Kukla's Korner Hockey
JJ’s Three Cheers: 11/01/10 - Plus Thoughts on Tampa’s Continued Hot Start and Stamkos Contract Talk
by Jon Jordan on 11/01/10 at 11:21 AM ET
Perhaps you enjoyed a day of rest from NHL hockey yesterday. Or, more likely, you were angered, annoyed or even lost at some point last night, with not a shot on goal to be had anywhere. (Or maybe, even, you were like me: Incensed at an awful showing in your weekly football picks – and I mean awful – and left without the catharsis of switching to a different sport at day’s end, left only to the comfort of Dexter and his serial-killing ways… Whatever the case may be, we (or I, that is) have some catching up to do with JJ’s Three Cheers overdue from Friday and Saturday.
Now then, quickly, from Friday first:
***Cheers to Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien, whose transition back to defense has gone quite well in his new home. On Friday night, Byfuglien netted the O.T. winner in fantastic fashion for Atlanta, on an end-to-end rush reminiscent of legendary offensive defensemen of years gone by, to top Buffalo 4-3. (I’ll link it twice, actually, because you need to make sure you’ve seen this play.)
*And big time cheers to rookie center Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes, who scored twice in the second period, including this breakaway goal that gave the ‘Canes a 3-2 lead, and assisted on Erik Cole’s game-winning power play marker late in the third to lead Carolina to a 4-3 decision over the Rangers in Manhattan.
And on Saturday…
***Cheers to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, who stymied the Maple Leafs in Toronto with 36 saves for his first shutout of the 2010-11 season. The Blueshirts were led offensively by Brian Boyle, who scored on a nifty backhand in the first period, and a Ryan Callahan penalty shot goal en route to the 2-0 victory.
**Cheers to Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, who helped his club bust out offensively, enjoying a three-point performance in a 7-2 win over Calgary. Ovechkin tied the game on the power play in the second period and then put the Capitals ahead to stay just twelve seconds later. Nicklas Backstrom added four points for Washington, including this first period tally with the extra man to get the Caps on the board after a 2-0 early Flames lead.
*And big time cheers to Jay McClement of St. Louis, who provided enough offense for the Blues to earn a point in regulation with his first career hat trick before T.J. Oshie and Brad Boyes posted shootout goals for the 4-3 win over Atlanta. McClement scored once in the first and added a pair in the third period to complete the trick.
Bolts’ Hot Start Continues
I got hung up in Halloween festivities with the little ones yesterday and never did get the chance to post much reaction to Tampa Bay’s impressive 3-0 win in Phoenix on Saturday. As I noted last week, the Lightning have found a different path to victory in each and every win to this point this season and can now add a well-rounded, shutout effort to that list as well.
Any and all forecasting this early in a season has to be met with the old, “It’s still early!” caveat but ten games is a relatively healthy sampling by which to judge the Bolts thus far and, at 7-2-1, there’s plenty of reason to believe that this group has success for the long haul well within their reach.
Remember, too, that Simon Gagne (out with a neck problem currently) has yet to tally a point as a Bolt and that captain Vincent Lecavalier (3-2-5 in nine games) is far from hitting his full stride as well. With balanced scoring throughout the lineup, if one or both of those two players gets going, maybe it isn’t so far-fetched to think Tampa just might be able to keep pace with the high-powered Capitals in the Southeast?
The caption in this morning’s Cross Checks blog by ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reads, in part, “Will Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty become RFAs?”
I can’t speak to Doughty’s case but, regarding Stamkos, in a word (or two): No way.
As LeBrun notes, the Ilya Kovalchuk contract mess probably delayed any initial hard-line conversations for these two and it is expected that talks between Stamkos’ representation and the Lightning will begin in short order.
No matter what, I’ve never been able to envision Stamkos getting to restricted free agency as the danger of a crippling offer sheet would simply be too much for a Lightning team that still has several long-term, high-priced deals and other young players working toward second contracts themselves. In short, the Bolts would be a prime target for a team looking to poach one of the game’s brightest young stars.
Last May, after Nicklas Backstrom inked a 10-year, $67-million dollar deal with Washington, I called that a good comparable for the Lightning to look at for Stamkos, given similar numbers in their first two seasons. But I also warned (in a piece that is still available – for some reason – at my old stomping grounds) that waiting too long might prove costly.
…with 51 goals in his sophomore season, there’s no telling where Stamkos might go from here and the Lightning surely have seen enough from their young superstar to show him Backstrom-like money. If they don’t extend him before or during the 2010-11 season and he so much as matches his offensive production from last year, that three-year, 82-game average swells to 42-37-79.
And what kind of cheddar does 42 goals per season get you?
38 tallies a year earned Sidney Crosby $43.5 million for five years in July of 2007 – an $8.7 million dollar cap hit for Pittsburgh – and Alex Ovechkin’s 13-year, $124 million dollar whopper of a deal came in January of 2008 – denting Washington’s cap number to the tune of $9 million and change – after two-and-a-half seasons at a consistent 50-goal clip.
Significant improvement on the 51 goals he posted last year, which no one can argue is impossible, would elevate Stamkos at least into the Crosby/Ovechkin ballpark, in terms of status as well as salary, the latter something the Bolts should look to avoid with an extension in the Backstrom neighborhood sooner rather than later.
Don’t look now but Stamkos is on an early-season pace for 70-plus. That’s a bit lofty, yes, but… Well…
Time to move.
Still, fear not, Lightning fans, general manager Steve Yzerman immediately recognized Stamkos’ contract situation as a priority upon coming aboard. And, as his team’s early success suggests greater things for the Lightning down the road, Yzerman’s early track record leaves no reason to believe a new deal for the emerging face of the Bolts won’t be taken care of smoothly.
That it will cost quite the chunk of change is far less of a concern than any potential RFA status.
But that won’t happen, rest assured…
Filed in: NHL Teams, Atlanta Thrashers, d, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, St. Louis Blues, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: alex+ovechkin, claude+giroux, dustin+byfuglien, henrik+lundqvist, jay+mcclement, jeff+skinner, steven+stamkos
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