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.

Penguins announce they will accept White House invite

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One day after the NBA champion Golden State Warriors announced that they would use their trip to Washington this season to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion in lieu of a White House visit, the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins issued a statement announcing they have accepted an invite to visit the White House again this year.

The Statement from the Penguins reads as follows.

“The Pittsburgh Penguins respect the institution of the Office of the President, and the long tradition of championship teams visiting the White House. We attended White House ceremonies after previous championships – touring the historic building and visiting briefly with Presidents George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama – and have accepted an invitation to attend again this year.

Any agreement or disagreement with a president’s politics, policies or agenda can be expressed in other ways. However, we very much respect the rights of other individuals and groups to express themselves as they see fit.”

This comes on the same weekend that players across professional sports, from the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, have been speaking out and taking part in unprecedented protests against racial inequality and comments from the President that players that do not stand for the National Anthem should be fired.

During the early Sunday NFL game in London several players from the Baltimore Ravens took a knee during the National Anthem, while Jaguars owner Shad Khan stood and locked arms with his players. Those protests are expected to continue throughout the day.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have chosen to not participate in the National Anthem before their game against the Chicago Bears, instead choosing to remain in the locker room.

Detroit’s new arena hosts Red Wings game for the 1st time

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Detroit Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard crouched in net and gazed up at the largest videoboard in the NHL.

“I caught myself a couple of times, especially in the first and halfway through the third, watching on the big screen,” Howard said. “I got to remind myself that there’s actually a game going on in front of me.”

Little Caesars Arena made its debut as a sports venue as the Red Wings beat the Boston Bruins 5-1 Saturday night.

And even the Bruins came away impressed.

“I don’t think there’s another arena that can compare to it,” Boston goaltender Zane McIntyre said.

That was the goal.

Ilitch Holdings president and CEO Chris Ilitch went on a mission to build the world’s finest arena. He traveled all over North America to borrow ideas from other arenas and stadiums. Ilitch also drew on experiences from trips to Europe to create an experience in, around and outside the building that is truly unique.

“To be state of the art, you have to know the state of the industry to truly be innovative,” Ilitch said recently in an interview with The Associated Press. “We want people to come and be amazed.”

So far, so good.

Kelly Mulley, a 25-year-old fan, made the trek from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to make the first preseason game without missing the birth of his daughter.

“Her due date was too close to the date of the first regular season game in a couple weeks,” Mulley said before pulling up his right sleeve to show the Red Wings’ winged wheel tattooed on the inside of his right biceps. “This place is a definite upgrade from Joe Louis Arena. It reminds me of the Bell Centre in Montreal because of how on top of the ice the fans seem to be and with the organist.”

The Red Wings said goodbye in April their former home, known as The Joe , where they raised four of the franchise’s 11 Stanley Cup banners to the crowded rafters. The team and red-clad fans in the stands will be excited about Little Caesars Arena for a while, but the feel-good vibe will fade if the team doesn’t win.

Detroit failed to make the playoffs last season for the first time since 1990, ending the NHL’s third longest postseason streak in league history.

“One of the guys on the team said there are no excuses not to win,” Olympia Entertainment President Tom Wilson said. “It’s a dream come true for players in terms of facilities.”

Kirk Malty agreed.

The former Red Wings player, who works for the organization as a pro scout, said the size of the dressing room is only one of the many upgrades.

“Not to be rude or mean, but it’s like the players are going from living in the back of a truck to moving into a mansion,” Maltby said.

The Pistons, who are moving downtown from The Palace of Auburn Hills in the suburbs, will take the court in the same space Oct. 4 against Charlotte in an exhibition game. Bob Seger’s concert on Saturday night was the arena’s final scheduled event.

“It was a very bold move for Tom Gores to move his team from his own arena,” Ilitch told The AP during an exclusive tour last month. “He has tremendous vision and knew he could take it up a notch and make a bigger impact on the community. This isn’t just an arena. What we’ve created is very, very special.”

 

Ekman-Larsson suffers lower-body injury vs. Sharks, will be re-evaluated today

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The Arizona Coyotes lost to the San Jose Sharks in preseason action Saturday. What will matter more is the status of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

According to reports, Ekman-Larsson suffered a lower-body injury during overtime and had to be helped off the ice.

“He will get re-evaluated tomorrow — lower body,” said head coach Rick Tocchet, per Arizona Sports. “See what happens tomorrow. I don’t think he will practice tomorrow.”

At 26 years of age, Ekman-Larsson is a huge piece of a rebuilding Coyotes team and, based on previous comments from general manager John Chayka, is expected to be heavily relied upon on the blue line this season.

It’s also expected that he will be named the new Coyotes captain, taking over the leadership role from Shane Doan.

Rangers’ Desjardins faces hearing for ‘dirty’ hit on Miles Wood

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Just hours after delivering a two-game preseason suspension to Tom Wilson, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety issued a statement on Twitter, this time saying Andrew Desjardins will have a hearing.

That hearing is scheduled to take place Monday. Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal hit to the head of New Jersey Devils forward Miles Wood during Saturday’s preseason game between the Devils and Rangers.

The incident occurred before the midway point of the first period.

Wood was slow to get back to his feet, but did eventually return to the game. The hit resulted in a melee in front of the Rangers net, with John Moore also getting called for roughing.