Report: Rangers to buy out Chris Drury; Freeing up space to make run at Brad Richards?

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Things haven’t exactly been joyful for Rangers captain Chris Drury the last few seasons in New York. He’s struggled with injuries, he’s struggled with producing on the ice, and he’s had Rangers fans hoping to see the captain’s “C” moved to other players on the team (namely Ryan Callahan). After a miserable 2010-2011 season that saw Drury finish the year with just one goal after dealing with a myriad of injuries, it appears his run in New York is at an end.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post reports that Rangers GM Glen Sather will be buying Drury out of the final year of his contract while retaining two other high priced forwards who have had their ups and downs in New York.

The Post has also learned that the team will not buy out either Wojtek Wolski or Sean Avery, each of whom ended the season with tenuous futures on Broadway.

The Drury buyout, which will become official during the proscribed June 15-30 window for such transactions, will open $3,333,333 of 2011-12 cap space while costing the team $1,666,667 in dead space the following season under the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement.

If eating a $3.33 million cap hit for a year sounds like a bad idea, consider that if the Rangers kept Drury on the roster this year he’d eat up $7.05 million against the cap or end up thoroughly disrespected as a captain and stuffed in the AHL to hide his contract. At least being bought out means he can see if he can play somewhere else in the NHL.

The other side of cutting Drury loose is the salary relief it provides the Rangers in their potential and likely pursuit of Brad Richards when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Richards is set to become the most pursued free agent of the summer and the former Conn Smythe Trophy award winner and playmaking phenom is a guy the Rangers have lusted after since before the trade deadline this season. With his former Lightning head coach John Tortorella in charge with the Rangers, it’s a pairing that makes sense and for the Rangers Richards would be the setup man they’ve lacked for years in Manhattan.

For now, Drury’s departure from New York ends an era that saw Drury come in with big expectations after putting up huge seasons with Daniel Briere in Buffalo only to fall severely short of huge expectations on Broadway. While Drury wasn’t necessarily a bad player, the great success he had with the Sabres set the bar that much higher for him coming to New York.

His first season with the Rangers was his best putting up 25 goals and 33 assists. Paying over $7 million a year for a guy who only twice scored more than 50 points in his four seasons in New York wasn’t cutting it. Drury is a much loved player for what he’s done, but his final two seasons in New York saw him play 101 games while scoring 15 goals and adding 22 assists.

Should the Rangers add Richards, keep this in mind: Drury was 31 years old when they signed him and his production evaporated after two seasons. Brad Richards turned 31 in May and is coming off of a season that saw him suffer a concussion that limited his play and saw him unable to help the Dallas Stars make the playoffs. If the Rangers do plan on breaking the bank for Richards, they should be at least be wise about what could happen out of the blue.

‘It’s all my fault’: Mike Babcock takes responsibility for penalty box blunder

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Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock is often regarded as the best coach in hockey, but even the best make silly mistakes sometimes.

During last night’s game between the Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, Babcock’s error forced his team to play an extra 1:54 shorthanded.

Early in the third frame, Roman Polak was given a five-minute penalty and a game misconduct for boarding Oliver Bjorkstrand (Polak is scheduled to have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday morning). Instead of sending someone to the penalty box to serve the major infraction, Babcock decided to leave the box empty.

Coaches aren’t obliged to send someone to the sin bin right away. During any stoppage in play before the end of penalty, they can send someone to finish serving the infraction. Unfortunately for the Leafs, Babcock never did.

So when Polak’s five-minute major expired, the Leafs couldn’t simply throw someone onto the ice from their bench, they had to wait for a stoppage in play.

Toronto players tried to ice the puck a couple of times, but that didn’t work. So finally, Brian Boyle flipped the puck into the Columbus bench to get a whistle, but not before his team spent nearly seven straight minutes shorthanded.

They ended up winning 5-2, but they held a slim 3-2 lead at the time.

Luckily for Babcock, his penalty killers did an incredible job, as they only allowed one shot on goal throughout the kill.

After the game, he took full responsibility for what happened.

“I’m doing better now, but can you imagine?,” said the Leafs bench boss, per the Toronto Sun. “It’s all my fault, me, the two assistants on the bench, two in the video room and 15 players on the bench. And we can’t get that done right? Often it happens and you just fire a guy in the box. It could have cost you. It will never happen in my lifetime again, I will never wait to put a guy in. But our penalty kill was really good.”

PHT Morning Skate: Ovechkin will be rocking incredible custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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–With only a few weeks remaining in the regular season, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will be in and out of the playoffs. With that being said, The Hockey News put together a list of five players that could benefit from playing on another team. Devils goalie Cory Schneider is at the top of the list. Schneider’s been solid since joining New Jersey, but the team hasn’t had much success. (The Hockey News)

Erik Karlsson has always been known as an offensive defenseman, but this year, he’s made several defensive improvements to his game. The changes have made him so effective that his head coach, Guy Boucher, believes he should be in the running for a Hart Trophy. (Canadian Press)

–The Washington Capitals will be hosting a Russian Heritage Night tonight. During the pre-game warmup, Alex Ovechkin will be rocking these custom skates honoring his home land and his American home. He’ll be auctioning off the skates too. (CSN Mid-Atlantic)

–The New York Islanders trailed the Rangers 2-1 heading into the third period, but thanks to goals by Nikolay Kulemin and Andrew Ladd, they were able to come out on top. You can watch the highlights from last night’s “Battle of New York” by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–Vegas GM George McPhee chatted with Sportsnet’s Gene Principe about being able to build a team from scratch. McPhee called the experience “fantastic” and “really neat”. He also discussed his vision for the team and how he’s approaching the expansion draft. (Sportsnet)

–The Detroit Red Wings have been a model franchise for quite some time, but they’ve on the verge of going through some pretty big changes. First, Joe Louis Arena will be closing its doors and secondly, their long playoff streak will be coming to an end this season. Sports Illustrated takes a deeper look at the old barn and the third-longest playoff streak in pro sports. (Sports Illustrated)

–Many people feel like the Calder Trophy race will come down to Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, but Bob McKenzie says there’s more than two worthy candidates because Zach Werenski has been equally good this season. But who is McKenzie leaning toward?

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).