My Two Cents for July 15, 2013

New Sharks Take to Summer Ice- When July 11th or any date in July roles around most people are thinking about the the summer season. Many people are either on summer vacations, or about to leave for summer vacations. Sun, fun, surf, barbecues, family gatherings, baseball, all the things that bring about the best in a season that's planned for all year around. The farthest thing from anyone's mind is hockey especially a month after the Stanley Cup finals have concluded. However, if you are in the Stanley Cup business, there are three seasons that encompass the entire year. The Regular Season (October to April); The Post Season (April to June), and the Off Season (July-September). The San Jose Sharks are using this summer to take a good luck at the players they have drafted and other and other minor leaguers in their organization. Team Teal held their first annual Sharks Prospects Scrimmage this past Thursday night as Sharks Ice in San Jose. Many fans got their first looks at players such as Tomas Hertl, Mirco Mueller who were the Sharks top choices in the last two re-entry drafts. Fans also go their first look at Konrad Abeltshauser as well. In addition, players who have been with the Sharks organization since 2011, Matthew Nieto, Dylan Demelo and Sean Kuraly also participated.

The event is not only so fans can see for themselves the players the Sharks are introducing to the organization, but also to showcase how these players are being developed and what the potential Sharks teams of the future may look like. It's also a chance for the coaches to work with the players in a less stressed environment to help them see how they can develop them to get them up to speed and NHL caliber. Much of the harder work will come soon enough when the Sharks open their pre-season camp in September. The ones who impressed the most this past Thursday will get a much closer look when the September camp rolls around. It wont be too long before some of these players will make their way to San Jose for more than just the summer scrimmage and at that time the Sharks will need to have these players assume some larger rolls. How the Sharks go about the development of these prospects will determine a lot of their fortunes as a franchise down the road.

Stalock is Re-signed- This past Wednesday (7/10) the San Jose Sharks and goalie Alex Stalock agreed to a one year contract. Stalock, who played 38 games last season for the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester, Mass. is expected to be the odds on favorite to become Antti Niemi's backup in the 2013-14 season. Stalock would replace Thomas Greiss, who was let go by the Sharks and allowed to pursue free agency. Greiss has since signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. Stalock was viewed to be one of the Sharks top goalie prospects until a sever leg injury in the 2011-12 season caused a major set back. Stalock, 25, has appeared in over 140 games for the Worcester Sharks and was the team's MVP during the 2009-10 campaign. Stalock became the all-time leader in Worcester Sharks goalie wins when he secured his 75th victory on Apr. 9, 2013 at Bridgeport, where he made 32 saves in a 3-0 shutout victory. Along with being the franchise leader in wins in finishing the year with 76 career, Stalock was named the Worcester Sharks 3 Stars Award winner as well.

If Stalock is able to remain healthy he will certainly be a reliable asset for the Sharks who are in need of a strong backup goalie. After an injury that could alter or even end the career of most goalies (and most other players in general), Stalock has fought back to become one of the most reliable net minders in Worcester's history. Obvious success in Worcester is not a guarantee of success in San Jose. With a career mark of 76-54-11 in the AHL, Stalock has certainly seen more than ample ice time and should be the quality back up the Sharks will need going forward. If he has a decent campaign for team teal in 2013-14, Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson should certainly look to extend Stalock beyond this coming season.

San Francisco Bulls News- The Sharks ECHL affiliate, the San Francisco Bulls, have announced the signings of three players who made names for themselves in the Bulls inaugural season last year.  The Bulls this week agreed to terms with defensemen Scott Langdon and Dylan King, and forward Kris Belan. These are the first three players to agree to terms for the 2013-14 season. Langdon was he Bulls team Captain for the 2012-13 season and was one of the team's top defensive players. King meanwhile was named the Bulls most improved player for last season and will be entering his third season of professional hockey. As for Belan, he was one who was not afraid to drop the gloves and take up for his teammates as his 141 penalty minutes tied him for second on the team. Belan last season has eight goals and 13 assist for the Bulls.

