My Two Cents for August 4th, 2013:
Contract Extension for Pavelski- This past week the San Jose Sharks took another big step in investing towards the future. The Sharks this past Wednesday (7/31) signed right wing Joe Pavelski to a five year contract extension that will become effective on July 1st, 2014. The extension will keep Pavelski with team teal through the 2018-19, the same length of time that teammate Logan Couture's new deal runs through. The new deal for Pavelski is said to valued in the neighborhood of $30 Million. Locking up Pavelski for the next five seasons gives the Sharks some much needed stability going into the future as other deals such as Joe Thornton's and Patrick Marleau's run out at the conclusion of this next season. The move helps the team teal in having two very strong and young pillars to lead the franchise. Once some of the bigger money comes off the books after this coming season, the Sharks will have a lot more salary cap space to work with to perhaps bring in players that will be a better compliment to both Couture and Pavelski. The Sharks were able to lock up Pavelski largely because his extension goes into effect at the same time and on the same date that Thornton and Marleau's runs out. Does this mean that both Thornton and Marleau are finished as Sharks after this coming season? Not necessarily, and not so fast. As a matter of fact both Thornton and Marleau have expressed strong desires to stay in San Jose. In Marleau's case, he has already laid down his roots in San Jose with a wife and two small children. I would not mind seeing the Sharks reaching out to see what they can do to keep both Thornton and Marleau, especially since they have been huge factors in many of the Sharks success stories.
Hometown Discounts Await- In order for this to happen though both Thornton and Marleau would have to be willing to accept what is commonly referred to as a "Hometown Discount". They will both have to take lesser contracts. Both players are still contributors and can still have strong impacts in any game for team teal, especially in areas of bring along younger players who are joining the big club. However, neither player is exactly in their prime anymore with Marleau being a little more removed from his prime than Thornton. Both players have to be ready to accept that players such as Couture and Pavelski are ready to assume control of the team and will have the larger hand on the Sharks future. This is something General Manger Doug Wilson has to know too himself. The worst thing the Sharks can do is cling to their recent past. This has nothing to do with the post season failures, it's just common sense when you consider what actions are best in charting the teams course for the future. Ultimately this will be another item that Sharks will have to work out and it's just a matter of how they chose to handle it. Once the Sharks are able to get Martin Havlat off of the books once and for all, that will give them more liquidity to work with. Havlat's money in fact should be off of the books completely by the time Pavelski's (and Couture's) new deals go into effect. The Sharks management clearly knows by now they will need to find a creative way to buy out a player whom simply has nothing left to contribute to the franchise other than being a huge medical expense.
Gomez Heads to Florida- Scott Gomez has thanked the Sharks for giving a place to land in the recently completed lockout shortened season. Gomez has since moved on and has taken his talents to South Beach. This week the ex-Shark signed a one year deal with the Florida Panthers reported worth in the neighborhood of $900,000. It was doubtful that Gomez was going to return to the Sharks largely in part due to their current impairment with the salary cap, this despite the fact that Gomez is still being paid by the Montreal Canadians who released him last year in a buyout agreement. Gomez returns the the Eastern Conference where he had spent playing his entire NHL career except for last season. If not for being stuck with Havlat's salary being locked in the books, the Sharks possibly could have convinced Gomez to stay, and it may be been a tough sell anyway. The Sharks will have to be resourceful here to replace Gomez. Team teal however will have a number of young players in camp next month competing for jobs. Gomez departure hurts right now, but the pain will last no longer then that of a bee sting. It smarts a little in the beginning, but goes away in a few days.
California Rivalries Promoted in Las Vegas- SJ Sharkie, Bailey (LA Kings), and Wild Wing (Anaheim Ducks) have actually put aside their differences this summer to promote the rivalry of the three California based NHL teams. The mascots recently spent a few days in Las Vegas making the grand tour of The Strip and have basically been sharing everything from hotel rooms to meals and doing some business at the slot machines. The idea is to call attention to three west coast based teams who each year of recent have been fairly consistent franchises who commonly find their way to the post season each year. With the dark age of the most recent lockout behind it now, the NHL is using the summer offseason to call attention to the league and do their best to promote it post Stanley Cup playoffs. Then NHL has realigned and each team will see every opposing NHL arena at least once going into the 2013-14 season. The mascot's job is to have fun with the rivalry and not only promote their teams but also the league in general with one of the reasons being the traditions of the rivalries. All three California franchise are going to be solid franchises for sometime to come and the more promotion that is done here, the better for them and the game itself.
NHL Hot Stove- The Los Angeles Kings this week signed Kyle Clifford to a two-year contract extension. Clifford, 22, played a huge role in the Kings title run over a year ago and has become very quietly a big force on the ice. He has 19 career goals in just two years in the NHL, however most of his goals have either been game winners or scores which changed the momentum in a game. The Kings obviously see Clifford as a player with a lot of upside and someone who can be a huge asset when most needed to be. The St Louis Blues meanwhile have come to terms with Jay Bouwmeester on a new five year deal worth a reported $27 million. Bouwmeester came over the Blues at last season's trade deadline from the Calgary Flames. In 764 career NHL games, Bouwmeester has scored 72 goals and added 235 assists. This deal will kick in once Bouwmeester's current deal expires next July. The Blues also came to terms with Magnus Paajarvi on a two year deal. Paajarvi was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers July 10th in exchange for David Perron.
