I have been employed by ESPN for the past 18 years. In terms of a "big league" television career, ESPN has been my only employer after my eight years in the poverty/pasta every night/Dodge Neon minor TV leagues.
So, like Stevie Y, Mario, and Alex and Sid and Anze so far, I've spent my entire career with one franchise. Will I stay with this team for the rest of my career? It is rare, and like with athletes, it probably won't be my call. I'm a sentimental and loyal person to a fault, though, so it would probably be my preference.
I feel the ultimate sign of respect and love is not running away from things. Stay until they tell you to go. This ultimate "decision" to probably stay is made easier because my ESPN team is so successful, impactful and filled with great people.
Plus, our state-of-the-art, kick-butt cafeteria is opening soon and I'm hoping for a chicken parm vending machine and nightly bowls of complimentary Thin Mints.
Anything can happen, though. I mean, did Boston Bruins fans ever think Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque wouldn't finish their careers with the B's? Patrick Roy traded?!?! Martin Brodeur finishing his career with the St. Louis Blues? You just never know. I mean, Wayne Gretzky played on four teams.
Thus, with the NHL trade deadline approaching, I thought it might be marginally interesting to go through all 30 NHL teams and pick a player I think will finish his career with his one and only team so far -- therefore playing his entire career with one franchise -- and pick another I think won't finish his career with his original/current outfit.
There is no science behind this, or any indication how I feel about a player. It's more of a late-night, midsummer conversation with your boys over a few beverages. Scouts are known to have these kind of wild roster construction discussions in a hotel bar to be named later.
We will do 15 teams this week and 15 after the deadline. As usual with our league-wide exercises, we go in alphabetical order as we ask: "Will this beaut spend his entire career with . . . "
Ryan Getzlaf: Yes
Corey Perry: No
Because they signed nearly identical eight-year contracts, are linemates, and were born six days apart in 1985, there is actually a scenario in which you could see Getzlaf and Perry traded in a package deal if the Ducks ever hit hard times and want to reboot. But as long as these two are with the Ducks and remain healthy, the team shouldn't hit hard times.
Because centers are harder to find, though, I'm gonna say Getzlaf finishes his career a Duck and Perry gets traded in the next three or four years. Either way, both will get their number retired by the Ducks.
Shane Doan: Yes
Keith Yandle: No
Doan will probably retire after next season, and his final totals will be about 1,460 games played with, about 385 goals and 930 points. There was a time where Doan would have been a nice fit on a winning team at the deadline, but that time has probably passed. Like I will retire without an Emmy, Doan will retire without a Stanley Cup. Now, Emmys are fraudulent popularity/political "contests," while Cups are won with blood, sweat, and tears, so it's a false equivalency, but some things (like family) aren't worth sacrificing for.
Yandle has one more year left on his deal with a cap hit just over $5 million. He will likely be moved at the March 2 deadline or before, or during NHL draft weekend, as Arizona continues to rebuild with layered assets. Yandle is only 28 and is excellent on the power play. He would be a tasty-yet-pricey addition for any team heading to the playoffs this spring.
Patrice Bergeron: Yes
Milan Lucic: No
Bruins fans tend to overrate Bergeron just a little. He's not a Hall of Famer, but the team will retire his number and Bergeron will go down as one of the more important Bruins of all time.
The Bruins are the oldest American franchise in the NHL, yet they've won only six Stanley Cups. And in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals, Bergeron had one of the most clutch performances ever by any Boston athlete. He took 30 shifts on the road in Vancouver (a shiftload, if you will), and scored the two most important goals of the game: one that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead (and likely won the game) and a shorthanded goal that made it 3-0 (and sealed the game).
Unless Quebec gets an expansion team in the future and the B's and PB mutually agree to arrange a provincial homecoming, Bergeron and his peerless work ethic and character will be in Boston for life.
Lucic is a free agent after next season. At $6 million per season he is probably a bit overpaid. He's a 20-25 goal scorer, both in the regular season and how that pace correlates over the course of the playoffs. He doesn't shoot enough and lacks the release of Cam Neely to be anything more than that. Whether it's him or the Bruins coaching staff, I don't understand why Lucic has never hit double digits in power-play goals for a season.
If you're the Bruins, the time to trade him is now or at the draft. Lucic turns just 27 this summer. He would be sought after by young teams, prime-time teams with cap room, and veteran teams. It's a tough decision because at his best he is a popular, quintessential Bruin who has been to two Stanley Cup finals.
Connor McDavid: Yes
Tyler Ennis: No
McDavid will be the first overall pick in this June's draft and he'll help lead the Sabres to the 2019 Stanley Cup final. Owner Terry Pegula will then build a 900-by-400 foot wall to prevent lake-effect snow from falling in the arena district. The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore will be on hand for a live shot.