The Bulls will start their 2013-14 season on October 18th against the team that bounced them from the post season this past April. The Alaska Aces will play the Bulls twice on the 18th and 19th of October in Anchorage. The Bulls first home date at the Cow Palace will be on November 8th as they take on the Bakersfield Condors. The Bulls will meet the ECHL's Western Conference Champion Stockton Thunder in Stockton November 11th and 20th. The Thunder's first visit to the Cow Palace is December 14th.

Kovalchuk Decides NHL is Not For Him Anymore- In what is probably and easily the biggest shocker of the NHL's off season, the New Jersey Devils announced that RW Ilya Kovalchuck was not returning to the team. This was not because the Devils wanted to buy him out or trade him. The was because Kovalchuk, 30, had decided to "Retire from the NHL." It is reported by the St Louis Post Dispatch that Kovalchuk has decided to return to his roots and play the second half of his career in the KHL**. Kovalchuk signed a 15-year, $100 million contract with the Devils in 2010. With his "retirement", Kovalchuk walks away leaving $77 million on the table.

In 11 NHL seasons with the (now defunct) Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils, Kovalchuk scored 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points with 516 penalty minutes in 816 games. In addition Kovalchuk added 11 goals and 16 assists in 32 career playoff games as well. It is expected that Kovalchuk not only will return to the team he played for during this past seasons' NHL lockout, SKA St Petersburg, he is also expected to be named the captain of the Russian Olympic team during next years Winter Olympics in Sochi. It is believed that Kovalchuk's decision resume his career in the KHL may have been influenced by the lockout as well.**

If someday Kovalchuk changes his mind after a few seasons and attempts to return to the NHL, he will not be able to do so as a free agent. The Devils will continue to hold Kovalchuk's NHL rights through 2018-19, and would be wise to do so just to make sure he doesn't decided to sign with a rival team.

Hockey Hot Stove- The Boston Bruins this week re-signed forward Patrice Bergeron to a new deal with $52 Million over the next eight seasons. Bergeron was one of many Bruins players who had a major role in Boston making their second Stanley Cup Finals series appearance in the last three seasons. The new deal goes into effect after the 2013-14 season ends. Bergeron's current three year, $15 Million deal runs out next June 30th. In the lockout shortened season, Bergeron had 10 goals and 22 assist. In the Stanley Cup playoffs, Bergeron scored nine goals while adding six assist.  In addition, the Bruins also locked up goalie Tuukka Rask by re-signing him to an eight year deal worth $56 Million. Rask assumed the role as the Bruins number one net minder with the sudden departure of Tim Thomas before the 2011-12 season. Rask certainly has had some tough games in his career, however he has also turned in some huge performances in the net when the Bruins were in need the most. Despite the loss in the Stanley Cup finals, Rask in Game's Two and Three held the Blackhawks to just one goal combined.  Any salary cap issues the Bruins needed to address before signing Rask were taken care of when Boston shipped controversial center Tyler Seguin to Dallas.

The Los Angeles Kings rewarded rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin with a two-year contract worth $2 Million. Muzzin was the NHL's Rookie of the Month this past March and had a prominent role in helping the former Champion Kings get back to the Western Conference Finals. Muzzin scored three power play goals and had 70 hits earning his spot on the post season roster.

The Chicago Blackhawks inked forward Marcus Kruger to a two year deal. Kruger netted three goals for the Stanley Cup Champions during the post season, and has played in 125 regular season games for Chicago. Kruger was drafted by the Blackhawks in 2009 in the fifth round and has turned out to be a true diamond in the rough.

Meanwhile the St Louis Blues have signed veteran forward Derek Roy to a one year contract. Roy, 30, will be entering his 10th NHL season. Roy spent his first eight seasons in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres before being dealt to the Dallas Stars during the off season a year ago. Roy was later traded from the Stars to the Vancouver Canucks in a trade deadline deal in early April after things did not work out in Dallas. The one year deal for Roy with the Blues is worth $4 Million.

