The Minnesota Wild made a big splash last summer when they signed defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Zach Parise to matching 13-year, $98 million contracts. After missing the playoffs for four consecutive seasons, that move renewed their commitment to win the Stanley Cup and singled out those two newcomers as the people they felt would lead them there.
Minnesota’s 2013 campaign ended with a shift first-round exit at the hands of the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks and given the increased expectations, it was seen as something of a disappointment. All the same, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher doesn’t have any regrets about the trust they’ve put in Suter and Parise.
“We were fortunate to sign both Zach and Ryan,” Fletcher told NHL.com. “Looking back now, in hindsight with a year removed, I can’t even say how lucky we are that we did sign them.
“You hear horror stories of all these big free-agent signings that don’t pan out, and we signed arguably the best defenseman in the League and one of the best goal scorers in the League. Both players lived up to expectations. They’re great people.”
To Fletcher’s point, while the team didn’t get far in the playoffs, Parise and Suter did largely perform as advertised. That’s especially true for Suter, who averaged a league-leading 27:16 minutes per game and was a Norris Trophy finalist.
At the same time, those long-term contract horror stories don’t always start with the first season of a deal. After all, Parise is 29 years old and Suter will celebrate his 29th birthday on Jan. 21. With them signed through 2024-25, it’s not hard to see them being liabilities in the final years of their contracts.
Still, right now the Wild have a team with a strong core and some young, up-and-coming talent. And if they can manage to win the Stanley Cup over the next few years, then their signing of Parise and Suter could be credited as the turning point that led them to new heights.
The Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the San Jose Sharks in the first period of Game 1, no doubt about it.
Even so, the Sharks entered the middle frame down 2-0, and responded rather than shriveling up. They basically switched roles with the Penguins in the second period, ultimately tying things up 2-2.
The first goal was one Matt Murray would probably like back (even more than a goalie would want any goal back, mind you), as Tomas Hertl beat him five-hole for a power-play goal.
Witness the Sharks’ first-ever goal in a Stanley Cup Final:
Fittingly, a grizzled veteran and longtime face of the Sharks’ franchise tied it up, as Patrick Marleau made it 2-2 with a clever wraparound:
Which team will win the third period? Could we see overtime? Find out on NBC.
Yes, the St. Louis Blues fell short of the Stanley Cup Final, but they still broke some playoff hexes in 2015-16. Apparently Blues management saw enough to bring back Ken Hitchcock.
That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Nick Kypreos, who report that the Blues are expected to announce a one-year deal with the veteran head coach on Tuesday.
Friedman wonders if these one-year pacts (Hitchcock was on one for 2015-16 as well) may chase away other staffers:
When asked about these scenarios, Hitchcock seemed like he was in favor of experiencing a perpetual “contract year.”
“I scare myself because I think if I take long-term deal, I’m gonna get sloppy,” Hitchcock told Hockey Central at Noon and Sportsnet back in mid-May. “I want to stay on one-year deals.
For plenty of fans, it makes perfect sense to bring Hitchcock back after the Blues took steps forward.
Others wonder if Hitchcock’s style (which leans toward dump-and-chase and “gritty” hockey more than some other teams) may leave the Blues in the dust, however.
That’s a debate for a bar or a message board, yet one can see deeper logic in giving Hitchcock one more shot.
While the Blues have decisions to make – including what to do with free agent captain David Backes – the team is also structured to make another run. Brian Elliott, Jake Allen, Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko all have deals that will expire after 2016-17, and each contract is a bargain.
If St. Louis believes that Hitchcock is the right fit for that personnel group, then it makes sense to give him another go.
Generally speaking, the strategic talk heading into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final focused on the San Jose Sharks’ deeper defense vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins’ blinding speed.
It’s very early, but so far: advantage Penguins.
Pittsburgh came roaring out of the gate in front of a boisterous Consol Energy Center crowd, but it took them a while to break through.
Once the Penguins did, they raced ahead to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals just 1:02 apart.
First, Bryan Rust kept his red-hot streak going with the 1-0 tally.
Moments later, Sidney Crosby made a beautiful pass to Conor Sheary to put the Penguins up two.
There were a few other moments in which the Sharks looked like they were really struggling with the Penguins’ speed, but Martin Jones made some saves that could be big if San Jose can gather its wits.
Sometimes you need to ask important questions, breaking down positional battles and strategies.
Other times you can’t help but ask “Which guy has the better beard?”
In the case of Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, the San Jose Sharks boast two players with elite beards to match their elite skills. “Jumbo Joe” drew a lot of attention for his wild facial hair, yet Burns may very well have inspired Thornton to go heavy-whisker in the first place.
The video above breaks down those two beards, in case you’re itching for a comparison.
One thing that sparks little debate? Both players’ wives are real troopers.