For those who celebrated, I hope you all had a great Hanukkah. For those who don’t, Christmas is right around the corner. In this week’s column, I’ll lead off with my favorite topic, another big extension. This week’s recipient is none other than former first-overall pick, Jack Hughes. I’ll comment on Hughes’ newfound wealth as well as the most-recent player to receive the honor of a jersey retirement.
Those weren’t the only two things to happen in hockey last week. I’ll also take a look at the two new Stadium Series jerseys and a few of my favorite plays.
1. Hughes Signed Big Extension
Jack Hughes and the New Jersey Devils agreed to the most aesthetically pleasing extension last week, the 8X8, eight-years with an $8 million AAV. The deal will begin next season. The Devils have now locked down both of their recent first-overall draft picks to long-term deals, Hughes and captain Nico Hischier.
Hughes struggled in his first season, posting 21 points in 61 games. He improved last year posting 31 points in 56 games. Through Sunday morning, Hughes has four points in five games this season. If Hughes can live up to his lofty expectations, this deal should be a steal. He is 20-years old and will be 29 when this deal ends. The Devils have locked him down in his prime. Imagine a Hart Trophy-level Jack Hughes making $8 million a year. That’s a huge bargain for the Devils.
I like this deal, a lot. The Devils will keep Hughes at a reasonable number for his entire prime, and Hughes will have an opportunity to cash in again at a young age. Everybody wins.
2. Mikko Koivu to Have Number Retired by Wild
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March 13, 2022 will be a big day in the Twin Cities area. Mikko Koivu will have his number nine retired by the Minnesota Wild. Koivu will be the first player to have his number retired in Minnesota. Number 99 is retired by every team and the Wild also retired the number one to honor their fans.
Koivu was a Wild lifer. He captained the team from the beginning of the 2009-10 season through his last season with the team 2019-20. He spent all but one season with the Wild, playing seven games for Columbus during the 2020-21 season. He finished his Wild career playing in 1,028 games, scoring 205 goals, and adding 504 assists. Koivu wasn’t the best player. But, when you spend so long playing for one team and play the right way, you’re going to be beloved by those fans.
This is a great honor for Koivu. He was such a classy player and he deserves it. I’m happy for the Wild fans, too. It’s hard for expansion teams to establish a culture and a history. It takes time. It will be great for Wild fans to be able to look up to the rafters in Xcel Energy Center and see Koivu’s number nine hanging from the rafters. I suspect Marion Gaborik’s number 10 could be next.
3. Stadium Series Jerseys Released
The Nashville Predators will host the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series on Saturday, February 22 at the Titans’ home in Nissan Stadium. Both teams are currently sitting in a playoff spot and the game will no doubt be a show. This past week, both teams released the jerseys they will sport for this matchup.
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Let’s start with Nashville’s jerseys. Including their moniker “Smashville” on the chest is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. If I was a Preds’ fan, I would buy one of these ASAP. The navy blue really makes the yellow pop. The guitar pick is a nice touch, too. These are A+ jerseys from Nashville. They don’t miss often and they didn’t miss here.
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Ladies and gentlemen, we are two for two. These jerseys are hot fire. The blue on white is a nice contrast from Nashville’s yellow on blue. You don’t see a ton of good white jerseys released, these are an exception. I love the font and the word “Bolts” spread out diagonally across the torso. The lightning bolt along the bottom is another great touch. The silver trim also really accents the blue on white. I’m dubbing this the “Awesome Jersey Bowl” and I can’t wait to watch it.
4. Cernak Scores from Center Ice
The things you find from YouTube’s home page. Sometimes I’m watching videos about the Hyperloop and sometimes I’m watching defensemen score goals from center ice. This week was both, but I’ll only write about the latter.
Erik Cernak doesn’t score a ton of goals. He’s only scored 16 in the NHL. Number 16 was unique, more unique than the rest. Cernak got the puck after a faceoff and cleared it down the ice. The puck took a weird bounce and trickled past goalie Jordan Binnington. It was Tampa’s third goal in less than six minutes of action. Definitely, a game Binnington would like to forget.
Scoring from center ice isn’t something that happens often. It’s even rarer when the player wasn’t trying to score. I hope Cernak got to keep the puck so he can display it next to his two Stanley Cup rings.
5. Grateful for this Logan Couture Highlight
Sharks’ captain Logan Couture is off to a hot start this season. He’s scored 20 points in 23 games (stats through Sunday morning). However, it was this assist, one I saw through the same YouTube rabbit hole, that caught my eye.
In this play, Couture is trying to change but the puck comes his way. He tips it through his legs to assist on a Timo Meier goal. The play was so smooth. It’s highlights like this I miss seeing come through my TV. We used to see it all the time when the Sharks were good and they were on national TV. Now, they’re not even worth watching. I’m grateful I was able to find this highlight and grateful for Couture. ■