Martin St-Louis announces retirement, Hall of Fame is next

Jared Clinton
Martin St-Louis (Getty Images)

Martin St-Louis has played his final game in the NHL.

The 40-year-old announced Thursday that 2014-15 was his final season in the NHL and, in a release by the New York Rangers, announced that he is retiring from the game. There’s little doubt St-Louis will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he could very well be a first-ballot inductee.

“I have been blessed to play for 16 years in the NHL; it has been an amazing ride,” St. Louis said in statement. “I would like to thank the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers organizations and owners for providing me the opportunity to play the sport I love for so many years. I could have never played for so long or accomplished all that I have without the unwavering love and support from my wife, Heather, our three sons, Ryan, Lucas, and Mason, and my parents.” Read more

CHL Import Draft: who is coming over?

Oliver Kylington (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.

With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.

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2015 Draft Preview – Tampa Bay Lightning apprentice is now the master

Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, the NHL’s reigning GM of the year, was weaned by the Detroit Red Wings as a player and an executive, so it’s no surprise he puts such a strong emphasis on drafting and developing players. And it should come as no surprise he and the Lightning have had such positive results. Yzerman and his hockey department have restocked the Bolts’ system with a bountiful crop of young players. In the 2011 draft alone, the Lightning picked six players, and four of them – Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Nikita Nesterov and Ondrej Palat – have turned out to be bona fide NHL players.

PICKS:
Round 1, pick 28
Round 2, pick 44
Round 3, pick 64
Round 4, picks 118, 120
Round 5, pick 150
Round 6, picks 153, 180
Round 7, pick 208

SHORT-TERM NEEDS:
Injuries tested Tampa’s depth on defense and, after trading Radko Gudas, the Lightning lack a physical and punishing force on the back end.

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What would a Tampa Bay Stanley Cup victory have looked like?

Jared Clinton
Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup championship gear won't be available for sale. (via SportsLogos.net)

The Chicago Blackhawks celebrated their third Stanley Cup in six years on home ice this past Monday, but there were only two losses away from suffering their first final defeat of the current era. Had those two losses come at the hands of the Tampa Bay, it would have been the Lightning, not the Blackhawks, who had a bevy of new merchandise revealed to celebrate a Stanley Cup victory.

Now, thanks to SportsLogos.net’s Chris Creamer, we have a look at what, exactly, that gear would have looked like. While much of it is similar to the Blackhawks championship attire – the color scheme and logo, really, are the only differences on many of the items – one shirt in particular does stand out:

Tampa Gear

That’s right: we were this close to having a shirt that said, “Party in the Bay,” on it. Instead, we got Chicago’s “Windy City Celebration” and “WINdy CITY” merchandise. While both decent, there’s something great about picturing a Floridian Stanley Cup celebration. And maybe, finally, if the Lightning would have won the Cup, they would release the mock-third jersey shirts that has palm trees on it.

There’s more than that, though. There are hats, towels, magnets, flags, can sleeves, license plates and plaques. All of them, made for a Lightning Stanley Cup victory and all of them never to see the light of day on the NHL store.

Because of the time it takes to produce apparel such as this, usually the league has much of what they wish to have ready for the teams premade for the celebration should either team capture the championship.

Lightning has to avoid Stamkos contract from becoming a circus

Ken Campbell
Steven Stamkos Photo by David E. Klutho /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

We’re all about to find out exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning thinks of Steven Stamkos. And we’ll find out very soon. If the Lightning doesn’t have Stamkos signed to a long-term extension by July 1 or shortly after, let the fun begin. If this somehow drags into next season, it will become the Mike Babcock Saga all over again.

Teams typically like to have their superstars signed to extensions long before it becomes an issue. That’s what the Pittsburgh Penguins have done with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and the Chicago Blackhawks with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. When Crosby signed his extension in 2012 and Malkin a year later, the deals were announced before July 1. Toews and Kane’s deals were announced July 9.

Right now everyone is saying the right things in Tampa. GM Steve Yzerman has said getting Stamkos signed to an extension is his No. 1 priority. For his part, Stamkos has said he wants nothing more than to stay in Tampa and win a championship with this group.

But let’s not forget, there was a time when the thought of Martin St-Louis not retiring in a Lightning uniform was a preposterous one. But the Lightning For Life was miffed about being passed over for the Olympic team by his own GM and forced his way out of town. The point is, it doesn’t take much and it doesn’t take long for these situations to go south.

