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Brad Richards to make decision on Saturday, Calgary Flames in the mix?

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From the “where the heck did this come from” file, there are reports that the Calgary Flames have made a late push to lure Brad Richards to Alberta. Even though they weren’t one of the teams to make an in-person pitch to Richards, reports tell us that the Flames extended a 9-year deal worth $64 million. For the first time, we have an idea of the money and terms that teams are throwing at the prize of this year’s free agent class.

We knew it could get out of control, but $7.1 million per season will undoubtedly put some of them out of the running. The Tampa Bay Lightning said they were out of the running and the Buffalo Sabres decided not to make their scheduled pitch to Richards after they landed Ville Leino from the Flyers. Richards said he’s narrowed it down to 4 or 5 teams—which is better than the 30 teams that were in the mix at the beginning of today. Straight from the source, Tony Ambrogio (freelance reporter for SportsNet) learned that this won’t turn into an Ilya Kovalchuk situation like last year:

“Brad Richards says he “really didn’t expect it to turn into this” as far as all the interest.”No need to drag it” past tomorrow.”

New York Rangers: Going into the day, the New York Rangers were the favorite to procure Richards’ services at the end of the fiasco. Between the Rangers need for a top-flight center, a major media market, cap space, and Richards past relationship with John Tortorella, it seemed like everything was in place. TSN reported throughout the morning that Richards planned on talking to the Rangers at the end of the process to give them a chance to match any other offers out there. By the end of the day, there’s no reason to think they aren’t still in the mix.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs were the first team to meet with Richards at the Newport Sports Management building in Mississauga, ON. Maple Leafs executive Dave Nonis made the pitch with GM Brian Burke visiting troops overseas on Canada Day. The meeting reportedly lasted about 45 minutes. The Leafs would love to bring in Richards to be their #1 center feeding pucks to sniper Phil Kessel for 82 games next season. With deep pockets and plenty of cap space, the Leafs were expected to extend one of the most lucrative deals.

Los Angeles Kings: After a rough start at Newport Sports Management, the Kings brought out all the stops to lure Richards to the West Coast. They brought an entourage of representatives including CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (Kings parent company) Tim Leiweke, GM Dean Lombardi, three coaches, a director of scouting, and even their VP of communications. The center piece of their pitch was a video presentation that featured southern Californian stars such as Kobe Bryant and Jerry Bruckheimer. Afterwards, Leiweke said he was proud of the pitch:

“This is the best effort I’ve ever seen, in chasing a player for the Kings. That’s for sure. They were very impressed with the video, and I’m hoping one day we will share the video. We had a lot of people help us and a lot of people speak on our behalf. Some of the people who spoke on our behalf shocked Brad and his agents, and they will shock our fans a little bit, the help that we got here. So this was a good L.A. effort. L.A. showed well here, and I’m proud of the job we did. We’ll see what happens, but certainly, regardless of what happens, it’s nice to be held in this regard now. We’re one of the big boys, and that’s certainly how they looked at it today.”

Philadelphia Flyers: Say what you want about the Flyers recent moves—at least they’ve been interesting. After signing Jaromir Jagr, it was widely assumed that the Flyers were out of the Richards sweepstakes because they were out of cap space. One call to Dale Tallon, one Kris Versteeg trade, and one conference call to Brad Richards and that logic was turned on its head. Nick Kypreos reported that the Flyers made a “solid pitch to Brad Richards that may make them frontrunners.” Scott Burnside doesn’t think the Flyers are in the Final Four, but stranger things have happened.

Calgary Flames: The last team that we heard enter the fray was the Calgary Flames. Even though they didn’t make their presentation in person, they reportedly threw around serious money that deserved serious attention. New Flames GM Jay Feaster has a relationship with Richards from their days in Tampa Bay and captain Jarome Iginla reportedly called Richards in hopes of wooing the free agent.

Shocking: Tortorella emphasizes ‘mental toughness’

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 15:  Team USA head coach John Tortorella answers questions during Media day at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on September 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Without any clues, if you had to pick one word to describe what John Tortorella might be looking for, what would it be?

There’s a strong chance many would pick “toughness” (or, OK, maybe a variation such as “grit”) and you’d be right.

After a World Cup of Hockey in which Team USA’s pursuit of toughness bordered, at times, on the comical, Tortorella kept the same themes going with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“I think that’s the fine line of winning and losing,” Tortorella told the Columbus Dispatch. “How do you handle yourself in those little situations where it’s, ‘Man, what do (I) give? Or, do (I) give in?’

“I’ve said it from day one, our mental toughness needs to be changed and this is part of the process.”

Specifically, Tortorella was talking about the Blue Jackets going through what the Columbus Dispatch describes as an especially “grueling” practice early on in training camp. But, honestly, it feels like it can be Torts’ request for just about anything hockey-related.

(It would be a refreshing bit of trolling if Tortorella decided to talk about finesse for an entire press conference.)

To some extent, talk of toughness can probably be chalked up to “coach-speak.”

