Hall of Fame candidate Jarome Iginla hangs up his NHL skates

Perhaps one of the least known facts about Jarome Iginla is that his full name is Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla. But one of the best known facts about him is that he was one of the most talented and toughest forwards the NHL has ever seen. The 41-year-old native of Edmonton, Alberta has decided to say goodbye to the league though as he announced his retirement on July 30th. Iginla definitely left his mark over the past 20 seasons, especially in Calgary, where he played 16 of them.
Iginla’s name can be found at the top of the leader board in just about every category for the Canadian franchise as he’s the all-time leader in games played at 1,219, goals with 525 and points at 1,095. He’s also number one with 161 power play markers and 83 game-winners. The only major area he doesn’t rank number one is in assists with 570 as he ends his career with 39 fewer than leader Al MacInnis. The 6-foot-1-inch right-winger also added 28 goals and 21 assists for 49 points in 54 playoff games for the Flames.
Let’s not forget Iginla also suited up for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings during the final four years of his career. When his totals with those clubs are added, Iginla walks away with 625 goals and 675 assists for 1,300 points in 1,554 regular-season games with 37 goals and 31 assists for 68 points in 81 playoff contests. He wasn’t one to shy away from the rough stuff either and ended up serving 1,040 minutes in penalties in the regular season and another 98 in the postseason. He ranks 13th all time in games played and is tied with Joe Sakic at number 15 in goals scored.
Iginla was originally drafted from the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL by the Dallas Stars back in 1995 with the 11th pick overall. However, he was traded to Calgary along with Corey Millen for Flames’ star Joe Nieuwendyk just a few months later. While in Kamloops as a junior, Iginla racked up 102 goals and  134 assists for 236 points in 183 games, won two Memorial Cups and was named the league’s player of the year in 1996. During his NHL career Iginla made the All-Rookie Team, three First All-Star Teams a Second All Star Team and played in six All-Star Games. He also won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice for leading the NHL in goals and the Art Ross Trophy once as the top point-getter. .
In addition, he took home the Ted Lindsay Award in 2002 as the league’s most outstanding player after a season of 52 goals and 44 assists as well as the 2004 NHL Foundation Player Award and King Clancy Award for community leadership and the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2009. One thing that eluded him though was the Stanley Cup. He did lead the Flames to the Final in 2003/04 as club captain, but they were eventually upended in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Iginla left Calgary in March of 2013 when he was dealt to Pittsburgh for the rest of the season. He then signed as a free agent with Boston for a year, Colorado for two years and was traded to Los Angeles in March, 2017.
Iginla also represented Canada at numerous international tournaments. He led the World Junior Championships in scoring with five goals and seven assists in 1996, won a gold medal, was named to the All-Star Team and also named the top forward of the tournament. He won a gold medal just a year later at the age of 19 when playing for Canada’s senior squad at the World Championships and added two goals and three helpers. He scored twice in the final game of the 2002 Olympics to lead Canada to a gold medal and also became the first African/American to capture a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
He played for Canada in the World Cup of Hockey in 2004 and won a gold and then played at both the the 2006  and 2010 Olympics. He led the 2010 Games with five goals and helped his homeland win another gold medal. Iginla was a perfect example of a power forward and similar to Gordie Howe in many ways as he could skate, score, setup teammates and easily take care of himself when the going got rough. And like Howe, fans should see Iginla in the Hockey Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible. 

Jaromir Jagr’s NHL days likely over

It looks like Jaromir Jagr’s amazing NHL career has quietly come to a dead end as the 46-year-old forward currently recovers from a serious knee injury. Jagr became an unrestricted free agent on July 1stafter spending the 2017/18 campaign with the Calgary Flames. He managed just one goal and six assists in 22 outings with his last game coming on New Year’s Eve. Just four weeks later he was placed on the club’s injured reserved list and placed on waivers. There were no takers and Jagr ended up back at home in the Czech Republic with Ryitiri Kladno, a franchise which he just happens to be the majority owner of. 
Jagr told the media back in April that he hoped to play in the NHL for a 25th season in 2018/19, but it now appears those hopes are a longshot. He recently stated that his main concern right now is getting 100 per cent healthy and he aims at doing that by working out and playing with Kladno. If Jagr’s NHL career is over, the league will be losing it’s second-highest scorer in history as he currently has 766 goals and 1,155 assists for 1,921 points in 1,733 regular season games. The only players to score more goals were Wayne Gretzky with 894 and Gordie Howe at 801 while Gretzky’s 2,857 points are the most ever accumulated.

