Five free agency myths that were busted this summer

Thumbnail image for kovalchukhighfive.jpgGoing into this summer’s free agency, there were some preconceived notions about what was going to happen. Many folks thought there could be a crush of action and free agents would go flying off the market like a hot toy at Christmas time. Others had it pegged that the elite talent would draw a lot of action. Some people guessed that some teams would be in a crush to make huge moves to put themselves in a better place to challenge for the Cup. All we’ve found out this summer is that prognosticators are excellent at becoming creators of urban legends without even realizing it.

Here’s a list of five post-season thoughts that were crashed out in a Mythbusters-esque kind of way.

1. Ilya Kovalchuk would be the most pursued free agent this summer

Yes, he’s the most talented free agent on the market. He’s also got the highest asking price around. While the Devils had to be in the mix for him after trading for him last year, the number of teams that could afford to make a run at Kovalchuk were very few. In fact, it turns out that it was just one other team that made their intent to go after the superstar Russian forward, the Los Angeles Kings. While Kovalchuk is still very noticeably on the market, it’s believed that the Devils are still the only team really in the running to sign him. After all, once you had a contract agreed upon only to have the league blow it up, that’s pretty much calling “dibs” on a guy. If the Kings were able to work out a deal for him in the end, that’d make for quite the Hollywood ending to the story.

2. Goalies are going to make a ton of money this off-season

Boy, this one got busted out pretty badly. After seeing guys like Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller both get bounced in the first round and Evgeni Nabokov get swept out in the Western Conference Finals, while virtual no-names like Jaroslav Halak, Michael Leighton and Antti Niemi all had huge success, NHL GMs took this to mean that big money, big name goalies weren’t worth spending precious salary cap space on. Instead of seeing Evgeni Nabokov and Marty Turco setting the goaltending market this summer, we saw backups and also-rans seize their moment to lock down jobs and potentially be the next big stars of the league.

Meanwhile, Nabokov read the NHL market the right way and headed to Russia while Marty Turco waited things out and took less money to become the defacto starter for the Blackhawks while they walked away from Antti Niemi’s $2.75 million arbitration award.

3. The hunt for Ilya Kovalchuk will slow down the free agent market

For a while it seemed as if this was the case. While the Kings and Devils publicly negotiated for Kovalchuk’s services, other teams seemingly weren’t signing anyone to deals or got their shopping done on the first day of free agency. While many good players stayed out on the market, the other 28 teams that weren’t gunning for Kovalchuk stayed quiet and for the most part have for the entire summer. While the free agent market has been slow, it wasn’t Kovalchuk that caused it to do so. Teams being unable or unwilling to spend money on free agents did that and they’ll now look to find ways around that by asking some veterans to come in on a tryout basis to win a job. Training camp just got a whole lot more important for many players.

williemitchellfreeagent.jpg4. The Los Angeles Kings are going to fill out their roster and become a force in the Western Conference

A funny thing happened along the way to becoming the “next Chicago Blackhawks.” While the Kings had tons of salary cap space to play with this summer and the willingness to spend the bucks needed to turn the Kings into a supremely formidable team this year, things didn’t exactly break right for them. First Paul Martin turned them down to sign with Pittsburgh, then Dan Hamhuis opted to move closer to home and signed with Vancouver. The Kings then chased hard after Ilya Kovalchuk only to see him sign with the Devils and end up rejected by the league. While they still could get Kovalchuk, the Kings have moved on elsewhere. They signed Alexei Ponikarovsky and now they’re in on defenseman Willie Mitchell. Ponikarovsky certainly isn’t the player Kovalchuk is and Mitchell could turn out to be a really solid pickup. The big splash GM Dean Lombardi was hoping to make, however, never came.

5. The Washington Capitals need to make a statement after a miserable playoff failure

Well, they didn’t. That said, a team that won the President’s Trophy doesn’t really need to blow it all up and start over again. Sure, the Caps will have some question marks going into this season. They don’t have a proven second-line center to lead the way for Alex Semin, they’re lacking a serious defensive defenseman (signing Willie Mitchell would alleviate this issue) and they’ve made the choice to go with two very young goalies. Sure they could’ve made a push for Alex Ovechkin’s friend Evgeni Nabokov, and sure they could’ve made a run for a second line center like Matt Lombardi, but that’s not quite how the Caps operate.

While it would’ve been easy to panic after losing in the first round to the Montreal Canadiens, they’ve got a farm team that’s won the Calder Cup two years in a row and building from within can be done on the relative cheap. If it doesn’t work out this year, however, there’s a very excitable fan base in D.C. that will get ornery fast.

Scroll Down For:

    PHT Morning Skate: NHL’s concussion spotters are off to a rough start

    1 Comment

    –The NHL now has concussion spotters watching every game from the league’s headquarters in New York. These spotters have the power to remove players from games if they think they’re concussed. In theory, it seems to be a good idea, but the spotters have had a tough time so far. (Associated Press)

    –Sean McIndoe takes a look at five players that have been confusing to follow this season. Some are confusing because they’ve overachieved and others are confusing because they’ve flopped so far in 2016-17. (The Hockey News)

    –The Penguins’ third pairing of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz have been solid this season because they’ve kept things simple. The duo wants more ice time, but they don’t want to stray away from what’s made them successful. “If we’re given more responsibility, we’re certainly very excited for that and are ready to run with that opportunity. I don’t think we should try to change anything,” said Cole. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

    –The Boston Bruins were down 3-0 to the Washington Capitals last night, but they managed to fight back and force overtime. Unfortunately for the Bruins, Caps center Nicklas Backstrom scored the game-winning goal in the extra frame. You can watch the highlights of the game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    –Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews donated $1 million to a community center in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “From my earliest days playing hockey, Dakota Community Centre has always played a pivotal role in my upbringing and my career”, Toews said. (The Score)

    –Nashville Predators teammates Mike Ribeiro and P.K. Subban go head-to-head in a game of pickup basketball. The matchup was pretty one-sided. Let’s just say they should both stick to hockey.

