Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…
Martin St. Louis
For the record, St. Louis is pondering retirement. He turns 40 tomorrow, and when the Rangers were eliminated, he said he needed time to “reflect” before making a decision.
If he does decide to keep playing, there will be demand for his services. Perhaps not from the cap-challenged Rangers, but even as one of the NHL’s oldest players, the undersized forward managed to score 21 goals with 31 assists in 2014-15. He can still contribute.
Of course, the biggest factor may not be which teams are interested, but rather, where St. Louis is willing to play. When he famously (infamously, if you’re a Lightning fan) forced his way out of Tampa Bay, he said, “It’s not like I’ve played a ton of playoff hockey in the last little while, and as you get older you want to get more kicks at the can.”
So, if he does sign somewhere, will it need to be with a Stanley Cup contender? Because if it does, that may eliminate a team like New Jersey, which has been cited as a potential landing spot due to its proximity to New York.
It’s possible St. Louis got his fill of kicks at the can with the Rangers. But if he didn’t, and assuming he wants to stay in the New York area for family reasons, there’ll be a pretty good team in Brooklyn next season. Just to throw that out there.
CHICAGO — It’s hard to believe now, but in 2007, when John McDonough was named president of the Blackhawks, the franchise had devolved into an afterthought in the Windy City.
Monday at the United Center, right before Jonathan Toews hoisted the Stanley Cup for the third time in the last six years, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman proclaimed to the fans, “I’d say you have a dynasty.”
Funny what assembling a core of four future Hall of Famers — Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa — can do for a franchise’s fortunes.
Add secondary stars like Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, get a good coach, a smart general manager, draft well, develop well, throw in a little luck, and the result is the first team worthy of the “dynasty” label in the salary-cap era.
“We’ve had to fight through some things, but it was worth every second of it,” said McDonough, speaking to reporters at center ice while the players and their young families celebrated around him.
“To see these guys mature into young adults, into grown men. Most of our guys when I started here were single. Now there’s babies all over the place.”
There will be those who question whether these Blackhawks are truly a dynasty. They haven’t won four straight Cups, like the Montreal Canadiens did from 1975-79, or the New York Islanders from 1980-83. They haven’t won five in seven years like the 1980s Oilers. Twice in the past six years Chicago has been eliminated in the first round.
When asked to weigh in on the dynasty debate, Kane replied, “I don’t know what that means. We’ve got three in six years. I know that’s pretty good.”
Similarly, general manager Stan Bowman deferred to others.
“I don’t think that’s really for me to say,” he said. “That’s really for other people to make those proclamations. All I know is that we’ve got an amazing group here, they’ve accomplished a lot together, and I’m really proud of the effort they’ve given year after year. It doesn’t always go your way, but they’ve accomplished quite a bit and we’re not finished.”
Bowman has another tough summer ahead. The Blackhawks won’t be back in their entirety next season. Some will be forced out due to the salary cap. That’s the “reality” of the situation, as Johnny Oduya put it. That reality is why the likes of Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Brian Campbell, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, and Antti Niemi are playing elsewhere now.
“I think we’re going to enjoy this one for a bit,” said Bowman. “I’ve been thinking of that stuff for a long time. It’s not like it’s going to surprise me. We’ll make it work. We’ve got a plan in place. That’s really for another day. Right now we’re pretty thrilled with this whole scene in here.”
A decade ago, the Blackhawks were playing games before a half-empty arena, an Original Six franchise ignored.
Monday, they kicked off one of the great sports celebrations in this city’s history.
They deserve to enjoy it.
No doubt about it: Duncan Keith wins the Conn Smythe Trophy
CHICAGO — No debate necessary. Duncan Keith has been awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the 2015 NHL playoffs.
Keith scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal Monday at the United Center, capping a spectacular postseason run for the 31-year-old defenseman, who finished the playoffs with three goals and 18 assists.
Keith’s 21 points were by far the most of any defenseman, seven more than Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman.
But it was the time he logged on a depleted Blackhawks blue line that drew the most acclaim. In 23 games, he never played less than 24:05. In total, he spent over 700 minutes on the ice, almost 100 more minutes than second-place Hedman, who played in three more games.
Keith’s goal tonight perfectly illustrated his offensive abilities. Jumping into the rush as he does so effectively, he took a perfect pass from Patrick Kane at the Lightning blue line, wristed a shot that was saved but not controlled by Ben Bishop, then swooped around Cedric Paquette to snap the rebound high past the sprawled Lightning goalie.
A defenseman has received the Conn Smythe Trophy on just 10 occasions since it was first awarded in 1965. Keith is the first defenseman to be recognized since Scott Niedermayer was for the Ducks in 2007.
Even if the Toronto Maple Leafs are intent on trading Phil Kessel, they may be challenged by a limited no-trade clause that’s believed to allow Kessel to submit a list of eight teams to which he can be sent.
Prior to the trade deadline, TSN reported those eight teams were believed to be: Boston; Chicago; Los Angeles; Minnesota; Montreal; New York Rangers; Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh.
But that doesn’t preclude the possibility of the Leafs finding a suitable deal with a team not on the list and asking the player to amend the list. Also, with each new contract year, it’s believed a new list can be submitted by the player so the list can change from year to year. The contract year expires June 30.
What’s interesting about Kessel’s list is that all eight teams are currently facing significant cap challenges. For any one of them to acquired a player who’s signed through 2021-22 with a cap hit of $8 million, they’d need to shed some serious salary in the process.
As McKenzie notes, the Leafs don’t necessarily have to trade Kessel to one of those eight teams. Kessel’s list could change. Or, he could just waive his NTC.
But if Kessel is intent on staying in Toronto — and remember, he only signed that contract a couple of years ago — he could theoretically make it tough for the Leafs to get rid of him.
Or, at the very least, he could make it tough for them to get much in return.
“I signed for eight years last season. I love Toronto,” Kessel said in April, per ESPN.com. “The fans have been great to me. I love the guys and I love playing here. So, hopefully I’m back.”
CHICAGO — With no goals and just one assist in the first five games of the Stanley Cup Final, Patrick Kane’s offensive production has been notably absent for the Chicago Blackhawks.
One very good reason for that is that Victor Hedman, the Lightning defenseman who’s been a two-way force all throughout the playoffs, no more than in this series.
“He’s a special player,” Kane said this morning. “Not only is he big (and) has a good stick, he’s smart, he’s a great skater. He seems to have all the tools to lock someone down. He’s definitely been impressive throughout the series.”
In Game 5 on Saturday, Kane spent 9:17 of his 15:48 in total ice time with Hedman out there as well.
At home tonight in Game 6, Joel Quenneville should be able to get Kane away from Hedman a bit more. The Blackhawks’ coach has confidence his star forward will come through.
“Kaner, eventually he’ll find a way,” said Quenneville. “That’s what makes him the competitor he is.”
Regardless of the match-ups, Kane doesn’t want to overthink the situation.
“I think when you’re on the ice, you gotta be aware who’s out there, especially for defensive purposes,” he said.
“But sometimes when you think too much about playing against one certain guy, it can backfire on you a little bit. So we’re just worried about playing our game, not worried about what he’s going to do out there too much.”
Kane by series Nashville: 2 goals, 5 assists in 6 games
Minnesota: 5 goals, 1 assist in 4 games
Anaheim: 3 goals, 4 assists in 7 games
Tampa Bay: 0 goals, 1 assist in 5 games