In this free agent frenzy filled July, we often look at team building through a sober lens of numbers or – as fans – like we’re filling our plates at some hockey buffet table.
The “human element” is often lost in this process, especially for the far-from-superstar players. While it’s quite reasonable to imagine that the Ilya Kovalchuk situation comes down to money, market, team quality or a picky combination of all those factors, it’s a little different for the average NHL player.
One former hockey player turned scribe named Justin Bourne has become one of the best sources of insight for what a skater goes through. He shared some of his experiences as a far-from-sought-after free agent for USA Today.
It’s an odd feeling when your agent calls with options. What do you value the most this year? The city? Its location? The money? The opportunity? Any of the other 52,006 variables?
What matters most to each player is nowhere near the same. Maybe a single guy wants to live in a bigger city to have a social life. Maybe a family man wants to live closer to his hometown. Some guys want money, and some just want to get noticed. And while GMs don’t know exactly what will pique the interest of each player, sometimes that player won’t even be sure where his priorities are.
If you’ve ever read a “choose your own adventure” book, I’m sure you remember frequently making the wrong choice. It happens in reality, too. I chose to make a couple hundred bucks less a week in the ECHL to sign with a team that I thought provided a better path to the NHL. Lesson: Active players make lousy GMs.
There certainly are a lot of factors that play into a decision that could drastically alter the lives of these players. Perhaps that’s why the Patrick Marleaus of the world decide that there’s no place like home.
CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced Sunday.
The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.
The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.
The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.
The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.
The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.
Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.
The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.
TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.
The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.
“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”
Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.
TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.
The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.
“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”
The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.
Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.