Ilya Kovalchuk contract rejection might hurt future contracts, like Zdeno Chara's

Chara1.jpgWhen it comes to discussing other players who might be affected by Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract rejection, most of the conversation revolves around players whose deals have already been signed like Roberto Luongo. The fact is, though, that it might have just as much of an impact on players getting ready to sign new deals.

Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe thinks that Zdeno Chara might feel that impact since he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2010-11 season and might actually be one of the few players who could honor a contract that goes into the rare 40-plus area.

The 33-year-old defenseman is entering the final season of his contract, and while nobody expected Kovalchuk to be lacing up his skates at age 43, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Chara still in uniform in his 40s. Chara, who once relied strictly on brawn and intimidation, has already begun his transition into a Nicklas Lidstrom-type defenseman with an emphasis on positioning, smarts, and stick skills.

“He wants to play a long time,” said Matt Keator, Chara’s agent. “He’s got the motivation on and off the ice to do so. He’s got the type of game to do so. He wants to win a Stanley Cup, two, or three. That’s his focus. He feels like this team’s moving in the right direction. He’s pretty excited about next season.”


Chara is currently in Slovakia, where he is building a cabin for his family, most likely swinging the ax and chopping wood himself. Given Chara’s commitment to conditioning, the former Norris Trophy winner could be an exception (Mark Recchi is another) to Bloch’s sampling.

Thumbnail image for zdenochara.jpg(I couldn’t help but add that part about him building a log cabin in there. That’s manly and awesome.)

As Keator says later in that article, Chara’s $7.5 million annual cap hit contract happens to be one of the rare examples of a blockbuster deal actually benefiting both parties. Chara got his money (and term) while the Boston Bruins have been one game from the Eastern Conference finals for two straight seasons and received one Norris Trophy season from the towering defenseman.

The Kovalchuk rejection might make it difficult for the two sides to find common ground again, though.

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    Tippett wins 500th game as ‘Yotes bury Flames in overtime

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    GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Coyotes grinded their way through the tough stretches, relied on great goaltending and won it on a big goal at the end.

    Call it a Dave Tippett special.

    Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored in overtime, Mike Smith stopped 25 shots and the Arizona Coyotes beat the Calgary Flames 2-1 Friday night for coach Tippett’s 500th career victory.

    “I’ve been involved in a lot of ugly games in that 500, so it’s probably fitting that was an ugly game,” said Tippett, who has 229 wins with Arizona and the rest with Dallas.

    It certainly was right out of the Tippett playbook.

    The Coyotes played a solid first period and both teams scored goals in the second on caroms: Martin Hanzal early for Arizona, Mark Giordano late on a power play for Calgary.

    Arizona followed with a series of penalties, but Smith was sharp for the second straight game to send this one to overtime.

    The Flames had the edge early in the 3-on-3 overtime, leaving the Coyotes gasping for air. Arizona flipped the ice for the final stretch, leaving Calgary’s players winded and scrambling.

    Arizona won it with 39 seconds left on the clock when Brad Richardson sent a pass from behind the goal to Ekman-Larsson, and he one-timed it past Karri Ramos.

    After the game, the Coyotes handed their championship belt, awarded to the player of the game, to their low-key coach after his milestone victory.

    “Coaches don’t have many milestones, but that’s a big one,” Smith said. “Players have milestones all the time, but coaches only have winning, which is all that matters, really.”

    The Flames certainly had their chances to win.

    Calgary had a rare power-play goal when Giordano scored his fifth of the season, but the Flames failed on five other chances with the man advantage to lose to Arizona for the first time in six games.

    Ramos stopped 18 in his first loss in five career games against Arizona and the Flames lost for the first time in six 3-on-3 overtimes.

    “It was a good road game,” Flames coach Bob Hartley said. “We played smart, we played hard, it’s just the result, we wish we could change it.”

