Members of the Carolina Hurricanes have returned to their home ice at PNC Arena as the team began voluntary training sessions amid the second phase of the NHL’s return plan.
In a video conference with reporters, captain Jordan Staal said the players went through safety protocols that included wearing a mask and getting a temperature check when arriving at the arena, as well as “keeping your distance as best you can.”
The team had announced last week that roughly 16 players were expected to participate, divided into two groups, with workouts closed to the public and media.
Staal said the goal was “feeling the ice again” while running some drills. The team hasn’t specified which players were scheduled to participate in Tuesday’s sessions, though Staal said his group included All-Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Hamilton broke his left leg in January, but the team has said he should be ready to go if the season resumes.
“Hopefully we can get through this Phase 2 and 3 unscathed, and get in the bubble and go from there,” Staal said.
Training camps may open as early as July 10 if an agreement between the league and players on virus testing, health and safety protocols, and “hub” cities to host the games can be reached.
NBCSN’s Stanley Cup Final Week: Remembering 2009 Penguins-Red Wings
NBC Sports presents Stanley Cup Final Week on NBCSN, reliving classic Stanley Cup Final games and original films and shows from the past decade across seven nights, beginning on Monday, June 8. Today, we give our favorite memories from the the 2009 Cup Final between the Penguins and Red Wings.
JAKE: The obvious choice is the sprawling save by Marc-Andre Fleury to clinch Pittsburgh’s Game 7 win, thereby denying Detroit the chance to win a second straight Stanley Cup.
The outcome was especially painful for one Red Wings player: Marian Hossa. And he’s who I’d like to focus on here.
In the summer of 2008, Marian Hossa had played nine full NHL seasons, made the playoffs eight times, and most recently scored 26 points in 20 playoff games for Pittsburgh in their eventual Stanley Cup Final loss to Detroit. That was the closest he had come to winning the Cup.
Facing unrestricted free agency, he turned down a long-term offer from the Penguins and instead signed a one-year deal with the Red Wings, believing he had a better chance to win in Hockeytown.
Fast forward to the 2009 Cup Final, where Hossa found himself in exactly the position he had hoped. But the dream ending was not meant to be, and Hossa struggled against his former mates scoring zero goals on 23 shots during the seven-game series. Two straight Cup Final trips, and two straight defeats.
Of course, Hossa then signed with Chicago, and finally hoisted Lord Stanley the very next year. And then two more times after that. So we won’t lose too much sleep over his poor fortune in 2008 and 2009.
SEAN: I remember being behind the Penguins’ goal at Mellon Arena with a clear view of this play. Down 2-1 in the series, Pittsburgh needed to win Game 4 in order to not go back to Joe Louis Arena and lose the Cup Final for a second year in a row to the Red Wings.
Detroit was on the power play leading 2-1 in the second period. That’s when Jordan Staal took a pass in the neutral zone and strong-armed his way around Brian Rafalski for a shorthanded goal.
The roar from inside the Igloo was massive. It was a turning point in the game as Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy would make it 4-2 with goals in the next six minutes.
Game 5 was a disaster for the Penguins, but they got their revenge on Detroit with a pair of 2-1 wins in Games 6 and 7 to win their second Cup.
JAMES: Maxime Talbot enjoyed a perfectly respectable NHL career for a grinder.
A player cannot even be selected in the eighth round anymore, yet that’s what happened with Talbot. The Penguins chose Talbot 234th overall in 2002, so Talbot scoring 91 goals and 204 points over 704 career regular-season games stands as a towering achievement.
Yet, for many, Talbot was defined by one night. During Game 7 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, Talbot scored both of the Penguins goals.
Now, sure, Evgeni Malkin spoon-fed him that first one, but it’s not always about how, but how much? Maxime Effin’ Talbot scored two goals in a Game 7, and authored both in the second period. That set the stage for Marc-Andre Fleury & Co. to hold on for dear life, culminating with “MAF” making that iconic save against Nicklas Lidstrom.
Of course, hardcore Penguins fans hold other memories of Talbot. He did his McLovin’ impression in a ridiculous local car commercial. Talbot once convincingly dressed up as Sidney Crosby.
