Should the San Jose Sharks bring back former captain Owen Nolan?

owennolanbleeds.jpgBefore Patrick Marleau, Evgeni Nabokov and Joe Thornton, the player most hockey fans associated with the San Jose Shark was once-captain Owen Nolan. From a portion of the 1995-96 season through the first 60 games of the 2002-03 campaign, Nolan was the grizzly face of the franchise. His rugged play and Babe Ruth-style All-Star Game goal are enduing images of an era when the team would have been quite happy with making the playoffs, rather than a disappointment once they were booted.

He’s bounced around the league since then, playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild during the last six years.

Even though he’s no longer the force he once was for middling but steadily improving Sharks teams, he’s still been a fairly productive player. He might not be able to hit the 25-goal mark again like he did in a surprising 08-09 season, but he’s hovered around the 16 goal mark with notable regularity in his twilight years.

So he won’t necessarily win you a Cup, but if you’re looking for a savvy veteran who can bring some goals and grit to the table, Nolan might be your guy. When you add the bonus of nostalgia – and the fact that he still skates in San Jose during the off-season and owns restaurants and a residence in the area – his old team in San Jose might actually be the perfect destination for Nolan.

San Jose Sharks blog Fear the Fin gives a few reasons why such a move would work.

First, he improves secondary scoring. Although he was in the middle of the pack among Minnesota’s forward group in terms of quality of competition according to behindthenet.ca, Nolan still chipped in 16 goals on a weak offensive team. Logan Couture will likely replace most of the scoring leaving with Manny Malhotra, but adding Nolan’s almost guaranteed 16 tallies (he’s scored 16 goals or more in each of his last five seasons) wouldn’t hurt. Nearing his 40’s, it’s unlikely that Nolan will hit the 25 goal mark he did two years ago, but playing with San Jose (a team that is better offensively by leaps and bounds), it’s not crazy to think he could net 20.

Second, Nolan brings the Sharks another player capable of playing penalty minutes. Although Wilson brought Jamal Mayers aboard to plug this hole, we’ve discussed how poor a penalty killer Mayers actually is. While Nolan hasn’t been the most defensively sound forward at points in his career, he did play 1.42 minutes per 60 on the penalty kill, top six amongst Wild forwards.

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The last main thing that Nolan brings, in my opinion, is a veteran leadership that this team lacks on the lower lines. Nolan is one of the NHL’s elder statesmen, and a trusted voice around the NHL. While he had the reputation of being somewhat of a malcontent earlier in his career, those days appear to be past him. He’d be a perfect mentor and line mate for the young McGinn and Couture, and would help to make that line a real offensive weapon for the Sharks.

The prospective addition of Nolan reminds me somewhat of the addition of Jeremy Roenick just a few years ago. Doug Wilson doesn’t have a problem bringing on older players if he feels that they can add to the team.

I have to admit that I thought the Sharks would be hit much harder by their free agent-filled summer, but it seems like it might come down to how important their goalie of the decade Evgeni Nabokov really was. If the team can land Nolan and useful positional defenseman Willie Mitchell to the mix, they’ll have a veteran-heavy squad with their eyes fixed on the Stanley Cup.

However, unlike Nolan against Dominik Hasek all those years ago, I won’t be calling that shot.

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    Fleury celebrates Stanley Cup day as a Penguin, but admits he’s ready to move on

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    Marc-Andre Fleury celebrated his day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday.

    His time in Pittsburgh has already come to an official end, having been selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. He’s already said ‘thank-you’ to the fans of Pittsburgh, but the events of this weekend, in his mind it seems, close the chapter for good on this stage of his career.

    “I think this was my last day as a Penguin, I would say,” Fleury told NHL.com.

    “I have members of my family who had their Penguins hats who told me this was the last time those will come out. So I think after today, I can turn the page and get ready for Vegas.”

    The former first overall pick captured three Stanley Cup rings with the Penguins. While he wasn’t the No. 1 goalie last year — or in the 2017 final, either — he played a significant role in Pittsburgh’s success through the first half of this year’s playoff before Matt Murray returned from injury.

    He earned praise for how he handled the situation toward the end in Pittsburgh. After the final, reports surfaced he had agreed to waive his no-movement clause, which left him exposed in the expansion draft.

    At age 32, he still has two more years left on his current contract, with an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. He’ll no doubt garner plenty of attention this upcoming season as the experienced starter on the Golden Knights’ roster.

    But Saturday was for Fleury to enjoy one last championship won with the Penguins.

    Hall urges Hischier to ‘develop at his own pace’

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    The New Jersey Devils won the lottery and selected Nico Hischier first overall. With that comes even greater expectations on the player heading into their first training camp.

    We’re less than two months away from the opening of training camps across the league.

    But on a team that has worked this summer to bolster its offense, the addition of the 18-year-old Hischier could have an immediate impact in that department in October. Certainly, fans in New Jersey will hope so.

    Taylor Hall knows all about the pressures of being taken first overall.

    The Oilers selected him at that spot in 2010, but dealt him to New Jersey last summer, removing a very talented forward from their roster in order to gain something back defensively.

    Devils coach John Hynes has already tried to lessen the burden on Hischier. Hall, it appears, has taken a similar approach.