    –Last Week, the ‘Hawks were forced to sign an emergency goalie after Corey Crawford was unable to play. They settled on Eric Semborski, who is an employee at the Flyers’ practice facility. Now, Topps decided to create a hockey card of Semborski.

    Condon keeps standing on his head for Sens, this time sinking Sharks

    SAN JOSE, CA - DECEMBER 07:  Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators makes a save on a shot taken by Mikkel Boedker #89 of the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center on December 7, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) Chris Kelly scored with 1:06 remaining and Jean-Gabriel Pageau added an empty-net goal, giving the Ottawa Senators a 4-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday night.

    Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson also scored for the Senators, who beat the Sharks for a fifth straight time. They’ve won three straight in San Jose for the first time ever.

    Logan Couture and Brent Burns scored for the Sharks, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

    Mike Condon stopped 35 of 37 shots for the Sens. The Sharks outshot Ottawa 18-4 in the third period, and Martin Jones allowed three goals on 16 shots overall.

    The Senators struck quickly, recording a power-play goal less than four minutes into the contest. Mike Hoffman tossed the puck toward the net and it bounced off Burns’ skate. Burns lost sight of it and Stone picked it up, firing past everybody into the net.

    Hoffman has a point in six straight games and in eight of nine since missing a pair of contests with an injury.

    Karlsson made it 2-0 with a goal about four minutes later. Sharks defender Brendan Dillon tried clearing it from in front of the net, but Karlsson was right there to fire it to the high glove side.

    Couture got the Sharks on the board with a power-play goal midway through the second period. The Senators cleared the puck two straight possessions before Joe Pavelski rushed to the net and then slipped the puck to an open Couture, who has six goals in his past eight games, about 10 feet away for the score.

    Burns tied the score 6:30 into the third period, methodically working the puck to set up a shot that squeezed past Condon to the glove side.

    NOTES: Senators D Marc Methot missed his fourth straight contest with a lower body injury. … Stone has eight points in his last six games. … Karlsson has nine points in his last five games. … The Sharks recalled F Kevin LeBlanc and D Mirco Mueller. Mueller was a healthy scratch. … Sharks D Paul Martin recorded his 300th NHL point with an assist on Burns’ goal.

    UP NEXT:

    Senators: Continue a four-game trip at the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

    Sharks: Travel to Anaheim for a game Friday night and then return home to face Carolina on Saturday night.

    ‘If he was in Toronto, there’d be no Carey Price, media-wise’ – Boudreau on Dubnyk

    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 07:  Devan Dubnyk #40 of the Minnesota Wild celbrates a win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on April 7, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Wild defeated the Blackhawks 2-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Getty
    1 Comment

    The Minnesota Wild aren’t exactly dominating the NHL, so it might be easy to ignore just how outstanding Devan Dubnyk has been to start the 2016-17 season.

    We’re talking “Carey Price and Tuukka Rask territory.”

    While his 11-6-3 record won’t blow anyone’s mind, his 1.65 GAA and .946 save percentage are jaw-dropping. With Dubnyk doing special things, Bruce Boudreau felt the need to say weird things* after Dubnyk helped the Wild beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday.

    “If he was in Toronto, there would be no Carey Price … I’m just saying media-wise,” Boudreau said after the game, as you can see in this video:

    That’s some Haagen-Daz level praise from Boudreau.

    Even if Dubnyk was in a bigger market, there’d probably be room in our hockey thoughts for Dubnyk and the consensus best goalie in the world, but Boudreau’s larger point is taken: Dubnyk has been right there with the best early on this season.

    And, let’s be honest, we shouldn’t be too hard on Boudreau or he might stop saying … well, things like this:

    Never change, Bruce.

    * – Unlike his comments about “Die Hard,” which were amusingly on-point.

    Trademark headaches for the Vegas Golden Knights?

    LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 22:  The team name and logo for the Vegas Golden Knights are displayed on T-Mobile Arena's video mesh wall after the Vegas Golden Knights was announced as the name for the Las Vegas NHL franchise at T-Mobile Arena on November 22, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The team will begin play in the 2017-18 season.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Getty
    11 Comments

    It’s difficult to tell just how big of a headache this might be, but SBNation‘s Mary Clarke uncovered quite the eyebrow-raiser on Wednesday: the Vegas Golden Knights’ trademark request was rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

    You can read the 164-page document here (if you’re weird), but the gist is that “registration of the applied-for mark is refused because of a likelihood of confusion with the mark” used by the College of Saint Rose Golden Knights.

    Clarke summarized it simply enough:

    Essentially, the logos and stylizations are too similar. It’s baffling the NHL and Vegas didn’t go through the trademark process before announcing the name and logo last month. Yet, all is not lost. Later down, the document states the Black Knight Sports and Entertainment group “may respond to the refusal by submitting evidence and arguments in support of registration.”

    Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt received this release from the Vegas Golden Knights, which indicated that they will respond to the refusal (and also noted how teams like the Boston Bruins and UCLA Bruins share names without issues).

    There seem to be some mixed messages, at least if you note owner Bill Foley’s response to NBC Las Vegas’ Amber Dixon:

    Hmm.

    This could merely be a messy issue that really doesn’t cause anything to go off track, even if people are certainly having some fun at the league and team’s expense.

    The logo and other marks seem to be the biggest sticking point, so compare the two for yourself:

    Again, this could all be a mild disruption, but it’s an odd situation. And, to some, a great laugh.

    Related: There also might be some issues involving the Army.