Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals - Game Two

Ovechkin signs long-term endorsement deal with Nike


With all of the Alexander Semin bashing lately, at least one of the Capitals’ Russian snipers is having a good offseason. Rumors broke this afternoon that Alexander Ovechkin was signing an endorsement deal with Nike. Originally, it was thought that Ovechkin’s news conference schedule for Tuesday was to announce the endorsement deal—but now it looks like the press conference is unrelated to tonight’s news.

The Washington Post’s Tarik El-Bashir confirmed the news with Ovechkin’s agent, David Abrutyn on Thursday evening:

“I can confirm that Alex has signed a long-term global partnership with Nike. Alex is going to be supporting all of the products that Nike makes — apparel, footwear, performance apparel, casual wear, accessories and other elements of the Nike family of products. So he will be wearing their performance product when he’s playing and practicing, when he’s training and in his lifestyle.”
“From a lifestyle standpoint, everybody knows that Ovi has a unique fashion sense.”

This isn’t Nike’s first foray into the NHL. Hockey fans might recall the memorable Nike commercial that featured Markus Naslund and Ilya Kovalchuk going mano y mano. In the 1990s, there were players who sported the swoosh on the ice; including Sergei Fedorov and currently Steven Stamkos as signed up with the Oregon-based shoe company.

It’s understandable why Nike would target Ovechkin for a long-term endorsement deal. Aside from Sidney Crosby (who is locked into a deal with Reebok), there isn’t a more recognizable hockey player on the planet. We’re talking about a guy who just had the worst season of his career and still managed 32 goals and 85 points last season to lead the Capitals. The man has averaged 50 goals and 102 points per season over his 6 year career. Sometimes fans get a bit callous to his regular season dominance since he’s entered the league.

The next step for Ovechkin (and now his marketing partner) is a deep run in the playoffs. Even though the Washington captain was arguably the best Capitals player on the ice during last year’s playoffs, the fact remains that they haven’t gone past the Conference Semifinals since 1998. For the new sponsor to get full return on their endorsement deal, they’ll want maximum visibility for their product wearing player. In the world of the NHL, there’s no bigger stage than a deep run in the playoffs.

As long as we don’t have to see any commercials with a disembodied head in a locker (or bowling bag), everything should be fine.

Braun out with upper-body injury; Zubrus to make Sharks debut

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The San Jose Sharks will be missing a top-4 defenseman tonight when they host the defending champs from Chicago.

Justin Braun has an upper-body injury. His status is considered day-to-day.

“Brauny has been one of our unsung heroes here through the first quarter of the season,” coach Peter DeBoer told CSN Bay Area. “He’s played some outstanding hockey. So, we’re going to miss him, but it’s a great opportunity for Mueller and Tennyson and one of these guys to establish themselves. It’s a great opportunity for us to reward Dillon for how well he’s played.”

Against the Blackhawks, Brenden Dillon will take Braun’s spot on the top pairing alongside Marc-Edouard Vlasic; Paul Martin and Brent Burns will stay together on the second pairing; and 20-year-old Mirco Mueller will skate with Matt Tennyson.

Mueller has played just four games for the Sharks this season. In his last game, Thursday in Philadelphia, he received only 9:13 of ice time.

Also tonight, new Shark forward Dainius Zubrus is expected to debut on the fourth line.

Related: Sharks sign Zubrus, because DeBoer

Johansen calls trade rumblings ‘weird,’ says relationship with Torts is ‘great’

Ryan Johansen
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One day after reports surfaced of Ryan Johansen being at the center of trade talks, all parties involved from Columbus did what they’re supposed to do — downplay the situation.

You can read the denials in full over at the Dispatch, but here’s the gist:

— Johansen said the rumors were “weird” and that he’s “never seen it before.” He also said there were no issues between him and head coach John Tortorella, calling the relationship “great.”

— GM Jarmo Kekalainen wouldn’t address the report, nor would Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt.

— Johansen added he hasn’t spoken to any of Columbus’ management about the trade rumblings.

So there’s that. What’s next?

At this stage of the game, it’s hard not to think about another Overhardt client, Kyle Turris.

Turris, you’ll recall, spent four (mostly) stormy years with the Coyotes before his trade out to Ottawa was orchestrated. Turris eventually told GM Don Maloney “this is not going to work out” with the club, and he was gone.

So, consider the similarities now:

— Turris was 22 at the time of the trade, with four years and 137 games under his belt.

— Johansen is 23, with five years and 291 games.

— Both had contentious contract holdouts with their respective clubs.

— Both are Overhardt guys.

— The Turris trade happened after the Coyotes went from Wayne Gretzky to Dave Tippett as head coach.

— Johansen is already on his third head coach (Scott Arniel, Todd Richards, Tortorella).

For now, these are all coincidences (or a forced narrative, depending what you think of the author).

And, of course, the one big — big — difference between the two is that, at the time of his trade, Turris wasn’t as good or established a player as Johansen currently is. Therefore, logic suggests any Johansen trade would be a lot more blockbuster-y and, therefore, probably more complex.

And as we know, complex deals aren’t easy to pull off.

Flyers’ Gagner to miss another week after Malone hit

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The nasty blow Sam Gagner took in Monday’s game against Carolina will keep him on the shelf for a little bit.

On Wednesday, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said the club expected Gagner to be out around a week with injuries suffered on the hit, delivered by ‘Canes forward Brad Malone (per the Inquirer).

Gagner suffered a fairly significant facial laceration, which forced him from the game entirely. He didn’t practice on Tuesday and, in a corresponding move, the Flyers called up Colin McDonald from the AHL to fill Gagner’s spot on the roster.

This is the second facial injury Gagner’s suffered in recent years. He’d previously had his jaw broken by an errant Zack Kassian high stick, while he was with the Oilers and Kassian the Canucks.

Prior to getting hurt, Gagner had two goals and five points in 18 games, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.

‘It’s absolutely not true’ — Lemieux denies report of ‘big falling out’ with Crosby

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 5:  Sidney Crosby #87 and Mario Lemieux #66 of the Pittsburgh Penguins share a few words during a break in action against the New Jersey Devils in their NHL opening night game at the Continental Airlines Arena on October 5, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Devils won 5-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just hours after Matthew Barnaby went on the radio and said he’d heard that Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux had had a “big falling out,” Lemieux came out and denied it.

“It’s absolutely not true,” said Lemieux, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s silly.”

Today marked the second time in less than two weeks that the Penguins have been forced do some damage control.

Last week, the Penguins insisted that they weren’t actually “mad at each other,” as Evgeni Malkin had put it after a bad loss to New Jersey.

“He did not mean we are mad at each other,” said Crosby. “He meant we are frustrated.”