In addition, Jagr’s number of games played are third all-time behind Mark Messier’s 1,756 and Howe’s record of 1,767. Jagr holds the mark for the most game-winning goals in history though with 135  and he hoisted the Stanley Cup twice with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1990/91 and 1991/92 seasons. Individually, he took home the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in 1999, led the league in scoring five times and won the Masterton Trophy in 2016 for his perseverance and dedication to hockey.

Jagr, who broke into the NHL in 1990/91, said he’s obviously not the same player he was even 10 years ago, but still feels he can play at a high level this season. His recent practice was the first time he’s been on the ice in the past six months and he admitted he still has a long way to go. Jagr said his knee didn’t bother him, but his muscles and thighs felt weak. He attributes this to his advanced age, but believes he’ll eventually get stronger and in top shape with each passing day. Time may not be on the future Hall of Famer’s side though as Kladno’s campaign faces off on September 8th and the 10-game preseason beginning on July 31st

Jagr signed a one-year deal for a million dollars with Calgary last season and it’s still possible he gets a similar type of offer from an NHL club for 2018/19. However, it likely wouldn’t come until September or October if and when he gets himself into playing shape with kladno. Jagr admits he didn’t play well with the Flames last year, but still believes he can play until he’s 50 years old and would definitely prefer to finish his career somewhere in the NHL.

Ilya Kovalchuk’s return to NHL overshadowed by John Tavares’ Maple Leafs move

Most of the talk in the NHL offseason has centred around free agent John Tavares’ decision to leave the New York Islanders and sign a long-term deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, there was also another significant signing as Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk headed back to the NHL after playing in his homeland in the KHL for the past five years. The star left-winger, who’s now 35 years old and was drafted first overall by the Atlanta Thrashers, was inked to a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings for $18.75 million.

Kovalchuk started his career in Russia then skated for eight seasons with Atlanta before signing as a free agent with the New Jersey Devils where he spent another four NHL campaigns. Kovalchuk agreed to a 17-year, $102 million contract with the Islanders, but departed for SKA St. Petersburg in 2013 after posting 417 goals and 399 assists for 816 points in 816 regular-season NHL contests. He also added 11 goals and 16 assists in 32 playoff games. While playing in the KHL, he scored 138 goals and 189 assists for 327 points in 298 games with 43 points in 63 playoff outings and helped his team win a pair of championships.

Kovalchuk remained visible to NHL fans over the past five years as he continued to play internationally in the World Championships and Olympic Games, being named MVP of the 2018 Games and winning a gold medal. He was still considered a highly-skilled forward who could produce at a point-per game pace and led the KHL scoring parade last season. He also publicly stated that he was interested in returning to the NHL before he retired. There was a lot of interest in Kovalchuk’s services, but he decided the Kings suited him best.

Kovalchuk recently told the media he believes he has another three or four top-level seasons left in him and wanted to join a team that is ready to challenge for the Stanley Cup now rather than a few years down the road. He said the Kings fit the bill perfectly as the club has one of the best goaltenders and defence in the NHL as well as a top centre to play with in Anze Kopitar. Of course, he’ll also be suiting up with top goaltender Jonathan Quick and defenceman Drew Doughty. Kopitar enjoyed a career year of 92 points this season while Doughty broke the 60-point barrier. In addition, veteran forward Dustin Brown scored 61 points and Jeff Carter notched 22 points in 27 games.

According to Kovalchuk, the veterans on the Kings’ roster all have their names on the Stanley Cup and will help him remain productive on the ice. Los Angeles head coach John Stevens is obviously glad to be adding Kovalchuk’s offence to his lineup and believes he’ll also make a difference on their power play due to his lethal shot and passing skills. Kovalchuk shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2003/04 as the NHL’s top goal scorer with 41 goals, but he actually bettered that total on four occasions with seasons of 52, 42, 52 and 43 goals from 2005 to 2009. He also posted 98 points in 78 games in 2005/06 and 91 points in 79 outings in 2008/09. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how his production compares to that of Tavares over the next three seasons. 

2018 Hockey Hall of Fame nominees a mixed bag

With all the excitement of NHL free agency and the recent spate of trades, many fans may have missed the announcement of this year’s Hockey Hall of Fame inductees. For those of you who may not be quite up to date, let’s recap the nominees who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming November.

Goaltender Martin Brodeur of Montreal, Quebec definitely isn’t a surprise inductee as he’s the all-time leader in regular-season wins with 691 and shutouts at 125. He’s one of just 15 netminders who managed to record at least a dozen shutouts during a season and posted a 2.24 career goals-against average along with a save percentage of 91.9. Brodeur won three Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils while winning 113 postseason games and posting a 90.9 save percentage in the playoffs. He won the Jennings Trophy five times for the league’s lowest goals-against average and took the Vezina Trophy home four times for being the NHL’s best goalie. Brodeur was nominated to seven All-Star Teams overall, was one of just seven goalies to be named rookie of the year since 1967 and added two Olympic gold medals to his collection of awards.

Right-winger Martin St. Louis of Laval, Quebec was deemed by many experts to be too small for the NHL and was never drafted. But he proved the naysayers wrong by scoring 391 goals and 642 assists for 1,033 points in his 1,134 regular-season contests for the Calgary Flames, Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers. St. Louis took home the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP in 2004 as well as the Ted Lindsay Award as the best player in the NHL voted on by his peers. He led the league in scoring twice and helped Tampa win the Stanley Cup in 2004. St. Louis scored a minimum of 25 goals in 10 different seasons and took the Lady Byng Trophy home on three occasions as the league’s most sportsmanlike player. The five-time NHL All Star also helped Canada win the 2014 Olympics and the 2004 World Championships. St. Louis added another 42 goals and 48 assists for 90 points in 107 playoff games.
Eighty-two-year-old Willie O’Ree of Fredericton, New Brunswick was inducted as a builder and was the first African-American player in the NHL. He made his debut in January of 1958 for the Boston Bruins and would end up playing just 45 NHL contests. However, after breaking the colour barrier O’Ree also went on to play in over 1,000 games in the minor leagues even though he was legally blind in his right eye. He won the 2003 Lester Patrick Trophy for helping develop the sport of hockey across America and in 2008 was named to the Order of Canada. O’Ree led the Western Hockey League in scoring twice and posted over 800 points during his pro career.

Alexander Yakushev of Moscow, Russia was one of the best left-wingers in the world during his career and proved it while playing against Canada in the 1972 Summit Series. Yakushev starred for the Soviet Union and led the team in scoring during the eight-game event with 11 points from seven goals and four assists. He played with Moscow Spartak during the 1960s and 70s and once notched 50 goals during a 44-game season. He won a pair of Olympic gold medals as well as seven more golds at the World Championships. After hanging up his skates, Yakushev coached the Soviet national squad and Moscow Spartak and also worked as a referee. 

Trenton Ontario’s Jayna Hefford was a right-winger who began playing hockey at the age of six years old and set several scoring records while playing minor hockey in Kingston, Ontario. Hefford later starred for the women’s team at the University of Toronto before playing in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League where she became the first player to score 100 points in the league. She also won seven gold medals in various international tournaments while suiting up for Canada along with four Olympic gold medals. Hefford scored the gold-medal winner at the 2002 Olympics and racked up a dozen points in five outings at the 2010 Games. The CWHL trophy for the league’s most outstanding player is named after Hefford.
Current NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman of Queens, New York will be inducted as a builder. The 66-year-old has been running the league since 1993 and has added 10 expansion franchises since then. Under his watch, the NHL now generates over $3 billion U.S in revenue per year. Bettman has also helped build the NHL brand across the world by signing numerous television broadcasting contracts across Europe and other parts of the world. He’s also organized regular-season and preseason contests across the globe and came up with an assistance plan to help out franchises that were struggling to survive. Bettman is the longest-serving commissioner in professional sports and has led the NHL to its most lucrative period in history. 

John Tavares to Toronto Maple Leafs leads free agent frenzy

The Toronto Maple Leafs landed the biggest available unrestricted free agent this summer by signing 27-year-old centre John Tavares to a seven-year $77 million contract. Tavares was drafted by the New York Islanders with the first overall pick back in 2009 and spent nine seasons with the team The native of Mississauga, Ontario leaves the Islanders with 272 goals and 349 assists for 621 points in 669 regular season games and 11 goals and 11 assists in just 24 career playoff contests. Tavares led the team with 37 goals and 47 assists for 84 points in 82 outings last season.

It’s unclear how the acquisition of Tavares will affect the Leafs’ payroll situation over the next year or so as the club needs to either re-sign or trade young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and/or William Nylander. And while the Leafs gained 37 goals by signing Tavares they lost 47 goals from last year’s lineup as free agent centre Tyler Bozak (11 goals) signed with the St. Louis Blues on a three-year $15 million contract and left-winger James van Riemsdyk (36 goals) signed a five-year deal, $35 million with the Philadelphia Flyers.

