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Report: Dallas Stars’ ownership uncertainty will force them to part ways with Brad Richards

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Not too long ago, there was plenty of optimism that the Dallas Stars sale could be completed in time to retain their best player. That optimism seems scarce now, though, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports that the team’s shaky ownership situation won’t allow them to extend a contract offer to Brad Richards after all.

Apparently the team’s pending sale probably won’t be settled in time to negotiate a new deal with the premier playmaker, so he’ll likely find a new home once the unrestricted free agent market opens up on July 1.

How the Stars could make the best of a bad situation

No doubt about it, losing Richards would be a huge blow to what was a very top-heavy Stars roster. He scored 77 points in 70 games in 2010-11 and 91 in 80 games in 09-10. Then again, he’s already 31 years old and he suffered from some worrisome concussion issues late in this season. Maybe Stars fans can cope with this announcement by acknowledging the risky nature of wrapping up an aging (though supremely talented) forward?

McKenzie reports that the Stars might arrange a trade for his exclusive negotiating rights before July 1, although Richards would need to waive his no-movement clause for that to happen.

The 2010 off-season featured at least two prominent examples of teams trading for exclusive negotiating rights, with one situation working out and the other falling through. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers failed to convince Dan Hamhuis to sign with them before he hit the market and eventually joined the Vancouver Canucks. On the other hand, Jaroslav Halak signed with the St. Louis Blues after the team traded for his restricted free agent negotiating rights.

With all due respect to Halak’s outstanding ’10 playoff run, Richards would obviously be a bigger fish than either of those two players, so the Stars could conceivably wring a nice package out of an antsy suitor if Richards complies. It would be surprising if he refused to waive his clause since he wouldn’t be required to sign with that seeker, anyway.

Looking ahead for Richards and the Stars

If this report is accurate, then Richards will be this year’s Ilya Kovalchuk: a big-time free agent that success-starved fans hope their team will acquire. He is older than Kovalchuk and is a premium passer while Kovalchuk is an elite goal-scorer, but Richards should generate similar attention. In fact, with a Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup on his resume, he might actually receive more offers (at least from quantity standpoint).

No doubt about it, we’ll be all over Richards’ pending free agency this summer – from news to rumors and analysis – so stay tuned.

In other Stars-related rumors, McKenzie reports that the team’s head coaching position could be filled by three prime candidates: Montreal Canadiens assistant Kirk Muller, Nashville Predators assistant Peter Horachek and Glen Gulutzan. Gulutzan is the head coach of the Texas Stars’, the Dallas Stars’ AHL affiliate. The team will likely choose their next bench boss by the start of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, according to McKenzie.

Whoever that coach is, it looks that lucky guy will face the added challenge of succeeding without Richards’ elite offensive abilities in the mix.

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.