When the NHL announced last fall its seven-year partnership that will see adidas become its official outfitter starting next season, your trusty correspondent asked commissioner Gary Bettman whether the deal would be extended by a year if there were another labor dispute. Bettman responded with a one-word answer.
“Really?” Bettman asked, with a good amount of offense and incredulity. Well, about as much offense and incredulity as someone who has shut down the game three times in the past 20 years could muster.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is already among the best Russian netminders in the world, and it could be just a few short seasons before the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender is the best option in goal for the Russian national team.
And while being a Russian star usually goes hand-in-hand with occasional reports about the consideration of a contract in the KHL, Vasilevskiy has gotten way ahead of those rumors to make sure no one thinks he could be headed back to Russia.
According to KHL reporter Aivis Kalnins, Vasilevskiy, 22, has said he would “much rather sit on a bench in the NHL than play in (the) KHL.” The Lightning puck stopper added that he didn’t care if contract offers were coming his way now or later, he’d be staying put in the NHL. Not that Lightning fans were worried about Vasilevskiy leaving, but it’s always good to get some reassurance from the team’s future starter. Read more
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop’s mask is one of the most unique in the NHL. Using a technology called GLOW Tech FX, Bishop’s mask is as eye-popping as any in the league, lighting up when the arena goes dark and showing off the mask’s design.
Bishop’s mask was designed by DaveArt’s David Gunnarsson, and the idea behind the original mask was to make the design pop like the neon trail left behind by the motorcycle-style vehicles from the Tron series. The original mask design was a hit and looks absolutely awesome, with the designs looking as good in a bright area as it does in the dark.
So with the World Cup of Hockey on the horizon, Bishop and Gunnarsson decided to team up again. And using the idea that if a design isn’t broke, there’s no reason to fix it, Gunnarsson produced a Tron-style Team USA mask for Bishop that makes use of GLOW Tech FX to perfection once again. Check it out: Read more
The number of NHL unrestricted free agent signings slowed to a trickle since the opening-day frenzy on July 1. Over the weekend, defenseman Luke Schenn became the most recent notable player to ink a new contract, reaching an agreement with the Arizona Coyotes on a a two-year, $2.5-million deal.
Several notable players remain available in the UFA market. Among those yet to land new contracts are defensemen Kris Russell, James Wisniewski and Kyle Quincey and forwards Jiri Hudler, Radim Vrbata, Sam Gagner, Brandon Pirri and Matt Cullen.
Sportnet’s Luke Fox recently reviewed the status of the top remaining UFAs. He noted Russell, 29, was linked earlier this month to the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks. However, it’s since been reported the Leafs made no offer to Russell and had no interest in him.
From their days together as roommates at boarding school in Saskatchewan to winning a Memorial Cup together in Rimouski to a Stanley Cup in Tampa and signing contracts later in their careers that didn’t quite work out as well as everyone had hoped, Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier have had almost parallel tracks when it comes to their hockey careers.
So it is only fitting that they would retire from the NHL in the same year and maybe, just maybe, enter the Hall of Fame together in the fall of 2019. The call on both players will be a vexing decision for the Hall of Fame selection committee. To be sure, there are players who are inferior to both Richards and Lecavalier and accomplished less in the NHL than they did who are in, but induction into the Hall seems to be something of a moving target that is unpredictable.
Richards and Lecavalier had very good NHL careers. But were they truly great, Hall of Fame careers? It’s debatable, which makes things really interesting. Let’s take a look at both players:
The Tampa Bay Lightning avoided arbitration with winger Alex Killorn by re-signing him Sunday to a seven-year, $31.25-million contract. The annual cap hit ($4.45 million), however, leaves the Lightning with just over $8.5 million of cap room and restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestinkov and Nikita Nesterov to re-sign.
Kucherov, 23, is completing an entry-level contract with an average annual salary of over $849K. Coming off two straight 60-plus point campaigns and leading the Lightning in scoring during the 2016 playoffs, he could push for a raise of around $6-million per season
The 23-year-old Namestnikov has a player-elected arbitration hearing slated for July 29. The versatile checking center is finishing up a three-year deal worth a base salary of $925K and could seek over $2-million annually.
Like Kucherov, Nesterov is also completing an entry-level contract. His slide down the Lightning’s blueline depth chart last season means there’s less a priority to re-sign him.
New contracts for Kucherov and Namestnikov could use up most, perhaps all, of the Bolts’ cap space for 2016-17. They’ll have no room for Nesterov, let alone for any roster additions. Read more
The Lightning had two salary arbitrations to worry about this off-season, but the biggest of the two is off their plate as Tampa Bay signed restricted free agent Alex Killorn to a seven-year deal Sunday.
Killorn’s new deal will reportedly pay the 26-year-old $4.45 million per season, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, which makes it a sizeable $31.15-million contract over the span of the next seven seasons. If that seems like a lot of money for Killorn, that would be because it’s quite the payday for the winger and a nearly $2 million raise over what he was making this past season.
The two-way element to Killorn’s game makes his signing most attractive, and he’s a consistent 15-goal, 40-point player. Killorn’s post-season performances no doubt also played a part in him earning such a hefty raise. In the past two playoffs, Killorn has notched 14 goals and 31 points in 43 games.
“We’re very comfortable doing a long-term contract at the right cap number with Alex,” Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said, via the Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith. “He’s been with us his entire career. He’s a high-character young man, tremendously fit and part of the core of our team. We’re trying to keep the core together as much as we can.”
However, even if it has become increasingly difficult to question Yzerman over the past year — what with his handling of the Jonathan Drouin situation and his ability to keep Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay on a reasonable eight-year deal — it’s hard not to feel like the Killorn deal could be one that creates some issues for the Lightning going forward, and possibly as soon as this upcoming campaign. Read more
With Ryan Kennedy
Who was your role model growing up?
Nick Lidstrom was a big role model, but I wouldn’t say we play the same game. I like the way Ray Bourque played. I liked guys who skated with the puck, like Paul Coffey.
Why do you wear No. 77?
That was Ray Bourque. I watched a lot of Colorado growing up, with Peter Forsberg. Joe Sakic gave Bourque the Cup right away, and I thought that was pretty neat. I was No. 41 back home, but that was taken by Mike Smith in Tampa, so No. 77 came to mind pretty quickly.