But, yeah, Talbot scoring two goals was mind-blowing, and one of the reminders that any player can end up a hero in a Game 7. At least if Justin Williams isn’t around to hog all of the glory.
NBC Sports presents Stanley Cup Final Week on NBCSN, reliving classic Stanley Cup Final games and original films and shows from the past decade across seven nights, beginning on Monday, June 8.
Programming will also stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Monday, June 8 – NBCSN
• NHL Hat Trick Trivia Hosted by P.K. Subban (Episode 3) – 5 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final (Game 2) – 5:30 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final (Game 6) – 7 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final (Game 7) – 9 p.m. ET
• Penguins 2009 championship film – 11 p.m. ET
• 2009 Stanley Cup Final (Game 7 encore) – 12:30 p.m. ET
• NHL Gamechangers: All-time Greats – 2:30 p.m. ET
Staal is the longest-tenured member of the Hurricanes roster having been with the team since the start of the 2012-13 season when he was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has consistently been one of the better defensive forwards in the league and is usually good for close to 20 goals and 45 points offensively. Put all of that together and you’ve got a pretty valuable player that is going to make any team he plays on better.
He was limited to just 50 regular season games during the 2018-19 season, scoring 11 goals.
Even with Williams not returning for the start of the season the Hurricanes are well positioned to be a contender in the Eastern Conference with an outstanding defense and underrated group of forwards.
“Young men expressing themselves for joy of winning. You don’t do this thing in professional hockey. What are these guys? Jerks or something?”
“I know what I’m talking about. You never do anything like that. They’re still not drawing. They’re a bunch of jerks as far as I’m concerned. Imagine Justin Williams doing stuff like that.”
Don Cherry is known for his colorful suits that he wears every Saturday during Hockey Night in Canada’s “Coach’s Corner” segment. Who knew he’d be the inspiration for one of the best-selling fashion designs in the state of North Carolina?
Taking to his pulpit on February 16, Cherry railed against the Carolina Hurricanes’ post-win celebrations, also known as the “Storm Surge.” The brainchild of team captain Justin Williams, they were quickly embraced by Hurricanes fans and around the hockey world.
“Listen, things are changing,” Williams told NBC last week. “This isn’t a historic hockey market, it’s relatively fresh. We obviously won a Stanley Cup here, but it’s relatively fresh. This team got here in 1997. It’s not like the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadians or the Boston Bruins, an ‘Original Six’ who had decades and decades of hockey history.”
Following Cherry’s yelling at clouds, the Hurricanes acted fast and teamed up with BreakingT to create the “Bunch of Jerks” t-shirts, which sold well and sold out fast. The team store inside PNC Arena is constantly running out of inventory. (An update to the shirts was made after Cherry doubled-down on his criticism by labeling the fan base as “front running.”)
Curtis McElhinney’s dad ordered a handful and shipped some to his son. Warren Foegele’s friends back home in Markham, Ontario hit him up asking if he could get them a few.
The Hurricanes embracing the “jerks” really blew up the entire “controversy” and emboldened the team and fan base even further.
“I think what I love about it is it could have went a different way when you get criticized for what you’re doing,” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “But the guys, they didn’t. They took it and they ran with it in a positive light and the fans took it and ran with it in a positive light.
“It’s not about everyone else, it’s about our team, it’s about our community, it’s about our fans and we’ve enjoyed this year. That ‘little bunch of jerks,’ whatever you want to call it, has kind of brought us together in a way that’s unified the fans and the players even that much more, which was already a pretty strong bond.”
As the Hurricanes pursued their first playoff berth since 2009, the extracurricular activity excited a fan base that had been patiently waiting for turnaround and helped create a new legion of supporters in the process.
“You know, I think we’ve been kind of irrelevant for a while here in Carolina and that was kind of one way to maybe boost some people in the stands, and obviously get people to think of us of a team that was playing really good hockey throughout the season,” said forward Jordan Staal.
The excitement isn’t contained to solely inside PNC Arena. Dougie Hamilton has noticed he’s been recognized more at dinner or out on the street this season. There’s been a buzz around Raleigh this season as the Hurricanes made their march to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and then knocked out the defending champion Washington Capitals in seven games in Round 1.
