Some quick thoughts from the NHL on TSN panel on Monday night.
It's one of those Circle of Life things.
Who would have thought that the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils - each bidding for unrestricted free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk's services in the summer of 2010 - would be facing each other in the Stanley Cup Final just two years later?
Everyone remembers that the Kings had interest in Kovalchuk but not as much as the Devils did. The Kings weren't prepared to go the same distance and there was a sense that ownership in Los Angeles really badly wanted Kovalchuk but maybe general manager Dean Lombardi and the hockey operations department had a little more reservation in terms of the amount of money it would have taken. In any case, he ended up going to New Jersey.
What did Los Angeles do that summer? They went out and signed Alexei Ponikarovsky, who turned out to be a bust and ended up back on the Devils. The other free agent they signed that summer was Willie Mitchell; who is going to be facing Kovalchuk in a lot of shutdown situations.
If we want to take this Circle of Life thing and look to the future; Zach Parise is an unrestricted free agent this summer and there's no doubt in my mind that a team like the Los Angeles Kings will want to make a pitch for him. What better way to make your pitch than say 'hey; did you want to join us? We just beat you in the Stanley Cup Final.' The flip side of that, of course, is that the Devils could say 'hey; we just won the Stanley Cup. Why would you want to leave?'
There's a lot of interest in this year's Stanley Cup Final for the city of Kitchener, Ont., for the simple reason that New Jersey Devils head coach Peter DeBoer was a fixture as general manager and head coach of the Kitchener Rangers. The Rangers won a Memorial Cup under DeBoer in 2003.
Then there is David Clarkson, who plays for DeBoer on the New Jersey Devils. Clarkson was a member of that 2003 championship-winning team and he'll be looking across the ice at Mike Richards, the Kings forward who was an integral part of winning that Memorial Cup in 2003.
Clarkson came over to the Rangers from the Bellville Bulls on a $1,000 waiver pickup while Richards was drafted by the previous regime, general manager Jamie MacDonald. When DeBoer came in and saw Richards in his first training camp he said he was small, he couldn't skate, and didn't know if he could play in the league. Richards turned out to be one of the all-time great leaders in the Ontario Hockey League and for that matter, a proven winner. He won a Memorial Cup in 2003, won a world junior championship, won a Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms, has won an Olympic gold medal, he's in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years (along with teammate Jeff Carter) and is hoping he'll be adding major championship number five to his list of achievements.