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.

Capitals’ Schmidt hurt by Leafs’ Komarov; Record 18th playoff game to OT

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Now, players are known to at least try to return to games after injuries, sometimes ultimately demeaning such efforts unsuccessful.

So, it’s possible that the Washington Capitals should still be concerned about defenseman Nate Schmidt. The solid depth blueliner was helped off the ice after a hit by Leo Komarov of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the good news is that he was at least able to make his way back for a spin later on in the same third period.

Does that mean he’ll be OK? We’ll see. The game is entering OT – the 18th of this round, a new NHL record – so a possible Schmidt injury could put Washington at a disadvantage during “free hockey.”

It makes sense that Toronto and Washington made it a new record, as this is the fifth time in six games that they beyond regulation in this series. Wow.

Auston Matthews keeps goal streak alive, gives Leafs 1-0 lead in third

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These are the moments Toronto Maple Leafs fans were dreaming about when they drafted Auston Matthews. At least those bold enough to picture such great things, so soon in his career.

Speaking of so soon … that’s not how you’d describe a 1-0 goal happening in the third period of a game in this Leafs – Washington Capitals series, but it took that long to break the ice in Game 6.

It took a very lucky bounce for the puck to find its way to Matthews … but the finish was pure skill. With that, the remarkable rookie now has a goal in four straight games (with an assist thrown in for good measure).

The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Marcus Johansson scored to tie it 1-1.

Things could get awfully nervous for Toronto as they try to force a decisive Game 7 in Washington, but that was a huge goal by Matthews either way.

Clarke MacArthur, Craig Anderson made Sens win that much more emotional

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It could have been over for Clarke MacArthur plenty of times during his turbulent NHL career. Scratch that, his turbulent hockey career.

His team walked away from his salary arbitration award. MacArthur’s seen plenty of people give up on him. And then, when he finally found a home with the Ottawa Senators, concussion issues threatened to end his playing days.

Yet, there he was on Sunday … drawing a penalty in overtime and then scoring on the ensuing power play to help the Senators advance beyond the Boston Bruins.

He didn’t deny that he imagined very different possibilities during his darker moments.

And, as uplifting as his story was – seriously, just watch this interview and try not to root for the guy – it wasn’t the only emotionally charged moment from Game 6.

Nicholle Anderson was on hand to cheer on Craig Anderson in this one, and the two were able to embrace after the contest:

As violent and intense as the playoffs can often be, MacArthur and Anderson reminded us of the gentler human side of it all.

Erik Karlsson played through hairline fractures in foot to help Sens advance

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Remember when many were keeping an eye on Erik Karlsson after he was seemingly cramping up after logging more than 40 minutes in an OT contest against the Boston Bruins?

It’s possible he was also dealing with that sort of ailment, but he earned some “hockey tough” kudos on Sunday after word surfaced that the Ottawa Senators defenseman was dealing with hairline fractures in his left heel through the series.

Sportsnet’s Jason York refers to the issue as “two small fractures” while ESPN’s Joe McDonald went into specifics, noting that Karlsson explains that the injury happened on March 28 (and was why he missed some games late in the season).

There’s some optimism as the Senators ready for the New York Rangers, at least according to Karlsson.

Hmm.

Either way, that’s impressive stuff from the Senators defenseman, and the sort of information that usually only surfaces after a team has been eliminated. We’ll see if he’s hindered by such issues as the playoffs go along.