The Sabres have a stable of larger forwards that they will slowly bring in to Buffalo, so Ennis will end up with a Canadian team and have a career year.
Mark Giordano: Yes
Johnny Gaudreau: No
The Flames are one of the tougher teams to play this reindeer game with. Giordano will be a free agent again after next season, although he'll be 33 when he begins his first year of his next deal and that can be a tricky age at which to get a long-term contract. Giordano has great character and a great cap number ($4 million) right now, and would have big trade value if the Flames found a passionate dance partner. But they are a young team and pillars like the undrafted Giordano are gems. I say they keep him as they build.
As for Johnny Hockey, the first week of March will be big for him. He returns to Philly near where he grew up and fell in love with the game, and then to Boston where he played his #cawlidgehawkey. He has 15 goals, 43 points, zero penalty minutes and is a plus-7 this season. The Jersey boy will end up back East eventually. He has East Coast hair.
Eric Staal: Yes
Jeff Skinner: No
After his first five years, Staal looked like a guaranteed Hall of Famer with gaudy numbers and a Stanley Cup. He still will probably be a 1,000-game/1,000-point guy, but his numbers have slowly eroded to the point where one now wonders what his 30s will look like. Part of Staal's number erosion, of course, has coincided with the erosion of the franchise. How Carolina is managed and whether Stall sees the Hurricanes as a franchise that can provide personal and team achievement will likely determine whether he remains with it after next season.
Skinner is an electric, exciting player who is now spending his young career trying to figure out how he can produce and prevent another head injury. He is signed for four years at a cap number of just under $6 million. It's a little steep with his injury concerns, but if Skinner pots 33 goals like last season, he is certainly worth it. Just a hunch that he might be part of a big culture trade that brings back a defenseman.
Jonathan Toews: Yes
Patrick Kane: No
Toews and Kane were born seven months apart in 1988 and have been at the center of the greatest stretch of hockey in Chicago since the Hawks began play in 1926. And here they are still just 26 years old. Toews is not as talented offensively as Kane, but he is a three-zone carnivore who was born to be a captain. Serious yet loose, knows what to say and how to say it. Has charm without being sappy or annoying. He'll play his entire career with the Hawks, get a statue and some day be team president and general manager. He's Steve Yzerman, The Sequel.
Kane is on pace to have the greatest career, from both a team and individual standpoint, of any U.S.-born player in NHL history. No American-born player has ever won a scoring title or MVP, and the "Mayor of Dangle City" is in position to do both. Kane's maturity and work ethic on the ice has been exemplary. But, I think deep down in Kane's core he envisions a hockey homecoming in which he'll become a part of Buffalo's first Stanley Cup. That would be later rather than sooner, but I think it's in the realm of possibility, especially as the Hawks age and Kane's $10.5 million cap number kicks in starting next season.
Nathan MacKinnon: Yes
Matt Duchene: No
It has been a bit of a disappointing sophomore season for Nathan MacKinnon, who scored 24 goals as an 18-year-old last season. There wasn't a more electric player in the postseason last spring. He will need to be extended after next season.
Duchene, with his Fred Flintstone bowling feet, is a joy to watch in the open ice. He was picked third overall behind only John Tavares and Victor Hedman in the 2009 draft, and he has had a nice start to his NHL career. Before this year's disappointing season, it appeared Duchene was trending up as a point-per-game player. He has four years at $6 million per after this season, so it's a contract that would be appealing in a trade if the Avalanche want to be aggressive now and rework their roster and defensive corps to have more puck possession and allow fewer shots.
Ryan Johansen: Yes
Cam Atkinson: No
The Johansen/Blue Jackets relationship got a bit rocky last summer, and Johansen's agent, Kurt Overhardt, has earned the nickname "Kurt Overcharge" from some around the league. This does not bode well for Johansen spending his career with one team. However, I think Columbus has an excellent chance to be a well-managed team for the next few years, build organizational depth through the draft and trade, and stop overpaying free agents.
Perhaps Johansen, "The Secretary of Danglebus," can have a long career spent entirely in Columbus, be the first Blue Jacket inducted into the Hall of Fame and get a statue outside overlooking the arena district. If he's really lucky, he can dot the "I" in the script Ohio at a Buckeyes game.
Atkinson is a restricted free agent who got off to a hot start with five goals in nine games in October. He cooled off from November to January, but is now starting to heat up again. I think there is a chance the Blue Jackets will move him before the trade deadline, although I'm not sure I would. He has good character, appears to be a reliable 20-goal scorer and is probably the kind of guy you could lock up for three or four years at a manageable cap number.
