LA Kings should not worry about luring big-time free agents

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovaldevils.jpgPerhaps I’m in the minority here, but I think the Los Angeles Kings are better off without Ilya Kovalchuk … at least at the kind of money and years he seems determined to receive. Los Angeles Times writer Helene Elliott seems to think it’s a sign that the team cannot lure in high-end free agents, though.

Chara was a long shot. The Kings were bad and Chara decided to stay in the East with its infinitely easier travel, signing with the Bruins. The Kings salivated over Hossa but he wanted to play for a Cup contender and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.

So the Kings have had to settle for third- and fourth-tier free agents. The exception was defenseman Rob Scuderi, who came here last summer mainly because they gave him more security and money — four years and $13.6 million — than anyone else.

The Kings targeted the smart and steady Martin but he signed with Pittsburgh for $25 million over five years. Mobile Dan Hamhuis was Plan B but he wanted to be close to home and signed with Vancouver.

It’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma for the Kings. They can’t attract elite free agents until they become a Cup contender, but they can’t become a contender until they lure players they haven’t developed — a productive winger, second-line center and fleet defenseman.

I think that July 2009’s summer free agents are pretty much irrelevant considering the fact that the Kings were in the Western Conference basement. Frankly, there aren’t many cellar dwellers who attract big names unless they throw a reckless deal at a player.

Let’s face the facts, too, as much excitement as Martin and Hamhuis generated … are they really worth their contracts? I find it hard to believe that Paul Martin deserves a higher salary cap hit than, say, Shea Weber in Nashville (Weber makes $4.5 million per year, a half-million less than Martin). It’s my opinion that neither Hamhuis ($4.5 million, too) nor Martin are worth as much as they were paid this summer.

I’m not complaining about free agency, either. Instead, I’m just trying to dispute the notion that the Kings should be forlorn that they didn’t pay players more than they should. Why should the Kings regret exercising fiscal responsibility with  Kovalchuk? No one should pay him $10 million per year. Really, even that supposed seven-year, $60 million offer strikes me as a little bit foolish.

If anything, the Kings are simply unlucky that this year’s free agent forward pool is so shallow. Something tells me that the team could land a desirable free agent if he had, you know, realistic goals for a contract that could exist in the NHL according to salary cap restrictions. After all, Los Angeles is a huge market with sexy weather and a solid, up-and-coming team.

The Kovalchuk-Dean Lombardi stand-off isn’t a sign that big-time players are disinterested in Los Angeles. Instead, it’s a sign that the Kings might actually want to spend their money wisely.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.