Brad Richards

What’s next for those who lost the Brad Richards sweepstakes?

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With the Brad Richards sweepstakes over with and the New York Rangers coming out on top with their nine-year, $60 million offer, the teams who also pursued him will have to find another way. While Calgary, Los Angeles, and Toronto are left wondering “What if?” regarding Richards, they’ve got to move on now and hit the secondary items on their offseason shopping list.

So where do these teams go from here? Here are a few ideas.

Calgary Flames
Calgary’s push to land Richards was one that came up late and strong last night. The Flames brought a similar nine year contract to the table but for more money than the Rangers offered as they came with a $65 million total. Calgary GM Jay Feaster was hoping his old connections to Richards from their days in Tampa Bay would get him somewhere and they did to a point, but not enough to make him move to Canada.

The Flames were hoping to give Jarome Iginla the #1 playmaker he’s never had and instead they’ll have to go back and rely on a mix of Daymond Langkow, Matthew Stajan, or Olli Jokinen to take care of that once again. If the Flames are truly worried about their corps of centers they could get in on talks with Tim Connolly or Jason Arnott to help provide better depth, but the Flames have a lot of bad money on the books this year and still need to add a defenseman or two. The chase for Richards may have been a shot in the dark kind of pursuit and one they’ll leave at that. With Feaster in charge you can’t be too sure.

Los Angeles Kings
Kings GM Dean Lombardi’s pursuit of Brad Richards was rather stunning considering he just acquired Mike Richards from Philadelphia last week to be their other top center alongside Anze Kopitar. Perhaps it was the lingering hangover from the pursuit of Ilya Kovalchuk last season that made him feel he had to get in on Richards, but the Kings have more pressing needs elsewhere with their forwards.

L.A. should be busy getting after another scoring winger and a depth center. This is where getting involved in the talks for Simon Gagne would be good things for the Kings. After how disappointing Alexei Ponikarovsky was last year as a booby prize for Kovalchuk, grabbing a guy like Gagne would give either Kopitar or Richards someone useful with offensive touch to play along with. If Gagne comes at too steep of a price, there are guys like Sergei Samsonov, Cory Stillman, or even Nikolai Zherdev to fall back on for offensive touch.

With Jarrett Stoll set to slot in as the Kings #3 center at the moment, perhaps getting more of a grinder at center would do them well. A character like Zenon Konopka or John Madden could do quite well in Los Angeles.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs GM Brian Burke had his heart set on getting Brad Richards in Toronto to play alongside Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin. The push didn’t work out and now the Leafs are still left with a huge problem not having a #1 center. The problem here for Toronto is that there’s not another top center to be had via free agency.

The Leafs are continuing to build for the future and growing the team together and this is where perhaps getting a strong character player like Jason Arnott could come in handy. Arnott is great in the locker room, still has some game to him, and if you slot him in as your #2 guy behind Mikhail Grabovski up the middle, he’ll play well there. There’s talk that the Leafs are sniffing around at Tim Connolly but they of all teams should know how frustrating he’s been the last few years in Buffalo both in his play and his injury struggles.

There’s no one left on the market for the Leafs to go crazy over at forward and Burke should realize that and be patient. After the Leafs sat back quietly and did nothing on Day 1 of free agency, Leafs fans might be a bit more worked up than anyone in the front office as they’re dying to see their team in the playoffs. Patience in this situation might be better rewarded.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).

Contract coming? Rakell’s agent negotiating ‘frequently’ with Anaheim

ANAHEIM, CA - NOVEMBER 30: Rickard Rakell #67 of the Anaheim Ducks skates during a game against the Vancouver Canucks at Honda Center on November 30, 2015 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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More updates from Anaheim, the land of contractual impasses…

Rickard Rakell, the still-unsigned RFA forward, sounds as though he’s closer to an extension with the Ducks than teammate Hampus Lindholm, who’s working out in Sweden.

From the O.C. Register:

Rakell has yet to resume his training after being unable to play for his homeland in the World Cup of Hockey. But it is believed that while the Ducks would prefer to stay lower than Rakell’s six-year, $24 million asking price, they’ve made more headway with the center’s agent, Peter Wallen.

In an e-mail to the Register, Wallen confirmed as much while saying Rakell has slowly started to work out again and will need “a couple of weeks” to get back in top shape. “Back negotiating,” Wallen said. “More frequently now.”

Rakell finished fourth on the Ducks in scoring last year, with 20 goals and 43 points, and led the team in game-winning markers. His emergence over the last two seasons — he had 31 points in 73 contests in ’14-15 — his age (only turned 23 in May) and his versatility (can play center or right wing) are the big reasons why he’s angling for a significant payday.

For Anaheim, it’s one of those problems teams wish they had.

Though they’re stretched thin financially, the Ducks have an arsenal of good young talent up front that will eventually replace the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler. Rakell is chief among them, and he’ll soon be followed by the likes of Nick Ritchie, Nick Sorensen, Julius Nattinen and both of the club’s first-round picks at this year’s draft — Max Jones and Sam Steel.

The key, of course, is keeping all those young guys in the fold.

And that starts with Rakell.

Related: Lindholm seeking eight-year deal from ducks, at least $6M per

Schwartz injury increases focus on Blues who could step up

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 24:  Ty Rattie #18 of the St. Louis Blues passes around Trevor van Riemsdyk #57 of the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on January 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Blues 2-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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It was already going to be interesting to watch the St. Louis Blues without David Backes and Troy Brouwer.

Then came today’s news that they’ll be without Jaden Schwartz for at least the first two weeks of the regular season.

Now the focus really turns to players like Ty Rattie, the 23-year-old winger who’s piled up the points in the AHL but still has to establish himself as a regular NHLer.

Can he help fill the void?

“It’s him, it’s (Kenny) Agostino, it’s (Samuel) Blais, it’s (Magnus) Paajarvi,” said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock, per In The Slot. “These are guys that, man, they can make our team be a little bit different here, quite a bit different and really be one of those teams where we’re dangerous right throughout our lineup if they can make the grade.”

Backes had 21 goals last season, while Brouwer chipped in 18. The Blues did partially answer their departures with the David Perron signing, but they’ll need others to step up as well. That includes veteran Alex Steen, whose goal totals have fallen from 33 to 24 to 17 in three consecutive seasons, and 20-year-old Robby Fabbri, who had 18 goals last season as a rookie, but has the talent to score more. Paul Stastny only had 10 goals last season. He can do better.

Schwartz, too, will need to stay healthy when he returns. He only played 33 games last season after fracturing his ankle in October. He has to be doubly frustrated after sustaining yet another injury in practice.

And, of course, Vladimir Tarasenko will need to keep scoring. He had 40 goals last season, the fourth most in the NHL. Any falloff there would hurt.

The Blues finished 2015-16 with 107 points, then made it all the way to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2001. They still consider themselves Stanley Cup contenders.

But first things first, they have to get back into the playoffs.

“This is my sixth season in the Central Division and this looks like the most challenging year yet,” Hitchcock told The Associated Press yesterday. “The crunching between the top and bottom started last year, and it’s going to be closer this year.”