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Are the Stars in a bad position with centerman Brad Richards?

It’s awfully early to go looking ahead towards the off-season at who is going to be an unrestricted free agent, but one of the players that figures to get a lot of attention then if he’s available is Stars forward Brad Richards. Richards is one of the best set-up men in the league, perpetually at the top of assist lists year in and year out and he’s in the final year of his deal with the Dallas Stars.

Ideally, the Stars would love to lock him up with an extension, but with the team’s ownership in flux with Tom Hicks looking to get out of owning the team, spending the kind of cash needed to keep Richards in town is a major hang-up to getting anything done as The Sun’s Eric Francis discusses.

While both sides would love to start hammering out a deal, Nieuwendyk’s hands are tied by his club’s ownership uncertainty brought on by Tom Hicks’ company’s default on US$525 million in bank loans backed by the Stars and half his rink earlier this year.

“We had some informal discussions and decided if you can’t get instructions from ownership you’re talking in a vacuum,” said Richards’ agent, Pat Morris. “So instead of getting the player or the team excited about anything, we’ll have to wait.”

Question is, how long will it take for new ownership to be solidified? It could be awhile.

“I’m not worried about it now because we’re four games in, we’re off to a good start (4-0) and Brad is a big part of that,” said Nieuwendyk of the future contract talks with the league’s current scoring leading.

“At some point, I’ll have to talk to the league because we’ll have to get down to business.”

Why the Stars would have to talk to the NHL is because in situations where ownership is hung up in the air, the NHL functions as a proxy to square away major money moves and re-signing Brad Richards would certainly qualify as such because it would be a long-term commitment to big money. Obviously the best solution to this is to hope the Stars get a new owner in place sooner rather than later, but if that doesn’t happen this season the Stars will be in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether or not to trade Richards lest they risk losing him to free agency at the end of the season and getting nothing in return.

We’re a ways away from that even being a possibility, but it’s something the Stars do have to keep in mind as the season goes on. With how Richards’ season has already started, the offers that could come in for his services might be too juicy to pass up. With two goals and seven assists through four games and leading the Stars to a 4-0-0 record the demand across the league would be at a record high. The Stars just hope they don’t end up in the position of having to make a very difficult choice come spring.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.