Florida Panthers’ forward Richard Zednik has been named a finalist for the Bill Masterton Trophy. The award is handed out by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association to the player who “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to ice hockey.”
Zednik, as we all remember all too vividly, nearly lost his life on the ice last season after having his carotid artery cut by Olli Jokinen’s skate during a February 10 game in Buffalo last season. He returned this year to score 17 goals, including the 200th of his career, along with 16 assists while playing in 70 games. After the injury, hockey became secondary. No one would have questioned Zednik had he decided not to return to the ice. But he came back and was a veteran voice in a young Florida Panthers locker room, and helped lead his team in a playoff push that came up 1 point short.
On the same day that Zednik was named a finalist, CBC is reporting that he has signed a 2-year deal with Russian Superleague team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. He would have been an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. This is just the first move of what could be an interesting offseason for the Florida Panthers. Most notably, Jay Bouwmeester hits the open market, as well as highly regarded backup netminder, Craig Anderson. Other UFAs include Radek Dvorak, Ville Peltonen, Jassen Cullimore, and Nick Boynton.
As far as the Masterton trophy goes, other finalists include Steve Sullivan, who got back on the ice in January after he fragmented a spinal disc nearly 2 years ago. After missing over 140 games, Sullivan played in every game except one after his return, scoring 11 times and adding 21 assists for an impressiev 32 points in 41 games. The 3rd finalist is Chris Chelios, who played in his 25th season this year. Only 2 others have ever played as long in the NHL (Gordie Howe and Mark Messier). Despite playing in only 28 games this season, he played a leadership role behind the scenes all season.
The Bill Masterton award is named after the Minnesota North Stars rookie who lost his life after sustaining an on-ice head injury in 1968. It will be given out June 18 at the NHL Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas.