More to consider than just big paychecks
Kevin Shattenkirk Joe Thornton Brian Campbell Patrick Sharp
NEW YORK — 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 another team, 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 charting a new course, 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 where they want to go and sometimes you might have to take a little bit less money to get there,” said Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill.
“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 native of New Rochelle, New York, filled that role last 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 defenseman felt like it may be his only opportunity to “fulfill 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 leav- ing 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 to hockey players than simply how much and how long.
Thornton had 16 teams reach out to sign him at age 38 but he opted for $8 million for one year because he 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,” he said.
Likewise, Sharp couldn’t pass up returning to Chicago where he was part of three Stanley Cup teams, even if his contract is worth just $850,000.
Sharp said he was “coming back to make some more great memories and try to win another Stanley Cup.”
Justin Williams and his wife bought a house near Raleigh, North Carolina, before signing a $9 million, two-year deal to go back to the Hurricanes. Ryan Miller called it “pretty ideal” to sign a $4 million, twoyear contract in Anaheim, close to where actress wife Noureen DeWulf needs to be.
Familiarity with Nashville and coach Peter Laviolette led Scott Hartnell to return to the Predators on a $1 million, oneyear deal, after playing his first six NHL seasons with them.
“Absolutely love coming back to Nashville,” Hartnell said.
That kind of natural excitement doesn’t happen everywhere.
Just ask the NBA.