Several Stanley Cup winners breaking up championship core
While Braden Holtby saw his split from the Washington Capitals, Patric Hornqvist, Corey Crawford and Alex Pietrangelo weren't so lucky.
Hornqvist was "blind", the Pittsburgh Penguins wanted to trade him. Crawford was "devastated" when the Chicago Blackhawks went in a different direction. And Pietrangelo was surprised when the St. Louis Blues signed another big money defense attorney who walked away from him before he was ready to close the door while he stayed.
In the past few weeks, some of the recent Stanley Cup winners have cracked open their championship core by saying goodbye to a key player with his name on the trophy. It's a bittersweet reality in the NHL because of the salary cap, and the retiring players have at least one cup ring and the irreplaceable memories of the win - and the hope that they can do it all again with a new team.
"We did what we wanted to do there: we won a championship and I think you can never take that away," said Holtby after leaving Washington to sign with the Vancouver Canucks. "It was very important to me to find a team." That has the same chance and the same structure of an organization and a team that can win because that's what you're playing for, and I think that's the chance we have in Vancouver that is very exciting for me. "
The young Canucks seem ready to win now, and Holtby is giving them another veteran with experience from deep playoff runs after making it through the second round this summer.
New Jersey is further from being a legitimate contender, but Crawford sees many similarities between the Devils and the Blackhawks more than a decade ago, who took the Cup three times. Instead of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the Devils Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Pavel Zacha and Jesper Bratt are in their early twenties and can grow up together.
"Things change pretty quickly in the NHL," Crawford said after signing with the Devils, who most recently ended up in the Metropolitan Division. They had a playoff appearance for eight years and no series victories during that time. Chicago played the playoffs every six years before winning it all in 2010.
“The Hawks did it. They also had a young group and got good pretty quickly. ... it's a group that can definitely do the same. "
Hornqvist relies on this after he waived his no-trade clause to join the Florida Panthers. The excited winger helped Pittsburgh win the trophy in 2016 and 2017. He didn't take it too kindly when the penguins told him they wanted to trade him, and now he's even more motivated to help the Panthers do the job.
"The last six years of my hockey career in Pittsburgh have always been great," said Hornqvist. “My whole family life is in Pittsburgh. I like the city, I like the fans, but when they decided they didn't want me it was an easy decision to go to Florida and win the cup there. "
Former Penguins teammate Matt Murray will try to do the same after trading and signing a four-year $ 25 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. Pittsburgh had already committed to Tristan Jarry as goalkeeper of the present and the near future, giving Murray a fresh start with a long-term rebuilding project in Ottawa.
Pietrangelo doesn't have to be so patient. While Pietrangelo was surprised on Friday night when the Blues signed Torey Krug on a seven-year $ 45.5 million deal to essentially replace him on the blue line, he is almost certainly well on his way to becoming an elite contender, no matter if it's the Vegas Golden Knights or another team.
GM Doug Armstrong said St. Louis looked to re-sign the only captain in franchise history to win the Stanley Cup but traded at a high price for defenseman Justin Faulk more than a year ago and got him expand and add pitcher that got Pietrangelo's path out of the way town less than 16 months after winning it all.
"That's the frustration and joy of today's NHL with the salary cap," said Armstrong. "There is sales and change and every team has to go through them." You try to keep the core together for as long as possible, but change is inevitable. "
The Boston Bruins know this all too well. They lost Krug because they weren't ready to offer as many years as the Blues and others, and they turned their attention to their longtime captain Zdeno Chara, who won the trophy in 2011 and is a free agent.
Chara is now 43 in the twilight of his career, although he would love to play another season. Like Armstrong, who called Pietrangelo "historic," Bruins called GM Don Sweeney Chara an "iconic" player - and the 6-foot-9 defender's departure would be the biggest rift to the core to win the trophy nine years ago , and reached the final in 2015 before losing to Crawford's Blackhawks and 2019 to Pietrangelo's Blues.
"Ultimately, what Zee decides to do, he will tell us and we will respond accordingly," said Sweeney. "And we have our own feelings about where these things are going."
The youngest cup winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, don't know exactly what happens next before trying to defend their title. They are dealing with the salary cap and need to sign new contracts for restricted freelance agents Mikhail Sergachev and Antony Cirelli.
Tampa Bay put long-time striker Tyler Johnson on waivers, but with a $ 5 million cap hit for another four years, he was undrawn by the league's other 30 teams. It's back to the drawing board for the lightning bolt, and it looks like they're about to part with an important player from their championship core.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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