Backstage at the NHL draft
EACH JUNE, more than 200 players from across North America and Europe are drafted to the NHL in a two-day event broadcast across the globe. This story isn’t about that. It’s about what you didn’t see.
THIS YEAR, The Spectator’s Teri Pecoskie tagged along with a Hamilton Bulldogs player and his parents in order to document the ups and downs a family experiences behind the scenes at the draft.
THE STORY starts in the lobby of a hotel in downtown Chicago.
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..
“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 GM 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 over $30 million to sign with the Rangers for $26.6 million over just 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.”
The NHL’s hard salary cap and players re-signing to so many long-term deals means super teams 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.
Likewise, Sharp couldn’t pass up going back to Chicago where he was part of three Stanley Cup teams, even if his contract is worth just $850,000 with performance bonuses. Sharp said he was “coming back to make some more great memories and try to help this team win another Stanley Cup,” which Campbell tried last off-season, too.
Familiarity with Nashville and coach Peter Laviolette led Scott Hartnell to return to the Predators one a $1 million, one-year deal, after playing his first six NHL seasons with them.
Supporters were blown away by the pageantry of the NHL draft’s staging.