    “He’s just got to relax and develop at his own pace,” Hall told the Toronto Sun. “That’s not always the easiest thing to do with all the expectations people put on you for going No. 1, but I’ll help him any way I can.”

    The Metropolitan Division featured four 100-plus point teams last season. New Jersey wasn’t one of them. Where the Devils need to make the most improvement in order to break back into the postseason conversation is with their offensive attack,finishing 28th in the league in total goals for last season.

    Hischier should help — if not exactly next season then beyond 2017-18. The Devils also acquired Marcus Johansson from Washington and the signing of Brian Boyle should help solidify depth up the middle.

    “It’s exciting times for us, bringing in the likes of Nico, Brian Boyle and Marcus Johansson,” said Hall. “We’re certainly trending in the right direction.”

    Habs may lean more on Montoya to keep Price refreshed

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    The Montreal Canadiens committed money (a lot of money) and term to Carey Price with his contract extension at the beginning of this month.

    He is the backbone for this team, for its success.

    He’s also about to turn 30 years old next month, with 509 career games in the NHL, entering the league in 2007-08. For as great as he has been, the Habs may place added responsibilities on the shoulders of their back-up, a title currently held by Al Montoya.

    In an interview with the Habs’ website, the club’s goaltending coach Stephane Waite said that, in his mind, the days of starting goalies playing 65 to 70 games are done. It’s too tall an order in today’s NHL.

    Price has, on three occasions, breached the figures in that approximation during his career. He approached the lower end of that with 62 starts in 2016-17. Montoya, meanwhile, had 18 starts and 19 games, posting a 8-6-4 record (20 points for Montreal in the standings) and a .912 save percentage.

    He was the victim of one awful game, allowing 10 goals to Columbus on Nov. 4. But seriously, the entire Habs team was awful that night, essentially leaving their No. 2 goalie out to dry in an embarrassing effort from everyone.

    Beyond that, Montoya was able to put together some nice starts, including shutouts against Pittsburgh and Edmonton, two teams well-equipped with dangerous offensive talent.

    “We’re not afraid to put Al in goal against any team in the league,” said Waite.

    “We don’t look at who he’ll be playing, we just look at the schedule that we make at the beginning of the season. Our priority is to give Carey the right days off at the right times.”

    The Habs signed Montoya to a two-year extension in January. That’s a vote of confidence in their back-up.

    Maintaining that confidence with a good season would certainly help the Habs accomplish the objective of keeping Price rested and refreshed.

    Rangers are ‘right on the cusp,’ says Shattenkirk

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    Since missing the playoffs in 2010, the New York Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Final three times, and to the Stanley Cup Final once.

    A championship, however, has eluded them. Instead, they’ve lost to the L.A. Kings in the final and watched their division rivals from Pittsburgh win it twice in a row, even losing to the Penguins in the first round in 2016.

    This summer, however, has brought considerable change to the Blueshirts through a blockbuster trade with Arizona, buyouts and a retirement.

    Derek Stepan — gone.

    Dan Girardi — gone.

    Kevin Klein — gone.

    Antti Raanta — gone.

    Oscar Lindberg — gone.

    There has been substantial change on the blue line. The Rangers went after prized free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk with a four-year contract worth $26.6 million. They re-signed Brendan Smith, a late-season acquisition. They brought in Anthony DeAngelo in that deal with Arizona.

    Read more: Optimism replaces pessimism after changes to Rangers defense

    No surprise here, but Shattenkirk had an optimistic outlook when describing the Rangers, a team he believes is “right on the cusp,” according to a conversation with NHL.com.

    “I think we have that capability of playing with a team like that,” Shattenkirk recently told NHL.com.

    “We have great goaltending (Henrik Lundqvist). Our defense is fast and we can make plays, but I also think we have a little bit of edge as well. Up front, I’m sure we’re one of the fastest teams in the League. You look at how Pittsburgh is built, and that’s the way that they’ve won. We have some great depth on our team, and I think that’s what it really comes down to at that point of the season: How deep are you?”

    Their success next season may also depend on which teams rise and fall in the Metropolitan Division.

    Columbus took a big step forward with a franchise record-setting season and will look to replicate that beginning in the fall. The Penguins were the Penguins, advancing past Washington and Ottawa in seven-game series despite a plethora of injuries before besting Nashville in the final. One has to wonder how much of a toll the grind of two Stanley Cups will take on that club. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy but faltered in the playoffs, ushering in change to their roster with all the unrestricted free agents — including Shattenkirk for the playoff run — they had.

    Can the Islanders get back into the playoffs? Same question for the Flyers. Will Carolina, with Scott Darling in net, get the necessary upgrade at that position and take the next step toward the playoffs? What will New Jersey, with an upgraded offense in addition to Taylor Hall, be capable of when the season begins?

    The number of changes to teams in the Metropolitan may be enough to shift the balance of power in that division this upcoming season. The Rangers have seemed like a team on the cusp at least three times in the last seven years.

    Shattenkirk mentioned goaltending, as well, calling it great. That’s an accurate description of what Lundqvist has been for many years in New York. However, at the age of 35, he’ll need to bounce back from what was a down season for him in 2016-17.

    “I think everyone’s probably all going to judge [the window] based on Lundqvist, and everyone is talking about, ‘Well, how long does he have left?'” continued Shattenkirk. “We have a lot of young players on this team, though, to counterbalance that.”