Stars forward Jere Lehtinen announces his retirement after 14 seasons

After 14 seasons in the NHL, Dallas Stars forward Jere Lehtinen is retiring from hockey. Originally drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in the fourth round of the 1994 draft, Lehtinen didn’t arrive in the NHL until 1995 but once he did he made his mark with the Dallas Stars. Starting off as a third liner and rising his way up to the top to be a first line threat with Mike Modano, Lehtinen made his mark as a goal scoring threat that could also help shut down opposing forwards. Always a solid player but always underrated, Lehtinen finished his career with 243 goals and 271 assists and peaked as a goal scorer in 2005-2006 with 33 goals.

The season Lehtinen will best be remembered for is during the Stars’ Stanley Cup season in 1998-1999 where he finished the regular season with 20 goals and 32 assists and proceeded to score ten more goals in the playoffs leading the Stars to their first and only Stanley Cup.

Lehtinen was a three-time Selke Trophy winner as the leagues best defensive forward and was an All-Star just twice in his career. Told you he was underrated. As for Lehtinen, he shared this statement on the Dallas Stars’ website.

“First of all, I wanted to thank Joe Nieuwendyk and the Stars organization for giving me some time to come to this decision. They respected the fact that I wanted to be 100 percent sure prior to making this announcement, and I appreciated that.

It’s a tough decision due to the fact that you play hockey your entire life and then must decide to stop playing. However, I choose to focus on all the great times I had playing over the past 15 seasons, understanding that I am very fortunate to have played all those years with one organization. The memories I have playing in Dallas will never be forgotten and I will always be proud of the fact that I finished my career where I started it.

There are so many people that have positively influenced my career, including the entire Dallas Stars organization, the coaches, the players, the trainers, the fans and most importantly, my family. To all of those people I want to say thank you. Everybody that touched my career in some facet, whether small or large, had an impact on me and I will always remember that. Thank you.”

Coming from Finland means being compared to the likes of Jari Kurri, Saku Koivu, Teemu Selanne, and Esa Tikkanen but Lehtinen is the only Finnish player to end his career with both a Stanley Cup championship (1999) and a World Championships gold medal (1995). Here’s to hoping that Lehtinen’s understated abilities are properly recognized by the Stars in the form of his number being hung from the rafters.

Willie Desjardins to coach Team Canada at Olympics

Getty
3 Comments

The past two Winter Olympics, Team Canada has been coached to gold by Mike Babcock, currently the NHL’s highest-paid bench boss.

But the 2018 Olympics in South Korea will be a very different animal. The NHL is not sending its players this time. When the Games are on, Babcock will be busy with his Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, today, Hockey Canada announced that Willie Desjardins, recently fired by the Vancouver Canucks, will be the head coach of the two-time defending gold medalists. Desjardins will be assisted by former Team Canada head coach Dave King, as well as Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Sean Burke, who rose to prominence as a goalie in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics — which didn’t feature NHLers, either — will be Canada’s general manager. Burke will be aided by Martin Brodeur.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our National Men’s Team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s CEO. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeonchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Today’s announcement is yet more evidence, if you still required it, that the NHL isn’t bluffing about not sending its players to South Korea.

In an email to The Hockey News, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly refuted a report out of Russia that suggested the league had a backup schedule with an Olympic break in it.

“There is not an alternative schedule,” Daly wrote. “Having NHL Players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is not an available option. All of the international federations are planning appropriately for constructing teams that will not include NHL players. I anticipate there will be federation announcements in the coming days that should eliminate any and all continuing doubt or skepticism about the issue.”

The NHL released the 2017-18 schedule a month ago.

Related: Tampa awarded the 2018 All-Star Game, further dampening Olympic hopes

Preds expect answer from Fisher next week

Getty
Leave a comment

We should find out next week if Mike Fisher is going to retire or keep playing for the Predators.

Fisher, Nashville’s 37-year-old captain, is an unrestricted free agent. He confirmed last month that he was considering retirement. But first, he needed some time to think.

Yesterday, Preds GM David Poile said he expected an answer soon.

“I’m hoping to talk to him later this week to see where he’s at,” Poile said, per The Tennessean. “I’d say by next week, we should have an update.”

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games last season, but then had just four assists in 20 playoff games as the Preds reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

If Fisher re-signs, he’ll likely be in the bottom six next season, with Ryan Johansen and newly signed Nick Bonino expected to center the top two lines. Fisher could even be the fourth-line center or a winger, allowing the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Frederick Gaudreau to take on bigger roles.

But for Fisher, hockey isn’t everything, and after more than 1,000 games in the NHL, he may simply opt to hang up the skates.

“Everyone wants to win in this game, no one probably more than me,” Fisher said. “But there’s other things. At the end of the day, this is a game. It’s an important part of my life, but it’s not everything.”

Related: Predators take Stanley Cup loss with grace and optimism

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

Getty
Leave a comment

The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

Getty
Leave a comment

The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.