Still, it’s tough not to wonder if the 2016-17 season might serve as a litmus test for Torts’ way of thinking and how it may influence the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Even when it’s not Torts making the decisions or at least dishing out the soundbytes, the Blue Jackets seem fixated on intangibles. Consider how GM Jarmo Kekalainen spoke about character while elaborating on the divisive decision to select Pierre-Luc Dubois over, say, Jesse Puljujärvi.

For all the blue collar talk, the Blue Jackets aren’t exactly a cheap team, with the 2016-17 version coming in at a cap hit of about $69 million.

In a multitude of ways, Columbus is paying a premium for intangibles and toughness, with Torts carrying that focus to an extreme. It should be fascinating to see how this all shakes out … even if Sergei Bobrovsky‘s play could ultimately be the real make-or-break factor for the Blue Jackets.

Predators give Laviolette a two-year extension

NASHVILLE, TN - MAY 09:  Head coach Peter Laviolette speaks to referee Kelly Sutherland #11 during the third period of Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round against the San Jose Sharks during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bridgestone Arena on May 9, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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The Nashville Predators have been on a roll lately, and keeping Peter Laviolette around seems like it keeps things going in a positive direction.

The team announced a two-year contract extension for Laviolette during Saturday’s State of the Union event.

During his first two seasons behind the bench in Nashville, the Predators have managed two playoff berths, beating the Anaheim Ducks in the first round during this last postseason trip. The Predators have managed to stay competitive in the Central Division, which is no small task.

With P.K. Subban added to the mix, it makes great sense to retain Laviolette’s services. You never know how a situation will work until it plays out, yet on paper, his system seems like a seamless fit for the star defender.

Nashville’s shown some promise already under Laviolette’s watch, particularly in quietly putting up some promising possession stats. At this moment in time, the future looks even brighter.

It can’t hurt that the guy has a Stanley Cup on his resume, either.

Goalie mask tour: Seinfeld references, tributes and more

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 23:  Actor Patrick Warburton attends The Apartment VIP Party on June 23, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Hulu)
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As difficult as it is to believe, it’s October already. You know what that means*; hockey season is rapidly approaching.

Along with stories about guys who might still be a little injured claiming they’re “100 percent” and teams carrying in optimism that will eventually look foolish, we also get fun stuff like new goalie masks.

We’d already seen Petr Mrazek pay tribute to Joe Louis Arena a month ago, but with the preseason in high gear, we’re seeing more masks.

While there will likely be some other fun entries before the games start to count in 2016-17, PHT is kindly saving your delicate fingers a few extra clicks by collecting a few choice masks in one post.

To start things off, Michal Neuvirth paid tribute to late Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider:

Michal Neuvirth knew what he wanted on his new Philadelphia Flyers mask. He wanted it transformed into an epic tribute to the one and only, Mr Flyers himself, Ed Snider🙏🏻. Michal and I we brainstormed together and a plan emerged how to create the painting. I just love to create Storyteller masks📕. I wanted this to be truly special❤️. Put a lot of thoughts into every detail. We wanted it to be subtle and clean design that live and breath Flyers in the core. It was an honor to create this piece. On the side is also the wonderful logo of Ed Snider created by fellow artist David E. Wilkinson. In the design you will also just as always find a painting of the castle from Michal's hometown. Thank you Michal, we have worked together for so many years and it always a joy to create your mask paintings😊🎨 Thank you! #neuvirth @philadelphiaflyers #nhl #DaveArt @nhl #DaveArtCreativity #aflyerforever

A photo posted by David Gunnarsson (@davidofdaveart) on

This Miami Herald video shares Roberto Luongo‘s very-cool concept: the old Panthers cat on one side, the new one on the other. Here’s a shot from George Richards:

(Anyone else get a little John Vanbiesbrouck nostalgia from that lid?)

Thankfully, no birds were harmed in the making of Louis Domingue‘s mask, which features Arizona sports figures from Randy Johnson to more obvious Coyotes choices:

Nitpick: Steve Nash’s hair could have been floppier. Just saying.

Finally, hockey and Seinfeld once again mix better than a black-and-white cookie in Scott Wedgewood’s mask, which features a Puddy reference:

If you want more goalie masks, DaveArt.com’s list should keep you entertained for some time.

* – Barring all-too-frequent lockouts.

Malkin is ‘not happy’ with the way he’s been playing lately

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 7: Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 7, 2015 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Evgeni Malkin is back in Penguins training camp after a stint with Team Russia at the World Cup.

Malkin and his team reached the tournament’s semifinal before being knocked out by the eventual champions, Team Canada.

The Pens forward collected three points in four games, but he wasn’t satisfied by his overall performance.

“I need to start now,” Malkin said on Saturday, per the Tribune. “I’m not playing great. I’m not happy with my game at the World Cup. I will play better here and now.”

When he’s at his best, Malkin is fully capable of taking over games. That’s easier said than done in a best-on-best tournament, but those are the standards he’s set for himself.

So, what does he have to do to get back to that elite level?

“Play more with the puck. That’s my game always, if I have the puck and I spend more time with the puck. The last four, five games in the World Cup, I tried to use my partners, but my confidence when I play with the puck.”

The 30-year-old dealt with some injuries last year, but still managed to produce 58 points in 57 games during the regular season and 18 points in 23 games during Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup playoff run.