Friday NHL Headlines: A King's Ransom & the Sad Case of Gino Odjick
Hey, everyone. It’s Dan Mount and I’m here with the Friday NHL headlines. Today I’ll talk about the Rangers signing Henrik Lundqvist to an extension and how it will affect the team in the offseason. I’ll also talk about the sad case of Gino Odjick, who was admitted to a mental institution earlier in the week. Plus, I’ll have my look at the best, worst and unusual of the week with my First star, Worst star and Who blew up the Death Star?
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Lundqvist earns a king’s ransom
The New York Rangers avoided a potential offseason disaster when they signed "The King" to a 7-year extension totaling $59.5 million. (The cap hit will be $8.5 million until 2021.) The deal prevents the Swedish netminder from testing the free agent market where he would have drawn interest from plenty of teams, including division rivals the Islanders and the Flyers. (He probably would’ve gotten at least $9 million from the Isles according to some insiders.)
Hank immediately seemed relaxed as he made 27 saves in the Blueshirts 3-1 over the Buffalo Sabres. There had been a minority of Ranger fans that wanted to let Lundqvist go because of the solid play of 26-year old rookie Cam Talbot.
People are already putting the extension under the microscope saying it could become an albatross for the team and that the team is courting mediocrity with this new deal. Some are more positive about the whole thing because Lundqvist has been over the league average in save percentage the last four seasons. (In a world where goalies can lose it their form in a moment’s notice, he’s been a rock.)
The short-term cap projections are going to put the Rangers in a tight squeeze as players like Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi are unrestricted free agents this year and Marc Staal is in 2015. The long-term projections are a lot better because the new Canadian TV contract that will kick in soon. If the cap hits $90 million, then the King will be a bargain.
The Rangers hands were pretty much tied and I feel this is the right move in re-signing him. Sure, he’ll be 39 at the end of the deal, but the team could probably get four very good to great years if his form holds. He’s carried this low-scoring team for a number of years and deserved to get rewarded for his efforts.
Also, he is one of the faces of New York sports. The Yankees Derek Jeter will retire soon and Robinson Cano could leave in free agency. Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks could leave in the summer. Lundqvist is arguably the most known sports figure in the city this side of Eli Manning of David Wright. Hank is one of the most marketable stars in the city and the league.
The sad case of Gino Odjick
The other big news this week was the news of former Canucks enforcer Gino Odjick was admitted to a mental institution in Quebec. It had been reported that he had been suffering from mental health problems since he left the league in 2002 according to a report from The Journal de Montreal.
Odjick made a living as “the bodyguard” of Pavel Bure during the Canucks heyday of the 1990s. (He was even part of the team that got to the Stanley Cup Final in 1994.) Odjick racked over 2,500 penalty minutes in his career. (He racked up a career-high 371 penalty minutes in 1996-97.)
Odjick immediately pointed to his life as an enforcer being the main cause for his mental illness. Getting punched in the head for a living repeatedly doesn’t help you keep your mental clarity. The debate is going rage on for quite a while about whether or not fighting should still be allowed. (I’ve been a supporter of fighting due the fact that it helps protect its stars.)
The NHL is dealing with a recently filed lawsuit from former players due to concussion-related issues. The lawsuit could cost the league a lot of money and a player like Odjick having to be put in a mental hospital doesn’t help the league cause in trying to make this lawsuit go away. I do smell a large Publishers Clearinghouse-sized check coming the way of these players.
The most important thing in all of this is that we hope Odjick does get the help that he’s seeking. The biggest thing is admitting that you have a problem, and he took that very hard first step. Let’s hope he makes a full recovery.
If you’re around a TV this weekend, here’s a few games to watch.
Anaheim at Chicago, 8 p.m. ET, NHLN, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, Comcast Chicago: The Hawks are still the best team in hockey, but take on a tough Ducks team that has a tough back-to-back this weekend.
Pittsburgh at Boston, 7 p.m. ET, NHLN, ROOT Pittsburgh, NESN: Rematch of the Eastern final.
Anaheim at St. Louis, 8 p.m. ET, FS Prime Ticket, Fox Sports Midwest: Part two of the tough Ducks trip. St. Louis has been struggling as of late.
San Jose at Minnesota, 6 p.m. ET, Comcast California, Fox Sports North: The Sharks are keeping pace with Chicago, but the Wild are tough at home.
Washington at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET, Comcast Mid-Atlantic, MSG: These two seem to face each other every year in the playoffs.
It’s that time of the week where we take at the sublime, scummy and the ridiculous with First star, Worst star and Who blew up the Death Star?
Sidney Crosby helps the Pens beat the Islanders with this OT winner.
Montreal’s Max Pacioretty gets his cheap on with this hit on Boston’s Johnny Boychuk.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Is Tom Jones playing Rexall Place? Nope it’s some female fan tossing a bra in honor of Taylor Hall’s hat trick.
That’s it for this week. I’ll see you Monday. Enjoy the weekend.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football columnist for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY