Choos­ing their own path

NHL free agents fol­low­ing NBA path in pick­ing des­ti­na­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS -

Kevin Shat­tenkirk could’ve got­ten more money but took less to join the New York Rangers.

Joe Thorn­ton could’ve got­ten a mul­ti­year deal from some­one but wanted to stay with the San Jose Sharks.

Brian Camp­bell and Pa­trick Sharp could’ve got­ten more money the past two sum­mers but took the Chicago dis­count to re­turn the Black­hawks.

The NHL is be­com­ing more like the NBA with top play­ers for­go­ing longer, big-money con­tracts to pick their pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion, a trend that has added a new wrin­kle to free agency.

“It’s their op­por­tu­nity to go to where they want to go and some­times you might have to take a lit­tle bit less money to go there,” Dal­las Stars gen­eral man­ager Jim Nill said. “Do you want to go to a good team? Is it a city you want to go to? Is it where your fam­ily wants to be? ... It’s play­ers find­ing the right fit for where they want to be and hav­ing the money that they can live with.”

Shat­tenkirk is not ex­actly LeBron James, but the New Rochelle, New York, na­tive filled that role on Satur­day when he turned down of­fers of seven years and more than $30 mil­lion to sign with the Rangers for $26.6 mil­lion over four years. The 28-year-old de­fence­man felt like it may be his only op­por­tu­nity to “ful­fil a life­long dream” and wants to help pull off what LeBron did in Cleve­land.

“No mat­ter where you go you’re try­ing to win your team a Stan­ley Cup,” Shat­tenkirk said. “There’s no bet­ter place to try to do it for me than in New York.”

Rangers GM Jeff Gor­ton praised Shat­tenkirk for leav­ing money and years on the ta­ble, and even New Jersey Dev­ils GM Ray Shero — who made a strong push to sign the top free agent avail­able — gave him credit for sign­ing in New York be­cause it was “where he wanted to be.”

The NHL’s hard salary cap and play­ers re-sign­ing to so many long-term deals means su­perteams like in the NBA won’t hap­pen. But where and who mat­ters more and more to hockey play­ers than sim­ply how much and for how long.

Thorn­ton had more than half the 31-team league reach out to sign him at age 38 and signed for $8 mil­lion for one year be­cause he sim­ply wanted to stay in San Jose. “It was nice get­ting courted by all th­ese teams, and I felt bad say­ing, ‘Hey I’m go­ing back to San Jose,’ but that’s where my heart is and that’s where I’m happy,” Thorn­ton said. In this March 25 photo, San Jose Sharks cen­tre Joe Thorn­ton plays against the Nashville Preda­tors dur­ing sec­ond pe­riod of an NHL game in Nashville, Tenn. Thorn­ton de­cided to stay in San Jose for at least one more sea­son, while long­time run­ning mate Pa­trick Mar­leau left for Toronto.


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