    The Flames were coming off one of their worst performances of a disappointing season, blowing an early two-goal lead and a one-goal lead in the third period for a 5-3 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday night.

    The Flames went straight to Arizona, where they watched the Coyotes beat Anaheim 4-2 on Wednesday night.

    They played well and so did the Coyotes in a crisp first period.

    Arizona needed 29 seconds of the second to take the lead, when a sharp-angle shot by Tobias Rieder hit the far post and caromed off Hanzal into the goal.

    Smith stopped 29 shots against the Ducks and was sharp again, turning away some tough chances when the Flames picked up the pressure after Hanzal’s goal.

    The Coyotes took a series of penalties, though, and Giordano scored late in the period by wristing a loose puck through Smith’s legs to tie the game at 1-all. That ended a 0 for 16 streak on the power play for Calgary.

    Arizona kept sending players to the penalty box in the third period. The Coyotes killed off one penalty early and were called for another 8 seconds later but killed off both to get the game to overtime.

    “Obviously, we’d like to score on those power plays and grab some momentum, but we did some good things,” Flames defenseman Kris Russell said. “I thought we played a good game throughout, but at the end of the day, on special teams, we get one there, that’s the difference in the game.”

    NOTES: Coyotes captain Shane Doan missed his second straight game with a lower-body injury. … The Flames entered the game 29th on the power play with eight goals in 58 chances (13.3 percent). … Calgary C Jiri Hudler returned after missing two games with an illness.

    Oilers get Kronwall’d – in more ways than one

    Niklas Kronwall
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    When someone gets clobbered by Niklas Kronwall, they get Kronwall’d.

    (His detractors may insist that the definition require the words “dirty” or “illegal,” but that’s a debate for another day.)

    It’s easy to get lost in those thunderous hits and forget that the  Swedish defenseman also brings some skill to the table.

    He made a big impact – literally and figuratively – in Detroit’s 4-3 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

    First, the Kronwalling:

    Next, Kronwall’s overtime-winner:

    It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Red Wings are leaning on guys like Kronwall and Dylan Larkin to stick with it.

    Tonight’s win extends their point streak to six games (4-0-2), with five of those contests going to overtime.

    Dubinsky – Crosby’s nemesis – gets the last laugh on Friday

    Sidney Crosby, Brandon Dubinsky

    Brandon Dubinsky isn’t a household name like Sidney Crosby is, yet for all the hype that Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin gets, Dubinsky is the sort of guy who truly rankles No. 87.

    It’s been getting that spotlight since the Columbus Blue Jackets faced off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in a brisk playoff series, though it wouldn’t be surprising if the bad blood stemmed to Dubinsky’s days with New York.

    To some, Dubinsky’s cross-check on Crosby will resonate far more than the end result of this game:

    The bottom line is that he’ll get the last laugh, at least for now. (In-game, that moment merely drew a minor penalty.)

    That’s because Dubinsky set up the overtime game-winner, and the cherry on the top of that spite sundae came with Crosby being on the ice when it happened:

    They’re not just rubbing the Penguins the wrong way.

    Even Dubinsky kind of sort of admits that he may have been in the wrong.


    More and more, the Blue Jackets are looking like a nuisance … possibly one that will grind their way to an unlikely playoff berth. They improved to 8-4-0 in November after a disastrous 2-10-0 October.

    In other words, there’s at least a chance that we may see these increasingly bitter rivals butt heads in another playoff series.

    Eichel’s sweet snipe helps Sabres snap six-game skid

    Jack Eichel
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    The Buffalo Sabres probably deserved better during at least some chunks of their six-game skid, yet Jack Eichel swooped in on Friday to remind fans that there’s a light shining at the end of the tunnel.

    You can watch his goal from tonight’s eventual 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in the video above.

    That’s not necessarily the absolute height of his on-ice magic, yet it clearly gave his team a lift:

    Call this a healthy reminder that Eichel has the ability to change games, something Buffalo fans hope to get used to.