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With Ryan Smyth trade pending approval, Kings could own off-season throne after two days of work

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While Brayden Schenn could be a strong player in the future, Wayne Simmonds is a solid checking winger right now and a second round pick might yield some nice results of the Philadelphia Flyers, the Mike Richards trade is a resounding victory for the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings scratched and clawed their way to two consecutive playoff berths without many high-end offensive options beyond Anze Kopitar (unless you count the offensive gifts of blueliners Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson) but now they have a one-two punch at center that can compete with the best duos in the league. Richards is a premier two-way center who ranks as one of the most dangerous shorthanded threats in the NHL and comes in at a very manageable $5.75 million annual salary cap hit.

That cap hit could be even easier to digest if the Kings find a way to unload expensive, aging winger Ryan Smyth on the Calgary Flames, as many rumors suggest. The latest buzz is that the two sides are very close to a deal, although TSN’s Gord Miller reports that Flames ownership needs to approve it first.

It is unclear what the Kings would get back if the trade goes through, but there aren’t many Flames players who cost more than Smyth’s bloated $6.25 million cap hit (to be fair, his 2011-12 salary is significantly lower at $4.5 million). Smyth remains a likeable leader with a nose for the net, but his production – 47 points in 10-11, no more than 59 points since he signed that five-year, $31.25 million deal in 2007 – simply cannot justify his paychecks.

The Flames seem intent on making changes this off-season, although it might be grimly accurate to say that they are making the same mistakes that got them into this mess. Reports indicate that the Flames want to unload Robyn Regehr’s $4.02 million salary cap hit to the Buffalo Sabres if Regehr will waive his no-movement clause. That seems like a semi-reasonable idea in a vacuum, but possibly adding Smyth makes the Flames’ moves look downright foolish in context.

On the other hand, pulling off that trade makes Kings GM Dean Lombardi look like a genius. There was a sense that Lombardi’s cautious rebuild of the Kings franchise might stall out during this off-season, but adding Richards for prospects and getting rid of Smyth’s problematic cap hit could cast Los Angeles as serious Stanley Cup contenders. Honestly, it’s quite possible that Lombardi’s Kings won the off-season before we learn the name of the first pick of 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Then again, from the looks of things, we could see plenty of other jaw-dropping decisions before Friday night ends.

Video: Maple Leafs lose Morgan Rielly after fall into boards

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Down 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a shaky start on Tuesday. Still, their concerns likely revolve the most around the health of defenseman Morgan Rielly.

As you can see from the video above, the young Buds blueliner was shaken up by an awkward spill into the boards.

It’s too early to know if he avoided injury or might miss some time, but there’s at least some concern that he might have aggravated an issue from before his NHL days:

We’ll need to wait and see, but with his offensive skills and overall importance in mind (average just under 23 minutes a game this season, more or less in line with his breakthrough year in 2015-16), the Maple Leafs are crossing their fingers that this isn’t anything major.

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Blackhawks at Colorado Avalanche

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 23:  Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck as he turns against Tyson Barrie #4 of the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on December 23, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Avalanche defeated the Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks need to put a tough weekend behind them; maybe the Colorado Avalanche are just what the doctor ordered.

Colorado is clearly ranked last in the league, whether they believe they have some assets in the likes of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog or not. Perhaps there will be a few scouts on hand to see how such potential Avs trade targets perform against a contending team?

It’s rarely a dull night when the Blackhawks roll out talented players like Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Jonathan Toews – among others – so it should be a good time on NBCSN on Tuesday.

You can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.

Short-lived return? No Tyler Ennis for Sabres tonight

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Tyler Ennis #63 of the Buffalo Sabres takes a shot on goal against the Philadelphia Flyers during the first period at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Tyler Ennis‘ return to the Buffalo Sabres lineup on Monday after a 30-game absence seemed like a breath of fresh air. Tuesday, then, represents letting the air out of the balloon.

The Sabres announced that Ennis wasn’t out for warm-ups heading into tonight’s Sabres – Toronto Maple Leafs game. It certainly gives the impression that his groin injury isn’t fully healed.

Ennis contributed a goal to Buffalo’s 4-1 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday and nearly scored another in “lacrosse” style:

When healthy, he’s been a 20-goal, 40+ point player for Buffalo lately, so he was missed. The team tweeted out Ryan O'Reilly‘s comments about Ennis’ return mere hours ago, so you get the impression that it was a surprise for many:

Maybe it’s just a minor setback?

Update: The Sabres deem it a “precautionary scratch,” according to John Vogl of the Buffalo News. So maybe file this under minor setback. We’ll see.

Stars’ Eakin is ‘prepared’ for Rangers retribution for that Lundqvist hit

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The New York Rangers were probably glad that Cody Eakin received a four-game suspension for his “intentional” hit on Henrik Lundqvist, but they might seek a more direct form of justice against the Dallas Stars tonight.

Eakin is aware of that fact, too, as he told the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika.

“I’m prepared. If it was our team, there would obviously be words that were shared,” Eakin said. “I’ll be prepared and I’ll continue to play a hard game. Whatever happens, happens.”

Hey, Lindy Ruff apparently hoped that Jamie Benn “emptied his frustration tank” during his outburst following Monday’s loss; perhaps Benn will have a little bit left over to defend Eakin?

The Rangers aren’t playing coy about the hit being a talking point.

“That’s not something you forget about,” Chris Kreider said, according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. “I’m sure someone will have a conversation with him.”

Sounds so civil. Perhaps they will have this conversation over a soothing cup of chamomile tea?