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NHL was Right to Reject Kovalchuk’s Deal with the Devils

The NHL announced Wednesday that Ilya Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils circumvents the salary cap and therefore will not be allowed.  The contract would pay Kovalchuk $98.5 million throughout its first 11 years and only $550,000 per year each year after that.  Anyone see how that could present a problem?

If Kovalchuk and the Devils really believed that he would play out the last five years of his contract, there’s no way he’d take a pay cut like that.  It’s all about the money.  You make as much as you can for as long as you can.  If he really believed he would still be playing at age 44, he wouldn’t settle for $550,000 a year.  The NHL is right to call shenanigans on this one.  We all know they’ve messed up in the past.  I love Marian Hossa, but do you really think he’s going to play out the length of his contract?  I doubt it.

It’s about time the NHL made it a point to shoot down one of these ridiculous deals.  What’s the point of having a salary cap if they aren’t going to enforce it? The Devils could say the reason Kovalchuk’s contract is so front-loaded is that he’s bound to be more effective in the early years, when he’s making $11.5 million per season. If that’s the case, why bother signing him to such a lengthy deal?  I understand wanting to hold on to your best player for as long as you can, but the Devils need to adhere to the rules of the cap.  They’re in place for a reason.

Sources:
NHL Rejects Kovalchuck Deal [ESPN New York]

Riley Sheahan Can Handle a Puck

On a day when Carlos Zambrano had a classic meltdown and Edwin Jackson threw a no-hitter, it was easy to overlook that the first round of the NHL Draft took place. The draft was significant for U.S. hockey because a record 11 Americans were selected in the first round. The Tyler/Taylor debate was settled when the Oilers chose Taylor Hall first and the Bruins went with Tyler Seguin second. Despite the record 11 Americans being selected in the first round, both Hall and Seguin are Canadian. Same thing goes for Red Wings first round pick, Riley Sheahan, who played collegiately for Notre Dame. As LBS contributor SpinMax emails in, Sheahan is quite skilled as a puck handler. Check out this sweet video of Riley Sheahan handling a puck at his finest:

If that video hasn’t already gained some attention around Detroit I’m sure it will before very long. While Sheahan’s numbers at Notre Dame don’t jump off the page (17 points in 37 games), the style they played was defensive and Sheahan was extremely young most of the year. As you can see why, there’s going to be a lot of excitement over this pick in Hockeytown, USA.

Blackhawks Fans Need to Have Faith in Trades, Management

Fans of the Chicago Blackhawks are still celebrating. Even though three weeks have passed since they won the Stanley Cup, fans still sport their championship tees and hats with pride. (I know I do.) But fans in Blackhawks nation were shocked on Wednesday to hear that Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager and a prospect were traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for two 2010 draft picks and three players. On top of that, Colin Fraser was traded Thursday morning to the Edmonton Oilers for a 6th round 2010 draft pick.

The thing that upset people the most was that beloved Byfuglien would no longer be sporting the Indian head sweater. It was disappointing to see a player who is so talented on both sides of the puck leave Chicago. Big Buff has proved that he not only is a force on defense but that he is a heck of an offensive player too. He was a major factor in the Blackhawks championship run, whether it be his hat trick performance in Vancouver or the three game-winning goals he had against San Jose.

It’s hard news to swallow yes, but should we cry? No. The Blackhawks are running a very smart system; the front office turned the franchise around from having one of the worst records in the league to winning the Stanley Cup. The reality is that when it comes to cap space, some players have to go. I would have rather seen someone like Kris Versteeg, who has a relatively pricey salary, go but hey, that’s why I’m not the Blackhawks GM.

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Jonathan Toews: Blackhawks Want Another Cup

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has enjoyed an amazing year to say the least. He won a gold medal in Vancouver with the Canadian hockey team, the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoffs MVP, and oh yeah, he brought the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time in 49 years.  And things haven’t stopped there. Despite playing the sidekick to Miley Cyrus at the 2010 MuchMusic Awards, Toews still has a reason to smile — he’ll be the cover boy of NHL ’11. (Two Blackhawks in a row, Patrick Kane graced this year’s cover.)

Regardless of all the accomplishments this year, Toews is still not satisfied. In one of the captain’s rare radio appearances, he told Waddle & Silvy on ESPN 1000 that he has no interest in handing over the Cup next year:

“We may not have said that publicly, but amongst each other in the euphoria of winning and celebrating with fans around us, jokingly and seriously we’ve said let’s do this again, and we mean it. The feeling is incredible, but we realize once the puck drops next year it’s back to business, and you have to find a new champion. We don’t want it to be a new champion. We want it to be us again.”