Jamie Benn: Yes
Ryan Garbutt: No
If Mike Modano, Mr. Star, can't play for one team his entire career, then you know this entire exercise will have a batting average below the Mendoza line. Benn has two years left on his deal after this season, and it's hard to see him leaving his brother in ink, Tyler Seguin. Like all of these selections, though, it's hard to forecast how a player and team determine value post-prime. Contracts are easier when players are in their hockey prime. The tricky part comes later.
You can't blame a player, though, for taking one or two more seasons in the NHL for a million bucks or so. Most will never have a job that pays as well, so you might as well get it while you can.
Ryan Garbutt? Not sure where his career ends up. Just wanted to type Garbutt.
Pavel Datsyuk: Yes
"The Premier of Danglestan" is having his best season in three years. Datsyuk is 36 years old and has a chance to have his highest goal total for a season since he was 31. He has two years left on his contract. That could slide him nicely into retirement. Datsyuk could still feel good at 39 and squeeze out a couple of seasons if he is healthy and the Wings have a good supporting cast, which it appears they will. I don't know if playing in the Red Wings' new arena starting in fall 2017 would be a reason to play one more year, but that could be a factor.
Either way, his number will be retired by the Wings and he will go into the Hall of Fame. If there is a lock for this one guy/one team thing, it's Datsyuk. Teammates Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg are also very strong candidates.
General manager Ken Holland and the scouting staff have some organizational depth. With that depth comes prospects looking for better opportunities elsewhere as they fight to get through a crowded talent pool in Detroit. The Wings will likely make a trade at the deadline because they have pieces to deal.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Yes
Jordan Eberle: No
You have to think that at some point the right people will make the right decisions in Edmonton and figure out a way to get all the Oilers' talent to jell -- if there is indeed true, high-end talent there. "The Nuge" is only 21, but he is also from Western Canada, so that's a start. He is signed for four more years after this, so he has time to build his game up for the next big contract. And by then maybe the entire city will have a retractable wintertime roof to lure free agents.
Where there is smoke there is fire, and there appears to be embers around the feet of Eberle. He is also signed for four years beyond this season. Eberle's numbers are down a bit after three straight years with a 30-goal average. This is the dilemma for the Oilers: Do you remain patient believing the 30-goal pace will return, thus justifying a $6 million cap number, or do you sell now to prevent the possible burden of overpaying players on an underachieving team?
Aaron Ekblad: Yes
Ekblad, the first overall pick of last June's draft, spent the first four months of the NHL season playing defense as an 18-year-old. At this time last season he was playing for the Barrie Colts in the OHL. I'm a huge fan of Ekblad's game. He has the long, rangy size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) you like from your D-men, but he also has a quick mind and excellent sense.
The Panthers have not gained traction in South Florida for a few reasons, beginning with the fact that they've won only three playoff series in franchise history and all three came in 1996. They've been to the playoffs once in the past 14 seasons. And they haven't had young, exciting, generational players to build around from a marketing standpoint. Ekblad might not be that guy, but I think he is a future Norris Trophy winner who could spend his entire career with the Panthers.
Huberdeau was the third overall pick in 2011. He won the Calder Trophy after putting up 31 points in 48 games in the lockout-shortened 2012 season. He regressed last season, but this year he's back to something close to his Calder numbers. Huberdeau has a nice energy about him and I think he will have a nice career, but he could be a piece in a trade that brings back a bigger goal-scoring fish.
Anze Kopitar: Yes
Drew Doughty: No
Why is Kopitar shooting so little this season? He's at a career-low 1.78 shots per game. He's either worn down from the deep playoff runs this decade and the Olympics last year, or he's pacing himself. And this is a guy who doesn't miss games. Last season, he played 108 total games between the regular season and the playoffs. Throw in the Olympics a half-world away and he may be running on fumes. Kopitar's contract is up after next year. He will sign one of those big eight-year deals, and that should guarantee he spends his entire career with the Kings.
Doughty is a guy who could return a huge haul during any of the next three summers. That third summer still leaves Doughty with two years on his deal, which would get a big return if the Kings are in a position where they have aged quickly and are looking to reload rather than rebuild. It's going to be fun to watch how the Kings manage their championship window and their future in the next couple of years.
Mikko Koivu: Yes
Niklas Backstrom: No
Koivu's game has eroded a bit in his eighth season with the Wild. He is still owed a lot of money (almost $22 million for the next three years), so he would be hard to trade. He won't be an unrestricted free agent until he's 35, and at that point I think he would retire or sign for short money/years in order to close his career with Minnesota.
If the Wild believe goalie Devan Dubnyk's strong play since coming over from Arizona is not an outlier, they have to decide his worth because Dubnyk is a free agent after this season. If they decide to commit to Dubnyk, they would love to move Backstrom's $4 million salary for next season. This is the third straight season in which Backstrom's save percentage has gone down and his goals-against average has gone up.
Next week: Montreal-Washington.