Could potential new deals for Zdeno Chara, Joe Thornton set post-Kovalchuk trends?

zdenochara.jpgTwo 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.

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    High-flying Bruins (sounds weird to say) beat Rangers for fifth straight win


    Somebody tell the Boston Bruins there’s a goal-scoring crisis in the NHL.

    This afternoon, for the 14th time this season, a Bruins game featured at least six goals. The final score was 4-3, as Boston came back to beat the Rangers in a wildly entertaining Thanksgiving Showdown on NBC.

    David Krejci scored the winner with 1:43 remaining. Krejci’s goal came just 2:03 after teammate Ryan Spooner had tied it on the power play.

    The win was the Bruins’ fifth straight. Though the defensive mistakes remain…

    …Claude Julien’s troops have been finding ways to overcome them.

    The running and gunning Boston Bruins.

    When was the last time you could call them that?

    Goalie nods: Prized Jets prospect Hellebuyck makes NHL debut

    Joshua Morrissey, Jason Pominville, Connor Hellebuyck
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    The future of Winnipeg’s goaltending will be on display tonight in Minnesota.

    Connor Hellebuyck, the highly-touted prospect that starred for Team USA at the 2015 World Hockey Championships, will make his NHL debut today when the Jets take on the Wild at Xcel.

    Hellebuyck is up with the Jets following an injury to No. 1 (or, “No. 1”) netminder Ondrej Pavelec, who’s out until January with a lower-body injury. An AHL All-Star a year ago, Hellebuyck arrived in Winnipeg with great fanfare and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds to the hype and pressure that come along with his first-ever big league start.

    For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk‘s in goal.


    Corey Crawford goes for Chicago in Anaheim. No word yet on who the Ducks will have in goal.

    Braden Holtby starts again for Washington, as the Caps host the Bolts. Tampa Bay has yet to name a starter, much like the Ducks.

    Marc-Andre Fleury takes on Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus tonight, as the Blue Jackets host the Penguins.

    Mike Condon is back in the starter’s role for Montreal with Carey Price sidelined, and his first order of business is a road date against Cory Schneider and the Devils in New Jersey.

    Cam Ward faces Chad Johnson as Buffalo welcomes the ‘Canes.

    — The Isles will start Jaroslav Halak in Florida. The Panthers will counter with Roberto Luongo.

    Cam Talbot finally gets back into the starter’s role tonight in Detroit. Jimmy Howard will go for the Wings.

    — It’s Ryan Miller versus Antti Niemi as the Canucks take on the Stars in Dallas.

    — Even though Jonas Hiller is healthy and Joni Ortio‘s in the minors, Calgary will stick with Karri Ramo in Arizona. The Coyotes are going with their No. 1, Mike Smith.

    ‘We’re still right in the hunt for everything’ — Parise will play tonight versus Jets

    Zach Parise
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    For the first time since Nov. 5, Zach Parise will suit up for the Minnesota Wild.

    The team confirmed today that Parise will be in the lineup tonight at home versus Winnipeg. The 31-year-old forward has missed the last eight contests with a sprained MCL.

    The Wild were 7-2-2 before Parise got hurt. They lost the game against Nashville in which he suffered the injury, then went 4-3-1 without him.

    “I’m just hoping to get back to form as quick as possible and go from there,” Parise told the Star Tribune. “I’m not thinking I need to score right out of the gate, I just want to play. … We’re still right in the hunt for everything. We’ll be fine.”

    After ’embarrassing’ loss to Sens, Stars motivated for Canucks

    Milan Michalek, Antti Niemi
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    The Vancouver Canucks will face a pretty motivated Dallas Stars team tonight at American Airlines Center.

    Blame the Ottawa Senators. They were the ones who smoked the Stars, 7-4, on Tuesday.

    “It brings you back down to earth,” captain Jamie Benn told the Stars’ website. “You learn that any team can come in here and whip your butt. It was embarrassing for us, especially in our home rink and in front of our home fans. We don’t want that to happen again.”

    The Stars have had their way with the Canucks in recent years. The last time Vancouver won in Dallas was Feb. 21, 2013. Since then, victories have included scorelines like 5-1, 4-1, 6-1, and 6-3.

    The Stars have already hosted the Canucks once in Dallas this season. On Oct. 29, they fought back from a 3-1 third-period deficit to win, 4-3, in overtime.

    Dallas (17-5-0) has yet to lose consecutive games this season.