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1 team, 1,000 games: Milestone increasingly common in NHL

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Victor Hedman refused to go to sleep without a contract.

A full year before he could become a free agent, the hulking No. 1 defenseman told his agent he wanted to sign a long-term extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning the first day he could. Hedman put pen to paper on an eight-year contract well before the sun went down.

”It was never a doubt,” Hedman said that day. ”Staying in Tampa was the No. 1 priority.”

Patrice Bergeron felt the same way when he signed his second, third and fourth contract with the Boston Bruins. Like Hedman, Bergeron wanted to stay with the organization that drafted and developed him for as long as possible while taking less money to surround himself with enough talent to win.

Now each player is on the road to joining an exclusive and growing club of players who reach 1,000 games with one team. Over the past week, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin became the 49th and 50th players in NHL history to play their first 1,000 regular-season games with the same organization, and that group will welcome many members in the next several years as franchise building blocks lock in to long-term deals.

”You’re going to see it more often now,” Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik said. ”Just the way the CBA is and the way the bigger names probably don’t move around as much as they did in earlier years.”

[The 2018 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs begin April 11 on the networks of NBC]

Next season alone, longtime Seabrook defensive partner Duncan Keith and Bergeron are expected to join the one for 1,000 group, with Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu and Los Angeles captain Anze Kopitar in reach of the milestone before the end of 2018-19 if they stay healthy. San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Joe Pavelski, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews aren’t far behind as this era of long-term stability produces a parade of silver-stick ceremonies for one-team foundation pieces.

”If you’re playing 1,000 games in one organization, you have to be a certain level of player,” said agent Kent Hughes, who represents Bergeron. ”It’s really significant because you’re talking about a series of contracts and we’re in a cap world and in order for that to happen in a lot of cases, I think there needs to be a little bit of give and take on both sides.”

In Ovechkin’s case, it was a $124 million, 13-year contract signed in early 2008 that then-NBA commissioner David Stern told Capitals owner Ted Leonsis he’d live to regret. The only regret now for Leonsis is not signing his face of the franchise for 15 years, and Ovechkin said if he could turn back time, he’d sign for 16 years.

Ovechkin is an anomaly in today’s NHL, where contract lengths were capped at eight years in the last round of collective bargaining talks. Since that CBA went into effect in January 2013, 33 different players have signed eight-year contracts – 28 of whom re-upped with his original team.

”It means a lot to any player to get off their career and say, ‘Well, look at this, I played 1,050 games with one team – my whole career, I’m one of the few,”’ said agent Peter Wallen, who counts one-team players Hedman, St. Louis forward Patrik Berglund and Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog among his clients. ”The only reason you will stay there for 1,000 games is that’s because you’re in the playoffs every year, you know your GM is giving you the opportunity to go deep in the playoffs and they want to win the Stanley Cup.”

The other most-recent players to reach 1,000 games with one team – Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown, Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg and New Jersey’s Patrik Elias – all lifted the Stanley Cup, while Daniel and Henrik Sedin went to the 2011 final and were part of a perennial contender in Vancouver. It’s a delicate balance for teams between paying stars their value and maintaining roster flexibility to contend for several years.

”It’s difficult because you can’t let that key player go while he’s in the prime and you have to keep him content,” Hughes said. ”If the player doesn’t work with you, then it becomes more and more of a challenge to find a way to remain competitive.”

Yet the one-team, 1,000-game players should keep piling up with the likes of the Flyers’ Claude Giroux, Devils’ Travis Zajac, Bruins’ David Krejci, Kings’ Drew Doughty and possibly the Islanders’ John Tavares – if he re-signs this summer – on pace to hit the mark. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov could follow Ovechkin as the only players to get to 1,000 with the Capitals after none did it in the first 40-plus years of the franchise’s history.

”Organizations want to build a core group maybe, and that’s maybe why it’s so common these days that more guys stick with one team,” Backstrom said. ”For me, personally, I like that, and obviously not move around. But sometimes you can’t control it, either. I feel like we’ve been fortunate here that we’ve been here a long time, so I’m happy about that.”

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

More NHL hockey: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Should Ken Holland lead rebuild for Red Wings?

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If the Detroit Red Wings are going to turn their fortunes around, it’s going to be Ken Holland remaining at the controls.

Holland, who’s been general manager of the team since 1997, will be back at the helm according to three Detroit outlets. MLive.com, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News are all citing sources saying that ownership will not make a change after this season. Head coach Jeff Blashill, who has one more year left on his deal, is also expected to be back.

The Red Wings wrap up their season on April 7, so it should become official some time before the team breaks for the summer.

Holland entered the 2017-18 season without an extension, something that was routine business in year’s past. When that didn’t happen, and the Red Wings began to struggle again, he was firmly placed on the hot seat. After two decades in the GMs chair and three Stanley Cups, it’s been a good run, but with Christopher Illitch taking the ownership lead following his father’s death, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see a new face replacing Holland.

Since 2011, the Red Wings have only one playoff series victory and have now missed the postseason two straight years after a 25-year streak of getting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the likes of Julien BriseBois, Kyle Dubas, Paul Fenton, Tom Fitzgerald, Mike Futa, and Laurence Gilman among the names floating out there as possible future NHL GMs, you have to wonder why ownership has faith that Holland is the one to lead them out of their current mess when he’s the one who helped direct them down that way.

Their salary cap picture is not a good one, and while the ceiling is expected to rise for 2018-19, the Red Wings have some important young pieces — Andreas Athanasiou, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha — who are due raises as restricted free agents this summer. But while that extra room should help with re-signings, there are still the contracts of Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Trevor Daley, Jonathan Ericsson, Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm and Henrik Zetterberg — all Holland signings — that are long and eating a lot of space.

Holland’s rebuild efforts got off to a great start last month when he flipped Tomas Tatar and Petr Mrazek for draft picks. According to Cap Friendly, the Red Wings could have up to eight selections in the opening four rounds of this June’s entry draft and five in the first three rounds of the 2019 draft. That’s great for restocking the prospect cupboard or packaging in trades for young roster players who can aid in this rebuild.

But the hard part, identifying and securing talent, comes next.

“We’re not good enough quite right now,” Holland said last month. “For me, it’s about trying to acquire pieces that I think can have an impact on this team three, four years down the road in order to build a team that’s a playoff team, that’s got a young foundation. That’s the goal. Those are the decisions that I’m making.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

WATCH LIVE: Philadelphia Flyers at Detroit Red Wings

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PROJECTED LINES

Philadelphia Flyers

Claude GirouxSean CouturierTravis Konecny

Oskar LindblomNolan PatrickJakub Voracek

Jordan WealValtteri FilppulaWayne Simmonds

Jori LehteraScott Laughton — Matt Read

Ivan ProvorovShayne Gostisbehere

Travis Sanheim — Andrew MacDonald

Robert HaggRadko Gudas

Starting goalie: Petr Mrazek

[Flyers – Red Wings preview]

Detroit Red Wings

Tyler BertuzziHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Darren HelmDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha

Justin AbdelkaderFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

Evgeny Svechnikov — Luke GlendeningMartin Frk

Niklas KronwallMike Green

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Danny DeKeyserNick Jensen

Jimmy Howard

WATCH LIVE: Red Wings at Kings

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PROJECTED LINES

Detroit Red Wings

Tyler BertuzziHenrik ZetterbergGustav Nyquist

Darren HelmDylan LarkinAnthony Mantha

Justin AbdelkaderFrans NielsenAndreas Athanasiou

Martin FrkLuke Glendening — Evgeny Svechnikov

Jonathan EricssonTrevor Daley

Dan DeKeyserNick Jensen

Niklas KronwallMike Green

Starting goalie: Jared Coreau

[Red Wings – Kings preview.]

Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tobias RiederJeff CarterTrevor Lewis

Tanner PearsonAdrian KempeTyler Toffoli

Kyle CliffordMichael AmadioNate Thompson

Derek ForbortDrew Doughty

Dion PhaneufAlec Martinez

Jake Muzzin — Paul LaDue

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

The Buzzer: A night of milestones; Playoff race out West gets interesting

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Players of the Night

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: Not only did he score career goal No. 600, but he was also the best and most dominant player on the ice. He finished with two goals in a 3-2 overtime win and attempted 15 shots, including eight that were on goal. He was everywhere.

Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights: Fleury was great once again for the Golden Knights on Monday stopping 38 of 40 shots in a 3-2 win. That performance helped him earn win No. 400 in his career.

Matt Duchene, Ottawa Senators: Matt Duchene helped the Ottawa Senators try to play spoiler on Monday night by scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner, their 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers. The trade for Duchene has not really helped the Senators in the standings, and with only one year remaining on his contract who knows how long he will remain with the team, but he has really picked up the production the past couple of months and is up 17 goals in 53 games with the Senators.

Jimmy Vesey and Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers: The New York Rangers are not going to the playoffs but they did their part to make sure the Carolina Hurricanes will not be going either. The Rangers’ 6-3 win over the Hurricanes on Monday night was highlighted by Jimmy Vesey’s first career hat trick.

It was also a big night for Vesey’s teammate, Mats Zuccarello, who recorded his 100th career goal in the NHL by scoring a pair in the win.

The Blues are hanging around

Even though they had won just two of their past 11 games, traded one of their top forwards, and recently lost two more key players to injury the St. Louis Blues are still, somehow, hanging around in the Western Conference playoff race. They picked up a huge two points on Monday night with a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks to win their second game in a row on their west coast road trip. They have now scored 11 goals in their past two games after scoring just 14 goals in the 10 games prior to that.

So here is where things stand in the Western Conference playoff race after Monday:

  • The Kings win over the Vancouver Canucks moves them into third place in the Pacific Division, moving them one point ahead of the Ducks after their loss to the Blues.
  • The Ducks, for the time being, fall out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. They are tied with the Colorado Avalanche with 80 points in the standings, but with the Avalanche having played in two fewer games (as well as having five more regulation and overtime wins) they maintain the second wild card spot. For now.
  • The Blues sit one point behind both the Avalanche and Ducks. The Blues still have a game in hand on the Ducks.

For a look at how things are shaping up in the Eastern Conference playoff race after Monday’s games, click here.

Laine scores again

It came in a losing effort, but Patrik Laine score another goal for the Jets to continue on what has been a ridiculous hot streak. He has now scored at least one goal in 11 of his past 12 games (16 total goals) and is just one goal behind Ovechkin for the league lead. Remember, he is still only 19 years old.

Zetterberg moving up the Red Wings’ rankings

We said it was a night for milestones and accomplishments, so what is one more to add to the list? Henrik Zetterberg scored for the Detroit Red Wings to move into sole possession of fifth place on the team’s all-time goal scoring list, moving ahead of Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay. Zetterberg’s 336 goals trail only Gordie Howe (786), Steve Yzerman (692), Alex Delvecchio (456) and Sergei Fedorov (400) in franchise history.

Highlight of the Night 

It has been a brutal season for the Montreal Canadiens and a disappointing one for Jonathan Drouin, but he still has a ton of talent. Check out this move on the breakaway on Monday night.

The Canadiens were still three goals short but that is a nice move.

Factoid of the Night

Seth Jones did not play in the third period of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens but he still ended up scoring the game-winning goal. For the third game in a row.

Scores

New York Rangers 6, Carolina Hurricanes 3

Vegas Golden Knights 3, Philadelphia Flyers 2

Washington Capitals 3, Winnipeg Jets 2

Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Montreal Canadiens 2

Ottawa Senators 5, Florida Panthers 3

St. Louis Blues 4, Anaheim Ducks 2

San Jose Sharks 5, Detroit Red Wings 3

Los Angeles Kings 3, Vancouver Canucks 0

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.