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.

Canadiens spent too much time getting tougher, not enough time getting better

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For several years now the Montreal Canadiens have been a very good, but very flawed hockey team.

Before this season their biggest issue was an overreliance on starting goaltender Carey Price, where they would be content to allow him to make as many saves as he had to make for the team to squeeze out a bunch of 2-1 or 2-0 wins. When he was healthy and on top of his game, his performance masked a lot of the flaws and the team won a lot of games (and he won a lot of awards). When he wasn’t there a year ago, the entire thing collapsed on itself and the Michel Therrien-led Canadiens were exposed for the house of cards they always were. If they were ever going to make the leap to serious Stanley Cup contender they were going to have to find a way to offer their All-Everything goalie some additional support and give him some help.

Their apparent strategy in doing that for this season only seemed to create more flaws. They were on display in their six-game first-round exit at the hands of the New York Rangers.

From the very start of the offseason the Canadiens’ plan for this season seemed to revolve around getting bigger, tougher, stronger, grittier and more difficult to play against. Before the start of the 2015-17 season they traded Lars Eller for draft picks. They traded different draft picks for Andrew Shaw and his playoff experience and “hate to lose” mentality. They traded P.K. Subban for Shea Weber in a deal that will be dissected, analyzed and second-guessed for decades.

To be fair, they also added Alexander Radulov during the offseason, and he not only proved to be the best free agent signing by any team this summer, he was almost certainly the most impactful move the Canadiens made. But even with that addition, the direction general manager Marc Bergevin and then-coach Michel Therrien wanted to take the team in was clear.

It became even clearer at the trade deadline when almost every move the Canadiens made was centered around adding size and grit to the bottom six as opposed to some much-needed offensive punch. Along with adding Jordie Benn and Brandon Davidson to their defense, they made the following changes to their forwards before the deadline.

  • They traded for noted cage-rattler Steve Ott, a fourth-line forward that has scored just six goals and recorded only 14 assists in 152 games over the past three seasons.
  • They traded for 6-4, 229-pound winger Dwight King from the Los Angeles Kings.
  • They traded for 6-3, 220-pound winger Andreas Martinsen from the Colorado Avalanche

After the deadline Bergevin talked about not being able to add offense because the price was too high, and that a lot of their goal scoring issues could be fixed by improved confidence from within and that because playoff hockey gets tougher there would not be as many goals scored anyway.

From the Montreal Gazette:

“For us, we felt we had a good start (and) we had four lines producing,” said Bergevin. “Of late, that hasn’t been the case but I feel comfortable that, as guys get more confidence as we move forward, they’ll be able to chip in. And down the road, there won’t be as many goals and there will be those one-goal hockey games 2-1, 3-2, 1-0. It’s a tight league.

“I always say you can play with a bad shoulder or a bad foot but if you have no confidence, you can’t play,” said Bergevin. “Also down the stretch, it’s hard to score. You look at Columbus last night, one of the highest scoring teams in the league. You have to grind it out to score goals down the stretch.”

In other words: We might as well just try to embrace continuing to win every game 2-1.

As for the players they did add, those three forwards (Ott, King, Martinsen) combined to score 15 goals this season. These were their big trade deadline acquisitions.

The Canadiens played two games in this series where all three of them played in the same game. They lost one 2-0. They were 18 seconds away from losing the other one if not for some late-game (and overtime) heroics from Radulov to set up the tying goal in the closing seconds then score the winner early in overtime.

When it came to the decisive Game 6, when Martinsen and Shaw were out of the lineup (and Torrey Mitchell, who had played well in his limited action in this series was, also scratched) Brian Flynn and Michael McCarron (seven combined goals between the two this season) were inserted in.

The Canadiens were basically playing as a (at best) three-line team when it came to creating offense, and that is simply not good enough, especially when the whole mindset of the team seemed to be focussed on getting bigger and tougher. It runs counter to most everything the NHL’s most successful teams have done in recent years. The Pittsburgh Penguins are 20-9 the past two seasons with one of the NHL’s smallest, least physical rosters. When the Chicago Blackhawks had their mini-dynasty they were consistently one of the smallest, least physical teams in the league. Even the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that reached the NHL’s final four in two of the past three seasons, did it with a collection of forwards that can be described as “undersized.”

It is a speed, skill league, and you can’t beat teams anymore by simply grinding them down with bigger, stronger players (you could argue there was never a time that was possible, but that’s a different argument for a different day). The Canadiens seemed to lose the plot on that one from the start, and then doubled down on it later in the season just before the playoffs began.

The Canadiens added their size and grit. But the end result was the same as we have seen from them in recent years: A flawed team that couldn’t produce anywhere near enough offense to make a deep playoff run with arguably the NHL’s best goalie playing at a high level.

2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs Schedule for Sunday, April 23

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Only two series remain in the first-round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and both of them continue on Sunday.

First, the Boston Bruins look to push their first-round series to a seventh game after their double overtime win on Friday when they host the Ottawa Senators on Sunday afternoon. That game will be followed by Washington Capitals trying to, as Barry Trotz wants to see, push the Toronto Maple Leafs off the cliff.

Here is everything you for Sunday’s games, both of which will be shown on the NBC networks and streamed online.

Boston Bruins vs. Ottawa Senators

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBC (Stream Online Here)

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals

Time: 7:00 p.m. ET

Network: NBCSN (Stream Online Here)

Video: Oilers showed off depth beyond McDavid in beating Sharks

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As the Art Ross winner and Hart Trophy frontrunner, there’s no doubt that Connor McDavid is the catalyst for the Edmonton Oilers.

Still, the scary thing for opponents is that, while he created chances against the San Jose Sharks, McDavid wasn’t exactly lighting them up for points.

Nope, as Mike Rupp and Jeremy Roenick discuss in the video above, the Oilers advanced thanks as much to depth scorers – and deft goaltending from Cam Talbot – as they did because of McDavid’s blistering combination of skill and speed.

Now, the Anaheim Ducks rank as an interesting opponent. While the Sharks could slow McDavid with one of the few blueliners who could really give him trouble – relatively speaking – in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, it remains to be seen if Anaheim can accomplish the same.

(A fully healthy Hampus Lindholm would increase their odds, mind you.)

Either way, the Oilers’ “other guys” deserve some credit, and they get it in the video above.

The West’s next round is now set (and wide-open)

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Saturday was a great day for fans of brevity and revenge.

Three of a possible three series ended on this day, with the Rangers dispatching the Canadiens, the Blues eliminating the “better” Wild, and the Oilers knocking off the Sharks in six.

The Rangers await either the Bruins or Senators and the Penguins face the winner of the Leafs – Capitals series out East, but we now know how the West shakes out.

St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators

Both teams provided some of the upsets of this young postseason. Each features a red-hot goalie in Jake Allen and Pekka Rinne. Interesting.

Anaheim Ducks vs. Edmonton Oilers

There will be a lot of orange. We may also see a ton of goals with Ryan Getzlaf on fire, Oscar Klefbom headlining the list of unhealthy players and Connor McDavid possibly able to really take off against a Ducks defense that is beat up in its own right.

It’s already been a strange season out West, with the Kings missing the playoffs and first-round exits for the Sharks and Blackhawks. Get ready – and giddy – for things to get even weirder as the postseason goes along.