Olympic Hockey- It's almost impossible to believe, but right now the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia are just over six months away. Much of the construction of the Olympic villages and venues are on going with everything expected to be completed in time for the games next February. The Winter Games are famous for a number of events that are fun to watch and a source of pride for the participants. The Olympic Hockey tournament is probably the one time when even the most casual of fans will tune in. Only 16 Countries field teams and participate in the hockey tournament which makes it more specialized. Team USA and Team Canada are always two of the high ticket teams who often times find one or the other in the medal discussions. The NHL will be taking three weeks off in February so many of it's players can participate in the Sochi Games. Looking at a few of the Olympic participants:
Switzerland- Team Switzerland will enter the tournament with one of the world's best goalies in Jonas Hiller. Hiller a few seasons ago replaced Stanley Cup winning goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere in Anaheim and has never looked back. He is one of the reasons Switzerland should be able to have some degree of success in the Olympic tournament and perhaps be able to play deep into it. Mark Streit brings many seasons of NHL experience which can be something the rest of this underdog roster can build upon.
Russia- Always in the discussion for the Gold Medal Game, the Russian team is about as power full of an all star team as there is on the planet. Led by Alex Ovetchkin, team Russia will skate into the Olympic Games as the hometown heroes and tournament favorites. Aside from Ovetchkin, Team Russia Features Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Semin along with former NHL'ers Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk. With a rather decided home ice advantage, this team will be a tough out and one that will be tough to deny the Gold Medal to.
Sweden- The Swedish Olympic team will be another roster filled with players who have many years of professional experience under their belts. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, along with Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alexander Edler, Niklas Kronwall, Jonas Brodin, and Erik Karlsson will give the Swedish team a very strong fighting chance throughout the tournament. There experience together is something the entire roster can draw from, and will need to draw from as the competition will be difficult.
Finland- When he finally does hang it up, Teemu Selanne will be closely associated with only two sweaters, the Anaheim Ducks and Finland's Olympic Team. Selanne at 42 still has the jets to go in this game and will lead his home nations' team back into the tournament in a quest for the Gold Medal. Aside from Selanne, Team Finland will feature veteran NHL'ers Valtteri Filppula, Kimmo Timonen, Tuomo Ruutu, Mikko Koivu and Olli Jokinen. Finland also will be featuring a change in the net thanks to Miikka Kiprusoff's retirement. The favorites to be in the net for Finland are Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne and Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.
Canada- Much like Russia, the Canadian entry into these Olympic Games will be a virtual All-Star team featuring some of the world's best hockey players. You may be able to find a few Sharks on this team such as Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, and maybe even Dan Boyle and Patrick Marleau. However there will be a lot of competition for the 25 spots under Head Coach Mike Babcock, which may make it tough for Boyle and Marleau to crack the line up. Look for Syndey Crosby, the hero in the 2010 games to lead Canada into battle at Sochi in February. Other players who are strong favorites to make the roster are Drew Doughty, Jonathan Toews, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Claude Giroux. In net for Team Canada could be Corey Crawford, MIke Smith, Carey Price, or possibly Roberto Luongo. Canada will be another team that will be tough to keep away from the Gold Medal, though it's conceivable that they may have to go through the host Russian team to get it.
Team USA- Team USA in 2010 gave one of their strongest Olympic Performances post Lake Placid. Team USA pulled a 5-3 upset of the Canadian team in the preliminary round of the 2010 games, and took the Silver Medal after a tough battle with Canada that went to overtime on the final day of the 2010 games. Team USA too is a strong medal contender and is looking to move up from Silver to Gold. However, just as it was in 2010, this will be quite an undertaking for a team that is not favored. However Team USA in 2010 did prove you don't have to be favored, you just have to show up and play all out for 60 minutes or more if necessary.
The USA roster looks strong with players such as Patrick Kane, Bobby Ryan, Zach Parise, Jack Johnson, Kevin Shattenkirk Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Joe Pavelski, and Phil Kessel. In the net Team USA will be looking to Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider, or Jimmy Howard. Ryan Miller, who lead the 2010 Olympic Team in the net has an outside shot of making this roster also.
Gretzky Trade 25 Years Later- Friday August 9th will mark the 25 year anniversary of what is known around the NHL as "The Trade". On this date, Wayne Gretzky who has stared for many years with the Edmonton Oilers during their dynasty years in the 1980's was traded to the Los Angeles Kings. On this date in 1988, the Oilers shipped Gretzky to the Kings along with Marty McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski in exchange for Jimmy Carson, Martin Genalis, $15 Million in cash and a first round pick in the 1991 NHL re-entry draft. (At the time of the trade, the San Jose Sharks were still three years away from playing their first game in the NHL as an expansion team).
The trade had sent shock waves throughout the NHL. The trade was unpopular amongst many, especially in the Edmonton area and throughout Canada. Some in Canada in fact even went as far as to appeal to the Canadian government to block the trade but to no avail. The Edmonton Oilers' Owner at the time, Peter Pocklington became very unpopular in the community and would have a tough time regaining any good will or trust back from the Edmonton faithful. The following season Gretzky would return to Edmonton as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. When introduced during the players' introductions he received a four minute standing ovation. The game was also nationally televised by the CBC Network in Canada. In Edmonton Gretzky won 4 Stanley Cup titles but would never see another one. He did lead the Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup finals in 1993, however Los Angeles lost to the Montreal Canadians in five games (this was also the last time the Canadians won the Cup, their 25th as a franchise). The Edmonton Oilers two year removed from the Gretzky trade won their last Stanley Cup title in the 1989-90 season.
The one benefit for West Coast hockey fans regarding the Gretzky deal was that his being dealt to the Los Angeles Kings created enough interest in the West where hockey slowly but surely picked up a lot of steam, and the rest is history. Gretzky is not the only reason hockey became very popular in California and in the west, but he certainly played a huge role in making the game just as popular here in the West as it is almost anywhere else...
...just my two cents...
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