Sid The Kid. Ovie. The Sedins. Some players can defy time, others defy logic. The era of the one-team player was supposed to come to a halt when the NHL introduced the salary cap in 2005-06, yet more than a decade later you can point to several key NHL performers who've managed to remain loyal to one club and vital to that team's on-ice success. The number of one-team players, while certainly on the decline, is nowhere near the end of the line. Teams have found ways around the salary cap, ensuring their best players remain their best players.
NHL Hockey Greats
Locking up your best players. That's become the mantra of NHL general managers during the salary cap era. The Pittsburgh Penguins did it with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and were rewarded with a pair of Stanley Cups. The Chicago Blackhawks followed suit and won a trio of Stanley Cups led by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. In an earlier time, the Detroit Red Wings won a Cup powered by Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
Last summer's top unrestricted free agent was Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, and while he could have written his own ticket on the free market, he opted to stay with Tampa Bay for less money. These so-called lifetime contracts being handed out to superstar players is ensuring that the stars continue to shine in their first NHL home.
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, Alex Ovechkin
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And then there were ones - three of them. Three NHL division winners - the Washington Capitals (Metropolitan), Vegas Golden Knights (Pacific) and Tampa Bay Lightning (Atlantic) - are in the Stanley Cup final four, joined by the Winnipeg Jets.
In the Stanley Cup playoffs, it isn't so much about how the West was won as it is about who will win the West. You can make a legitimate case for all four of the remaining teams being the last one left standing. The Nashville Predators were last spring's finalist, while the San Jose Sharks were there a year earlier. And you can't discount the Winnipeg Jets or Vegas Golden Knights.
It just wouldn't be the Stanley Cup playoffs without some intriguing storylines to make it more compelling, and this spring is no exception. The Nashville Predators look to win their first Cup, the Pittsburgh Penguins seek their third straight title, and the surprising Vegas Golden Knights look to be the inaugural first-year expansion team to win it all. And what should we make of the perennially-contending Washington Capitals?
The last time the Pittsburgh Penguins came into the playoffs as two-time defending Stanley Cup champions was in the spring of 1993. They did so with an NHL-best 119 points during the regular season, and rode a league-record 17-game winning streak into the postseason. But the Penguins were eliminated in the second round by the New York Islanders. Which only goes to prove that the playoffs are anybody's game.
There's always an intriguing sub plot whenever the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars clash. From 1967-93, the Stars performed as the Minnesota North Stars, reaching the Stanley Cup final in 1981 and 1991, until abandoning the State of Hockey for the Big D, where they won the Stanley Cup in 1999. But there's a lingering bitterness among Minnesotans that they were forsaken for a non-traditional hockey market.