what you want about ol’ Reilly Smith, but he had as many goals on March 28 and 30 as Hayes did all of last season.

Anyway, the fun thing to do when everyone realized what the Hayes buyout meant was seek out all the Boston media goobers who had a “This was a trade they had to make” take circa 2013. There were way more of them than you’d think. “He only scored one goal in the playoffs!” they said. “He didn’t play the way they need him to!” they said.

Who could have possibly seen this working out how it did? Hmm, I wonder…)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)