Sykora deserves a team and Rinaldo’s reputation hurts him

Petr Sykora's play last season should have earned him a contract by now. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Petr Sykora’s play last season should have earned him a contract by now. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

By: Tim Kolupanowich

@TimKolupan_

It’s pretty surprising to see Petr Sykora is still without an NHL team this season. The 36-year-old right wing was signed by the New Jersey Devils after playing the 2010-11 season in Europe and only 14 games with Minnesota in ’09-10. But teaming up with familiar linemate Patrik Elias, Sykora had a solid season finishing with 21-23-44, fifth and sixth on the team in goals and points, respectively.

The pair combined with Dainius Zubrus to form the Millenium Line, named due to all of them reaching the 1,000 point mark last season, one of their most consistant lines during the regular season. The Devils did have interest in signing Sykora, but ultimately decided to give their younger players a chance to prove themselves first. There’s nothing wrong with that, teams have to move on eventually, but that only one other team was interested and never made an offer is surprising.

The Flyers needed some scoring with Jaromir Jagr off to Dallas and Scott Hartnell injured and opted to go after Mike Knuble, the 40-year-old who put up just six goals last season. The Rangers wanted to sign Jason Arnott, 38, to a contract, but didn’t after he failed a physical. He had 17-17-34 last season for St. Louis.

Both players are older than Sykora and were less productive than he was last season. Still a solid two-way player, Sykora was a big part of their run to the Stanley Cup final last season even though his production slowed in the playoffs.

Teams are averaging 2.68 goals per game this year and seven teams, Edmonton, Columbus, Florida, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota and Nashville, are far below that more averaging 2.25 goals or less. The Devils, with an 8-1-3 record for 19 points, are the top team in the Eastern Conference, so you can’t blame them for not going after Sykora. After all  it’s always a better idea to stick with what’s working and not tinker around with anything that doesn’t need fixing.

His presence could hep out a number of teams. The Oilers have a ton of young talent and could use someone with the kind of championship experience Sykora has. Having played in six Stanley Cup finals in his career, he could teach Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and company how to become a winner. No one else on Edmonton can offer that sort of experience, especially since they only have four skaters over 30 on the team.

Of the six times he joined a new team in his career, four times he helped them improve in either regular season points or playoff performance and he could certainly do that again. He already played there one season, leading the team in scoring in the 2006-07 season, and should come pretty cheap having earned just $650,000 last year.

He could be used to teach younger players or as a late addition to a championship seeking team. Either way, Sykora should be signed this season.

*     *     *

Zac Rinaldo's reputation precedes him and quite often works against him. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Zac Rinaldo’s reputation precedes him and quite often works against him. (Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

Some of the recent calls on Zac Rinaldo should be a lesson to all young players that bad penalties will come back to haunt you, not just because of a power play goal against, but because of the reputation earned.

In his young career, Rinaldo has become known for taking dumb penalties, whether instigating the play or retaliating for something else it doesn’t matter, and referees have taken notice and will now give him penalties for borderline plays that would likely go uncalled for another player.

In his past six games, Rinaldo has received no fewer than three questionable penalties. On February 1, he was called for boarding Washington’s John Carlson on what was a clear shoulder-to-shoulder check behind the Capitals’ net. There was a diving penalty on February 9 against Carolina and a holding call last night in Toronto when Dion Phaneuf had him prone to the ice and was cross checking him repeatedly long after the play had moved on.

Any time there are two players going at it and Rinaldo is involved, he’s going to the box regardless of whether or not he committed a foul. He’s a well deserved marked man in the eyes of the refs thanks to plays like this cross check to Zbynek Michalek, this late hit on Jacob Josefson during a game in which he was fined twice, this charge on Jonathan Ericsson which earned him a suspension just over a week later and many more.

It just goes to show, players need to be in control at all times. A stupid penalty now means no benefit of the doubt and a bad call later on.

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