The Phoenix Coyotes have been a little busy themselves. Phoenix re-signed Lauri Korpikoski to a four year contract. The Coyotes did not release any financial terms regarding the deal. Korpikoski, 26, who has spent time with the New York Rangers and Coyotes, has played in 336 NHL games. Korpikoski has 53 career goals and 60 assists. In addition to Korpikoski's new deal, the Coyotes also signed first-round draft pick Max Domi to a three-year, entry-level contract. The Coyotes selected Domi with 12th overall pick in this summer's draft. The Toronto native scored 39 goals and 87 points in 64 games last season for the Ontario Hockey league's London Knights. As many already know, Domi is the son of former Toronto Maple Leaf Tie Domi who was legendary for the many fights he was involved in during his career. However, the younger Domi is a markedly different type of player who is frankly more interested in scoring than fighting. Domi netted 39 goals, as well as an impressive 48 assists in 64 games last season for the Ontario Hockey league's London Knights. The Coyotes also inked former Shark Tim Kennedy to a one year contract after Kennedy was not offered a contact with San Jose (this is Tim Kennedy, NOT to be confused with Tyler Kennedy). Kennedy joins Thomas Greiss as the second former Shark to sign with Phoenix during this off season.

In Buffalo, the Sabres currently are not entertaining any trade offers for either goalie Ryan Miller or forward Thomas Vanek. Both players will be entering the final year of their respective contracts with the team, and if not signed could very likely leave as free agents on July 1st of next off season. Vanek's contract is currently a $7 Million cap hit for the Sabres while Miller's cap hit is worth $6.2 Million for this coming season. Both players have spent their entire NHL careers with the Sabres. Vanek since the 2005-06 season has had a very nice career with 250 goals and 238 assists. Miller in his time as a Buffalo Sabre has started exactly 500 regular season games. Miller has 269 career wins since 2002-03.

Canucks, Senators to Take it Outside- The Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators announced this week they will be participating in the 2014 Heritage Classic. The game is set for March 2nd, shortly after the NHL resumes from it's Olympic Break. The game will take place at at Vancouver's BC Place, which is the home of the CFL's BC Lions and the MLS' Vancouver Whitecaps. BC Place is a stadium which does have a retractable roof, which could come in handy should the weather become a factor in the quality of the ice. The Previous Heritage Classic was played in Calgary in February 2011, when the host Calgary Flames defeated the Montreal Canadians 4-0. This is the latest of NHL games to take matters outside. Dodger Stadium is to be used for a future game between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Yankee Stadium is also being considered for a possibly two games involving a combination of the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils. A fourth team could even become involved here as well.

A Good Comeback- ESPN in their infinite wisdom recently tweeted the San Jose Sharks regarding some farce of a movie on the Sci-Fi Channel called "Sharknado." ESPN tweet to the Sharks:

Hey @SanJoseSharks, thoughts on changing your name to the San Jose #Sharknados?

The Sharks reply:

Hey @espn, thoughts on showing more hockey highlights?

ESPN never responded to the Sharks tweet. Ofcourse they didn't respond. That's so ESPN of them too. I guess they had no comeback. It just had to be humbling too.

Non-Hockey Item: Tim Lincecum's No-Hitter- Saturday Night at Petco Park in San Diego the San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum made history in pitching his first career no-hitter as the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-0. Lincecum threw 148 pitches which is an extremely high pitch count by today's standards. In the 27 outs Lincecum recorded, 13 of them were strikeouts, six of which came in a row during a sequence in the game. Lincecum did allow five base runners, four of which came on walks with the other being a hit batsmen. Hunter Pence made a diving catch of Alexi Amarista's bid to break up the no-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the eight inning. At 43-51, the Giants have been a large disappointment this season and appears unlikely they will make the post season to defend their 2012 title. However Lincecum on Saturday night reminded the Giants faithful and all of major league baseball that there is a reason he has two Cy Young awards and two World Series rings. Tim Lincecum is also a noted team teal fan who had the honor of dropping a ceremonial first puck before a Sharks game shortly after the Giants won their first of two World Series titles in 2010.

...Just My Two Cents...

The Kingshark

Follow Me on Twitter @KingShark49

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