There was plenty of other activity on July 1st, which was the first day of free agency, and we’ll recap the biggest moves of the day.

Anaheim Ducks: Signed defenceman Luke Schenn of the Arizona Coyotes to a year-long deal.

Arizona Coyotes: Signed forward Michael Grabner from the New Jersey Devils to a three-year deal. Defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson was re-signed for two years.

Boston Bruins: Signed goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the New York Islanders to a two-year contract and signed forward Chris Wagner from the Islanders to a two-year deal. They also inked defenceman John Moore of the New Jersey Devils to a five-year contract.
Buffalo Sabres: Signed goaltender Carter Hutton of the St. Louis Blues to a three-year contract and goaltender Scott Wedgewood from the Arizona Coyotes to a one-year deal.

Calgary Flames: Signed centre Derek Ryan of the Carolina Hurricanes to a three-year contract and inked forward James Neal of Vegas to a five-year deal.

Carolina Hurricanes: Signed goaltender Petr Mrazek of the Philadelphia Flyers to a one-year deal.

Chicago Blackhawks: Signed goaltender Cam Ward from Carolina to a one-year contract as well as forward Chris Kunitz of the Tampa Bay Lightning and defenceman Brandon Manning of Philadelphia.

Colorado Avalanche: Signed defenceman Ian Cole and forward Matt Calvert of the Columbus Blue Jackets to three-year contracts.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Signed defenceman Adam Clendening of Arizona to a one-year contract and centre Riley Nash of Boston to a three-year contract.

Dallas Stars: Signed defenceman Roman Polak of Toronto to a one-year contract and goaltender Anton Khudobin of Boston to a two-year contract. Forward Blake Comeau of Colorado was signed to a three-year deal.

Detroit Red Wings: Signed goaltender Jonathan Bernier of Colorado to a three-year contract and forward Thomas Vanek of Columbus to a one-year contract. Defenceman Mike Green was also re-signed to a two year deal.

Los Angeles Kings: Signed forward Ilya Kovalchuk of the KHL to a three-year contract.

Minnesota Wild: Signed goaltender Andrew Hammond of Colorado to a one-year deal and forward Eric Fehr of the San Jose Sharks to a year-long deal. Forward Matt Hendricks of the Winnipeg Jets also signed on for a season. Defenceman Greg Pateryn was signed from Dallas for two years.

Montreal Canadiens: Signed forward Tomas Plekanec from Toronto to a one-year contract and inked
forward Matthew Peca of Tampa Bay to a two-year contract.

New York Islanders: Signed forward Valtteri Filppula of Philadelphia to a one-year contract and forward Leo Komarov of Toronto to a four-year contract. Defenceman Thomas Hickey was re-signed to a four-year deal.

New York Rangers: Re-signed forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year contract.
Philadelphia Flyers: Signed forward James van Riemsdyk from Toronto to a five-year contract.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Signed defenceman Jack Johnson of Columbus to a five-year contract, forward Matt Cullen of Minnesota to a one-year contract and forward Jimmy Hayes of New Jersey to a one-year deal.

San Jose Sharks: Re-signed forward Logan Couture to an eight-year deal.

St. Louis Blues: Signed centre Tyler Bozak of Toronto to a three-year contract, goaltender Chad Johnson of Buffalo to a one-year contract and forward David Perron of the Vegas Golden Knights to a four-year deal.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Re-sign defenceman Ryan McDonagh to a seven-year contract.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Signed forward John Tavares of the New York Islanders to a seven-year contract as well as forward Josh Jooris of Pittsburgh. Defenceman Martin Marincin was re-signed to a one-year deal and defenceman Jordan Subban of Los Angeles signed for a season.
Vancouver Canucks: Signed centre Jay Beagle of the Washington Capitals to a four-year contract and
forward Antoine Roussel of the Dallas stars to a four-year deal.
Vegas Golden Knights: Signed defenceman Nick Holden of Boston. Forward Paul Stastny of Winnipeg was also signed for three years while forward Ryan Reaves was re-signed.
In addition, there was also a trade between the Buffalo Sabres and the St. Louis Blues as Buffalo sent centre Ryan O’Reilly to the Blues for Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, prospect Tage Thompson, a first-round draft pick in 2019 and a second-round pick in 2021. O’Reilly was the top faceoff man in the NHL last season and chipped in with 24 goals and 37 assists. Berglund had 17 goals and nine assists with the Blues while Sobotka had 11 goals and 20 assists.