Whatever happens, the Lightning is going to have to decide whether or not Stamkos will continue to be the face of the organization and the cornerstone of the foundation. If so, the team is going to have to offer him, at the very least, the eight-year, $84 million pacts the Blackhawks offered to Kane and Toews. Keeping in mind that the two of them would have received even more had they decided to split up and put themselves on the open market, it might even be more.

For the record, there have been no discussions between the Lightning and Stamkos on a contract extension yet. But that’s understandable, since the Lightning just finished its season. But the sooner this gets resolved, the better for everyone involved. If the Lightning truly wants Stamkos, get it done right away.

Of course, we wouldn’t be speculating about all of this if Stamkos had (a) not been the subject of an ice time issue, and/or (b) he had produced some goals with the ice time he had been given. Stamkos played just 17:17 in Game 1 despite being the best player on the ice, which was sixth among Tampa’s forwards for that game. By Games 4, 5 and 6, he was getting more ice time than any other Tampa forward, but there was still some concern around his deployment late in games. (By the way, there was nothing wrong with Cooper having Stamkos serve a bench penalty in Game 1. Stamkos doesn’t kill penalties and it makes sense to have your best non-penalty-killing forward in the box in the event you can spring him for a breakaway. Teams do it all the time.)

But we are. Both Cooper and Stamkos insist it was not an issue between them, but superstars want to be on the ice when the game is on the line. Coaches, on the other hand, feel compelled to put out the players out who give his team the best chance of winning. And any way you cut it, Cooper thought there were five players who gave his team a better chance of winning that game than Stamkos did in Game 1. In that game, Stamkos got 14:43 of even-strength ice time, just over a minute more than J.T. Brown. Stamkos’ linemate Alex Killorn got 17:09, while Tyler Johnson got 16:00, Ondrej Palat 16:30, Nikita Kucherov 16:12 and Valtteri Filppula 15:28.

It’s natural that Cooper might gravitate to the players he developed in the minors and have a level of trust with them. We get that. And with some of those same players – Palat and Johnson, along with Victor Hedman and Jonathan Drouin – coming up for contract renewals in two years, the Lightning will have to find cap room for them all. And that doesn’t even include Killorn, Brown, Kucherov and Cedric Paquette, whose contracts are up next summer.

Perhaps Cooper may think he’s a good enough coach to win in Tampa without one of the most dynamic scorers in the NHL. And if that’s the case, he might be right. And two years from now, with Hedman on the horizon, which player does the Lightning see as its franchise cornerstone. The way he played in the Stanley Cup final, it certainly wouldn’t be outlandish to suggest that player may very well be Hedman, and not Stamkos.

So many questions, so little time to resolve them. One thing is certain, the quicker the Lightning deals with Stamkos one way or the other, the more likely it will be to avoid a circus.

Lightning’s Bishop tore groin in Stanley Cup final, Johnson played with broken wrist

Jared Clinton
Ben Bishop (Bill Smith/Getty Images)

With the Stanley Cup final over and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated, there was no point in goaltender Ben Bishop continuing to keep whatever injury was ailing him shrouded in secret. Following Game 6 of the final, Bishop told media that he suffered a torn groin in Game 2, an injury that forced him to miss the final moments of that game and miss Game 4 altogether.

Throughout the series, the running storyline had been surrounding Bishop’s injury and the questions regarding whether he would or would not be starting come game time. In Game 3, he was questionable, but got the nod from coach Jon Cooper. And though he didn’t start Game 4, he was back between the pipes for crucial Games 5 and 6.

“I couldn’t move,” Bishop told the Tampa Bay Tribune following Game 6. “It was one of those things where if I went out there, I could have torn it completely and I would have been done for the series.” Read more

Duncan Keith: Today the Conn Smythe, tomorrow Hall of Fame

Duncan Keith  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – No matter who won the Stanley Cup this season, a defenseman was destined to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. It really was a matter of deciding between Duncan Keith and Victor Hedman. One of them got his day. The other will have his in the future.

That Keith deserved the playoff MVP award was beyond dispute. At least that’s the way the 18 members of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association saw it. Keith received 18 first-place votes to win the award in a landslide.

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No doubt about it: Blackhawks are a modern-day dynasty

Hawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will celebrate their Cup win one more time on Oct. 7. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – The first thing that struck Chicago Blackhawks president John McDonough when he looked out at the mass of humanity on the United Center ice was how many players were cradling their little ones and putting them in the Stanley Cup for pictures.

“Most of our guys when I started here were single,” McDonough said. “Now there are babies all over the place.”

That’s what happens when you have a dynasty. Read more