As usual, the NHL's big stories this week came off the ice -- the league's first $100 million player, several others locked up to long-term eight-figure deals. Makes you wonder about the real reason behind the season-long lockout a couple of years back, when so many of the guys signing the checks cried poor.
But for those more inclined to pay attention to the actual games, this weekend's busy schedule offers the Red Wings in a visit to Ottawa, which should be a preview of this year's Stanley Cup Finals. At least that's our view. Here are a few others.
|Alex Ovechkin might soon regret his contract if the Caps don't improve. (Getty Images)|
Views: Deals that run longer than a decade are no longer a novelty in hockey, but when they start running into nine figures, that's something that makes people sit up and take notice. You can give Ovechkin credit for wrangling that kind of loot out of the Washington Capitals without the help of an agent, but you have to wonder if all that money will really buy the 22-year-old happiness. The guy is locked up for life with the Caps, and the dough is obviously nice, but Washington doesn't win, it doesn't draw and even with the great things he does on the ice, it isn't yet a playoff team.
Maybe the Capitals will improve over the next few seasons, maybe not, but Ovechkin, who says he isn't in it for the money, is going to be there for the long haul. And no matter how much he insists he likes being in Washington, if the team keeps losing, chances are the city will wear on him well before he hits 30. That isn't a pleasant thought for owner Ted Leonsis, who got burned in the past by giving a mega deal to Jaromir Jagr and watching that superstar under perform as he lost interest.
You can't necessarily blame Leonsis for taking a chance to secure a valuable asset. Ovechkin is the kind of super talent who will always get his money from someone. And in another four seasons, he would be eligible for unrestricted free agency. So locking him up makes sense from that perspective. But for Ovechkin, it might have been better to sign a shorter deal for much the same annual value, giving himself more options down the road.
News: Bobby Clarke defends sucker punch by Flyers rookie Steve Downie.
Views: Should anyone be surprised this came from the guy who captained the Broad Street Bullies? This might be the new NHL, but anachronistic views are still pervasive throughout the league and they're epitomized by throwbacks, or as some might say dinosaurs like Philadelphia senior VP Clarke.
Quite honestly, that's not even the issue here. The league tacitly approved of Downie's cheap shot on Jason Blake by not suspending him, but Flyers GM Paul Holmgren subsequently gave his player an earful about respect and professionalism. That's the message that should be given to a player, especially one who was already suspended for 20 games this season for another cheap shot, but it gets undercut when someone like Clarke decides he likes to hear the sound of his own voice.
News: Tension building in Minnesota between Jacques Lemaire and Marian Gaborik.
Views: Lemaire is arguably the best coach in hockey and someone who has won it all from behind the bench and on the ice. Gaborik is his best player, but that doesn't mean Lemaire has to coddle him and he doesn't. Lemaire has been complaining about Gaborik's work ethic lately and has been scaling back the player's ice time as a result, which is not going over all that well with the Slovakian sniper.
It's really the only weapon a coach has these days. When Lemaire was starring on Montreal's Stanley Cup winners in the '60s and '70s, the league was smaller, players earned less and the potential for a demotion to the minors or a trade kept them in line. With the kind of rich guaranteed contracts players have these days and the salary cap, that heavy hammer is gone, so coaches have to resort to other motivating tactics. It's not a bad thing.
News: Teemu Selanne is skating again in Anaheim.