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.

Fleury celebrates Stanley Cup day as a Penguin, but admits he’s ready to move on

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Marc-Andre Fleury celebrated his day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday.

His time in Pittsburgh has already come to an official end, having been selected by Vegas in the expansion draft. He’s already said ‘thank-you’ to the fans of Pittsburgh, but the events of this weekend, in his mind it seems, close the chapter for good on this stage of his career.

“I think this was my last day as a Penguin, I would say,” Fleury told NHL.com.

“I have members of my family who had their Penguins hats who told me this was the last time those will come out. So I think after today, I can turn the page and get ready for Vegas.”

The former first overall pick captured three Stanley Cup rings with the Penguins. While he wasn’t the No. 1 goalie last year — or in the 2017 final, either — he played a significant role in Pittsburgh’s success through the first half of this year’s playoff before Matt Murray returned from injury.

He earned praise for how he handled the situation toward the end in Pittsburgh. After the final, reports surfaced he had agreed to waive his no-movement clause, which left him exposed in the expansion draft.

At age 32, he still has two more years left on his current contract, with an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. He’ll no doubt garner plenty of attention this upcoming season as the experienced starter on the Golden Knights’ roster.

But Saturday was for Fleury to enjoy one last championship won with the Penguins.

Hall urges Hischier to ‘develop at his own pace’

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The New Jersey Devils won the lottery and selected Nico Hischier first overall. With that comes even greater expectations on the player heading into their first training camp.

We’re less than two months away from the opening of training camps across the league.

But on a team that has worked this summer to bolster its offense, the addition of the 18-year-old Hischier could have an immediate impact in that department in October. Certainly, fans in New Jersey will hope so.

Taylor Hall knows all about the pressures of being taken first overall.

The Oilers selected him at that spot in 2010, but dealt him to New Jersey last summer, removing a very talented forward from their roster in order to gain something back defensively.

Devils coach John Hynes has already tried to lessen the burden on Hischier. Hall, it appears, has taken a similar approach.

“He’s just got to relax and develop at his own pace,” Hall told the Toronto Sun. “That’s not always the easiest thing to do with all the expectations people put on you for going No. 1, but I’ll help him any way I can.”

The Metropolitan Division featured four 100-plus point teams last season. New Jersey wasn’t one of them. Where the Devils need to make the most improvement in order to break back into the postseason conversation is with their offensive attack,finishing 28th in the league in total goals for last season.

Hischier should help — if not exactly next season then beyond 2017-18. The Devils also acquired Marcus Johansson from Washington and the signing of Brian Boyle should help solidify depth up the middle.

“It’s exciting times for us, bringing in the likes of Nico, Brian Boyle and Marcus Johansson,” said Hall. “We’re certainly trending in the right direction.”

Habs may lean more on Montoya to keep Price refreshed

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The Montreal Canadiens committed money (a lot of money) and term to Carey Price with his contract extension at the beginning of this month.

He is the backbone for this team, for its success.

He’s also about to turn 30 years old next month, with 509 career games in the NHL, entering the league in 2007-08. For as great as he has been, the Habs may place added responsibilities on the shoulders of their back-up, a title currently held by Al Montoya.

In an interview with the Habs’ website, the club’s goaltending coach Stephane Waite said that, in his mind, the days of starting goalies playing 65 to 70 games are done. It’s too tall an order in today’s NHL.

Price has, on three occasions, breached the figures in that approximation during his career. He approached the lower end of that with 62 starts in 2016-17. Montoya, meanwhile, had 18 starts and 19 games, posting a 8-6-4 record (20 points for Montreal in the standings) and a .912 save percentage.

He was the victim of one awful game, allowing 10 goals to Columbus on Nov. 4. But seriously, the entire Habs team was awful that night, essentially leaving their No. 2 goalie out to dry in an embarrassing effort from everyone.

Beyond that, Montoya was able to put together some nice starts, including shutouts against Pittsburgh and Edmonton, two teams well-equipped with dangerous offensive talent.

“We’re not afraid to put Al in goal against any team in the league,” said Waite.

“We don’t look at who he’ll be playing, we just look at the schedule that we make at the beginning of the season. Our priority is to give Carey the right days off at the right times.”

The Habs signed Montoya to a two-year extension in January. That’s a vote of confidence in their back-up.

Maintaining that confidence with a good season would certainly help the Habs accomplish the objective of keeping Price rested and refreshed.

Rangers are ‘right on the cusp,’ says Shattenkirk

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Since missing the playoffs in 2010, the New York Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Final three times, and to the Stanley Cup Final once.

A championship, however, has eluded them. Instead, they’ve lost to the L.A. Kings in the final and watched their division rivals from Pittsburgh win it twice in a row, even losing to the Penguins in the first round in 2016.

This summer, however, has brought considerable change to the Blueshirts through a blockbuster trade with Arizona, buyouts and a retirement.

Derek Stepan — gone.

Dan Girardi — gone.

Kevin Klein — gone.

Antti Raanta — gone.

Oscar Lindberg — gone.

There has been substantial change on the blue line. The Rangers went after prized free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk with a four-year contract worth $26.6 million. They re-signed Brendan Smith, a late-season acquisition. They brought in Anthony DeAngelo in that deal with Arizona.

Read more: Optimism replaces pessimism after changes to Rangers defense

No surprise here, but Shattenkirk had an optimistic outlook when describing the Rangers, a team he believes is “right on the cusp,” according to a conversation with NHL.com.

“I think we have that capability of playing with a team like that,” Shattenkirk recently told NHL.com.

“We have great goaltending (Henrik Lundqvist). Our defense is fast and we can make plays, but I also think we have a little bit of edge as well. Up front, I’m sure we’re one of the fastest teams in the League. You look at how Pittsburgh is built, and that’s the way that they’ve won. We have some great depth on our team, and I think that’s what it really comes down to at that point of the season: How deep are you?”

Their success next season may also depend on which teams rise and fall in the Metropolitan Division.

Columbus took a big step forward with a franchise record-setting season and will look to replicate that beginning in the fall. The Penguins were the Penguins, advancing past Washington and Ottawa in seven-game series despite a plethora of injuries before besting Nashville in the final. One has to wonder how much of a toll the grind of two Stanley Cups will take on that club. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy but faltered in the playoffs, ushering in change to their roster with all the unrestricted free agents — including Shattenkirk for the playoff run — they had.

Can the Islanders get back into the playoffs? Same question for the Flyers. Will Carolina, with Scott Darling in net, get the necessary upgrade at that position and take the next step toward the playoffs? What will New Jersey, with an upgraded offense in addition to Taylor Hall, be capable of when the season begins?

The number of changes to teams in the Metropolitan may be enough to shift the balance of power in that division this upcoming season. The Rangers have seemed like a team on the cusp at least three times in the last seven years.

Shattenkirk mentioned goaltending, as well, calling it great. That’s an accurate description of what Lundqvist has been for many years in New York. However, at the age of 35, he’ll need to bounce back from what was a down season for him in 2016-17.

“I think everyone’s probably all going to judge [the window] based on Lundqvist, and everyone is talking about, ‘Well, how long does he have left?'” continued Shattenkirk. “We have a lot of young players on this team, though, to counterbalance that.”