It’s hard for me to refrain from saying “Hell yeah!”…so I won’t. Hell yeah! Of course any team that wins a championship doesn’t want to lose it the next year — that’s just common sense. What I am excited about is that the Blackhawks, amongst their celebrating, are serious about next season. It’s not an easy task to repeat a championship and I’m glad the boys are already getting down to business. After all, their season starts on Oct. 7th in Colorado and that’s only less than four months away. Opposing teams are never easy on the defending champs but something tells me the ‘Hawks can do it again.

Sources:
Blackhawks’ Toews: Let’s Do it Again [ESPN Chicago]
Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Patrick Kane Sets Great Example for the Youth of Chicago

After scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 that gave the Blackhawks the Stanley Cup, Patrick Kane was told to be on his best behavior at the team’s parade. His response typified his brash, 21-year-old attitude, “not a chance, not a chance!” Two days later the parade celebrating the Stanley Cup win took place in Chicago and Kane was true to form. He spent parts of the parade downing beers, doing booty dances, and slurring his speech like a drunk at a bar. Here’s the Patrick Kane parade celebration video courtesy of NBC Sports via Deadspin:

Hey, if there’s ever a time for players and teams to celebrate with their fans it’s after they’ve won it all; there should be a great reward for working your butt off. Still, there’s a way to keep things tasteful while you’re celebrating, and dropping f-bombs like Chase Utley and getting hammered like Kaner isn’t the best example of that. Suddenly the whole cab driver incident seems a whole lot more believable too.

Sources:
You Stay Classy, Kaner! Right Winger Celebrates at Hawks Parade [NBC Chicago]
Patrick Kane: A Portrait In Inebriation [Deadspin]

Adam Burish Calls Pronger an ‘Idiot’

You just won the Stanley Cup on your opponent’s home ice. You: A) Celebrate the accomplishment with your teammates, B) Respectfully congratulate your opponents on a hard fought series, C) Thank your hometown fans for their unconditional love, or D) Pull an Adam Burish and take a cheap shot at Chris Pronger by calling him the “biggest idiot in the league.” Let’s go to the videotape of Adam Burish calling Chris Pronger the “biggest idiot in the league.”

This is a classless, unnecessary move by the Blackhawks winger, who hardly had nearly the impact on the series that Pronger did. For a player who spent the majority of the season inactive due to injury, these are some pretty bold words. Burish and the Blackhawks have every right to be upset with how Pronger carries himself on the ice — the guy is a choppy pest — but sometimes you just have to let it go, take the high road, and not throw a cheap shot at an opponent at the expense of your own dignity. Even with the NHL offseason upon us, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pronger keeps this one in mind the next time he skates past Burish on the ice.

Sources:
Video – Adam Burish: “Chris Pronger is the biggest idiot in the league.” [ProHockeyTalk]

Blackhawks Unite Chicago in Celebration

The Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years on Wednesday night at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia. From the start of these Stanley Cup playoffs (granted I’m no Barry Melrose who called it at the beginning of the season), I said that the Blackhawks would reign victorious — and they did. There was no looting last night (Yup, I’m looking at you Montreal), but there were tears shed by Jeremy Roenick and there was a whole lot of cheering in the streets of Chicago.

The last time Chicago had a reason to celebrate was when the White Sox won the World Series in 2005, but only half the baseball fans in the city were happy. Last night however was different; hockey truly unified the city. There was no gloating by Sox fans nor any jealousy by Cubs fans — it was just one huge crowd of happy hockey fans who couldn’t believe what had just happened. No one cared about bandwaggoners or hugging complete strangers. All in all it was a beautiful site.

This team has given Chicago a ray of hope in an otherwise disappointing sports season. There’s nothing to cheer about on either side of town baseball-wise, the Chicago Bears were a bust, and the Bulls …well you all know my feelings about that. I’m glad I don’t have to give a broadcast today because quite honestly I barely have a voice. There was nothing better than watching this team win last night even though there was some confusion over Patrick Kane’s overtime goal.

The Blackhawks’ slogan has been “One Goal” for quite a while. Who would have known that would be all it took to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup? Just one goal and it was all over for the Philadelphia Flyers. Just one goal and a team whose captain, Jonathan Toews, can barely get into a bar would win MVP and make the fans of the Indian head proud. Just one goal and a city became one. So I say thank you Chicago Blackhawks for an amazing season and for bringing hockey back to Chicago. Thank you for giving us a reason to smile and even cry like JR (I cried last night too, don’t feel so badly).