Two of the most notable potential 2011 unrestricted free agents might receive contract extensions way before July ’11. As I discussed before, the San Jose Sharks began talks to extend their leading points scorer Joe Thornton while Craig Custance also reported that the Boston Bruins started discussing a deal with big captain Zdeno Chara.
It’s natural to wonder if those teams will follow the nauseating trend of signing top-end players to “lifetime” contracts. Joe Thornton would only be 32 in October 2011 while Zdeno Chara will narrowly avoid 35+ contract status because he’ll only be 34 once the 11-12 season begins, so there would be incentive to make one of those clandestine “retire when you stop getting paid” deals. Still, as older players already receiving – and doing everything to earn – big money (both garner $7 million+ annual cap hits), they might not be as concerned with up front money or extra years.
While Chara’s agent says that the discussions are “just preliminary talks,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson gives some telling quotes that indicate he won’t be pulling a Kovalchuk-type deal with Jumbo Joe.
While Wilson won’t publicly comment on negotiations with Thornton, he made one thing clear: He won’t be doing any Kovalchuk-like deal with his franchise center, even if an extended long-term deal would help drive down the salary cap hit.
“We don’t have any contracts longer than four years,” Wilson said. “We are a player payroll team. We operate the way we operate. Under the CBA, people have options and choices. We have our own structure.”
Whether you critique Thornton for supposed playoff shortcomings or wonder if the Bruins can afford a cap hit like Chara’s, there’s no doubt (in my mind) that both players are truly among the NHL’s elite. It will be interesting to see if their contract discussions follow previous patterns or set new precedents under the far-more-watchful eyes of league executives.
Ryan Johansen played 309 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets before a blockbuster trade to Nashville last January.
On Sunday, he finally made his return back to Columbus as a member of the Predators. However, he did not receive any sort of tribute whatsoever from the team that originally selected him fourth overall in the 2010 draft, and that is something that apparently bothered him.
“I am a little disappointed they didn’t put anything on the Jumbotron and say ‘thank you’ or anything like that,” Johansen told the Columbus Post-Dispatch. “I think we all know who made that call, but whatever.”
While Johansen enjoyed some productive seasons with the Blue Jackets, his time in Columbus, particularly his final months, were dogged with contentious headlines about his contract negotiations with the club and then his working relationship with coach John Tortorella.
Johansen, now 24 years old, has nine goals and 40 points in 58 games this season for Nashville. Currently in the final year of his three-year, $12 million contract, he’s a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
Brent Burns turned in a dominating performance. But Brad Marchand had the last laugh.
Marchand scored his 25th goal of the season and, more importantly, the overtime winner for the Boston Bruins as they defeated the San Jose Sharks 2-1 on Sunday.
That’s Boston’s fourth consecutive win since the controversial coaching change — which took another twist earlier in the week when the rival Montreal Canadiens fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien. Off a defensive zone faceoff, Marchand bolted up the ice for the breakaway pass, on what appeared to be a set play, beating Martin Jones through the legs.
The Bruins move back into third in the Atlantic Division, and are now only four points back of the faltering Habs for first.
Meanwhile, the Sharks were unable to fully capitalize on another freakish Brent Burns outing. He’s been dubbed ‘an unstoppable force’ in recent posts at PHT — a defenseman possessing great size at six-foot-five-inches tall and 230 pounds, but no shortage of mobility and offensive talent with 27 goals and 64 points in 60 games. Um, and did we mention he’s a defenseman. . . ?
Against the Bruins, he had 20 shot attempts — by far the most of any player in this game — in just over 26 minutes of ice time.
Given the final score, that probably doesn’t mean much to Brad Marchand.
It appears Jacob Trouba will face supplemental discipline from the NHL.
The league’s Department of Player Safety has said in a Twitter statement that Trouba, the Winnipeg Jets defenseman, will have a hearing tomorrow for his head shot on Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone during Sunday’s game.
Trouba was assessed only a minor penalty on the play. Stone, who dealt with a concussion prior to the beginning of the season, stayed down on the ice before he eventually made his way to the dressing room.
The incident occurred when Trouba stepped up to throw a hit on Stone, but instead caught him in the head as he followed through, sending Stone to the ice.
Stone was one of three Ottawa forwards to leave the game because of injuries, which are piling up for the Senators.
The Tampa Bay Lightning needed overtime to defeat the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday, but it’s a critical win for the Bolts as they try to chase down a playoff spot.
The hero? Jonathan Drouin, and he did so with a thrilling individual effort — making moves, then losing the puck and then immediately getting it back before he finally scored on the backhander.
That’s his 17th goal of the season. Tampa Bay gets a 3-2 win, which keeps them five points back of Toronto for the final wild card spot in the East.