From the night Cherry entered “bunch of jerks” into the lexicon to the end of the regular season, the Hurricanes were tied for the third-most points (33) in the NHL with a 16-7-1 record. They could have hit back at the longtime commentator, but instead, as they’ve done all season long, they leaned into the negativity and embraced it.
“I don’t want an apology,” Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon said in February via the News and Observer. “He can say what he wants to say. I should thank him. It was good for us.”
Every postseason a new storyline emerges as to how NHL teams should construct their rosters, and it usually revolves around the teams playing the deepest in the playoffs and how they managed to get there.
After all, everyone wants to copy off the teams that win and not the teams sitting at home.
The new trend could be anything, really. Sometimes it revolves around defensive structure, or size and grit. Sometimes it is about speed and skill. We are always looking for the next “thing” that is going to take over the NHL. To be fair, there can be some merit to these storylines and trends.
The one thing that stands out about the four teams playing in the Conference Finals this season is that none of them have a really huge salary on their roster. This is a fact that was pointed out in an article by the Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun on Monday when talking about the upcoming crop of restricted free agents and how teams might try to approach them given the salary structures of the remaining playoff teams.
There is not a single player in the top-20 of NHL salary cap hits still playing in the playoffs, while San Jose’s Brent Burns ($8 million) is the only one in the top-25.
Carolina’s highest paid player is Jordan Staal who counts $6 million against the cap, the 89th largest salary cap hit in the league. The Hurricanes also have one of the lowest total payrolls.
In the article LeBrun quotes an unnamed NHL executive who points out of the favorite talking points of executives in the salary cap era: “You need depth to win and can’t allocate too much cap space to any individual players.”
The first part is 100 percent true, because you do need depth to win.
The second point is just … wrong. That is not a personal opinion, and it is not something that is going to change just because of one mostly unpredictable postseason. It is a fact. That is what makes it so maddening every single time it gets mentioned. The Toronto Maple Leafs’ core can’t be discussed without fear over their future salary cap situation and how they are going to build a contending team around so many big-money players. There is always trade speculation mentioned around teams that “need” to shed salary because they have too much money going to too few players.
I hate this mindset, mostly because there is zero factual evidence to back it up.
While it is true that the four Conference Finalists this season have made it this far without a mega-money player on their roster, it is also true that this development is an anomaly in recent postseason history.
Burns is currently the only player in the Conference Finals that accounts for more than 10 percent of the league salary cap this season.
The Blues and Bruins both have players in the 9 percent range, while the Hurricanes don’t have anyone that takes up more than 7.5 percent.
Let’s just take a quick look at how that compares to the past five years of Conference Finalists. The table below looks at the highest cap percentage on each team that played in the Conference Finals that season.
Of the 20 teams over the previous five years, 16 of them had at least one player accounting for more than 10 percent of their allotted salary cap space that season; 13 of them had one taking up more than 10.5 percent; nine had more than 11 percent; seven had a player taking up at least 12 percent.
That includes multiple Stanley Cup winners in Pittsburgh and Washington over the previous three seasons.
Many of these teams also had multiple players taken up between 10 to 12 percent of the salary cap on their own.
In any contract negotiation there are always going to be two sides with very different goals. The player is usually going to try and get as much money as they possibly can for their production. They have short careers and an even shorter window to get a significant contract, so they are going to try and cash in when they can. The team is going to try and get the player for the best bang for their buck, not only because of the salary cap, but because that is just how sports teams work. It is obviously beneficial for a team to get a superstar at a below market contract (think Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado) in a capped league but it doesn’t always work out that way. Sometimes you have to pay your best player top dollar. It is always worth it.
If there is a team in the NHL this offseason looking at the roster construction of these four teams and thinks it is going to be beneficial to trade a big money, star player for multiple, cheaper assets or play hardball with an RFA over an extra two or three million it is probably going to end very, very badly for them. Because they are either going to make a bad trade for the wrong reasons (quality for quantity) or risk damaging a relationship (or maybe even losing) a core player.
Just because this particular postseason will not have a mega-money player in the Stanley Cup Final does not mean that is always the best way to go about building your team.
Star players still matter a lot, and star players still cost a lot money.