Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 08/05/11 at 03:58 AM ET
Alanah’s been carrying the franchise while the Nicklas Lidstrom of blogging’s taken the rarest of rare vacations, but it’s time for the typing monkey to take over, and I’m going to do so via takes on several stories which piqued my interest which aren’t necessarily “breaking,” but yielded a non-Wings-related eyebrow-raising nonetheless (and I can totally do the Magnum P.I. double wow brow).
Hockey players don’t receive endorsement contracts at levels of compensation comparable to their other “four-sport” peers unless they’re either in grade A markets (see: Toronto, Detroit, Montreal, New York, Philly, etc.) or they’re truly exceptional players, and if you were aware of the fact that Alex Ovechkin’s use of NikeBauer and then Bauer sticks while under contract as CCM’s literal poster boy all but constituted a little hockey blasphemy, you’ll know that there’s more than Ovechkin’s disembodied head commercials at stake now that, as Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien noted, Ovechkin’s officially broken his contract with CCM.
The Washington Post’s Tarik El-Brashir first reported that Ovechkin was leaving Reebok-CCM for another brand:
When Alex Ovechkin attempts to bounce back from the worst goal-scoring season of his NHL career, he’ll be doing it wearing a different brand of skates and wielding another company’s stick.
IMG’s David Abrutyn today confirmed reports that Ovechkin has decided to make a change and won’t be renewing his endorsement deal with equipment manufacturer CCM, which expires at the end of the month. Ovechkin won’t be sporting Reebok ZigTech sneakers anymore, either.
“I can confirm that Alex has decided that he is going to go in another direction,” Abrutyn told me in a phone interview. “Obviously, [equipment] is an important part of what a hockey player does on a day-in and day-out basis, and he felt he wanted to go in a different direction.”
It’s been well documented over the years that Ovechkin wasn’t always happy with the sticks CCM has provided for his use. During my time covering the Caps, I recall him occasionally experimenting with sticks from other manufacturers, and sometimes attempting to hide the fact by spray painting over the logo. I am told, though, that he used CCM sticks exclusively from the end of the 2009-10 season through the end of last season.
Abrutyn declined to say which companies Ovechkin is considering for his next endorsement deal. But, outside of CCM and its chief rivals, Bauer and Easton, there aren’t too many options when it comes to high-end hockey equipment.
I imagine we’ll hear something prior to the start of training camp and I bet it will be worth a lot of coin.
Bauer and Easton may be the favorites at this point, but Warrior Hockey’s been doing its best to very aggressively add marquee players to their lineup, and I’d imagine that Warrior’s attempts to market itself as a somewhat edgy and unconventional brand would be aided significantly by bringing Ovechkin into the mix (the fact that they’re already making and marketing “KGB” pattern sticks should tell you that they’re interested). In any case, Ovechkin’s going to make a significant amount of money while having his notoriously finicky demands met by an equipment-maker that wants to claim it’s the foundation upon which Ovechkin’s offensive resurgence was built.
If there’s another free agent of sorts whose “on the market” status in terms of both his representation’s lack of contract negotiations with his rights-holding team and the complete and total absence of so much as a whisper that he might be worth a restricted free agent offer sheet’s worth of bucks and picks should yield at least a Spock’s worth of raised eyebrow, it’s restricted free agent forward Brad Marchand, not Drew Doughty, who should be commanding your attention.
Given that B’s owner Jeremy Jacobs is the chairman of the NHL’s Board of Governors, there’s no way in hell that any GM worth is salt would dare piss off one of Gary Bettman’s best pals, but I’ve got to wonder whether Marchand would have been at least on opposing teams’ radar screens if he wasn’t a Bruin.
The Sporting News’s Craig Custance reports that the lack of negotiations between Marchand and the Bruins’ management aren’t anything to be concerned about:
Marchand is a restricted free agent coming off a rookie season in which he scored 21 goals. He was also a catalyst in the Bruins playoff run, registering 19 points in 25 playoff games during his first trip to the NHL postseason. He told CTV that he expects negotiations between his agent and the Bruins to pick up as training camp closes in.
“Right now, we’re just kind of getting into things,” he said. “It’s been a long summer and people have been on vacation and enjoying the Cup so we’re going to start getting into it pretty heavily here.”
In an email to Sporting News, his agent Wade Arnott confirmed talks with Boston.
“Discussions with the Bruins are ongoing but nothing is imminent,” wrote Arnott, of Newport Sports Management. “We continue to work towards a resolution.”
The Bruins have plenty of room to sign their 23-year-old forward, according to CapGeek.com, with over $7 million in cap space. Unlike the Blackhawks last summer, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli had the flexibility to bring back nearly every one of the serious contributors to the Bruins title. It’s one of the reasons he hopes the Bruins can overcome the annual Stanley Cup hangover.
“I have to be careful to temper my expectations because we’re coming off a Stanley Cup,” he told Sporting News in June. “Having said that, there’s a lot of character on this team and you have to be careful not to mess with chemistry.”
And I might be the only Wings blogger who doesn’t have a man crush on Shea Weber, so you can put me in the same boat as USA Today’s Kevin Allen when it comes to attempting to discern the implications of Shea Weber’s $7.5 million, one-year arbitration award without assuming that the contract means Weber’s days in Nashville are numbered:
Did the arbitration process and the large award fracture the relationship between Weber and the Predators?
No. General manager David Poile called and congratulated Weber on his award, and essentially said Weber deserved that salary. The fact that Weber was on a media conference call with Poile suggests that he still respects the organization and Poile.
Is there is still a chance that Weber could re-sign long-term with Nashville?
Yes, although it’s difficult to know what the chances are. Weber seems sincere about wanting to stay in Nashville. It won’t be all about the money. The best guess is he wants assurances that the team will continue to add pieces necessary to win a Stanley Cup. The team needs offensive help, and he is within his right as a superstar to ask owners whether they will lay out the money necessary to acquire that. The Predators haven’t done much this summer.
It won’t be an easy decision. Undoubtedly, Weber knows that if he could get to unrestricted free agency, he might have more suitors than Brad Richards had this summer. Poile has done a good job of transforming this team into a Stanley Cup contender on a budget, but will they be able to re-sign defenseman Ryan Suter when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer? If they give Weber a deal worth more than $7 million a season, they will have to put Suter in that neighborhood. Goalie Pekka Rinne also will be unrestricted next summer. To keep those three core players, it might cost the Predators 40% of their payroll.
Weber will be a restricted free agent against next summer because he doesn’t turn 27 until after June 30 and he won’t have seven accrued seasons because he played fewer than 40 games as a rookie. Nashville, though, has no arbitration rights on Weber next summer, and some team could give him a front-loaded offer sheet that the low-payroll Predators would have difficulty matching.
If the Predators conclude that they can’t re-sign Weber, what’s next?
A trade. They can’t afford to lose Weber for nothing to unrestricted free agency in 2013 or risk the possibility of an offer sheet. If a trade were to happen, the logical time would be at next year’s draft. The Predators would receive a whopping return for Weber, but trading him is certainly not their desire.
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