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.

PHT Morning Skate: Stevens sees similarities between the Wild and those great Devils teams

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–In a Q & A with NHL.com, Minnesota assistant coach Scott Stevens says this year’s edition of the Wild reminds him of the stingy Devils teams he played on. “It reminds me very much of the Devils in how we play. We definitely love to protect the middle of the ice. We might give up a few more shots, but we give up a lot of those perimeter shots and hopefully our goaltenders know where the shots are coming from,” said Stevens. (NHL.com)

–Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has shown that he’s got the hockey thing down, but his “Call of Duty” game has come a long way, according to teammate Mitch Marner. (BarDown)

–Many expect the Canadiens to try to land a top two center between now and the trade deadline, but in an interview with TSN 690 radio, GM Marc Bergevin says “you can never have too many defensemen.” If you listen to Bergevin, it sure sounds like he wants to add a mobile defender to play with Shea Weber. (TSN 690)

–The Chicago Blackhawks got some solid production from Vinne Hinostroza, Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero in last night’s win over the Avalanche. You can watch the highlights from that game by clicking the video at the top of the page.

–How much would you pay for a young NHL superstar’s game worn jersey? The jersey Auston Matthews wore during the first period of the Centennial Classic sold for an incredible amount of money. (Yahoo)

–Will we see Patrik Elias return to the New Jersey Devils this season? The 40-year-old underwent cartilage replacement surgery on his knee during the off-season, but he doesn’t seem willing to close the door on his NHL career just yet. Elias wants to make a final decision on his playing career by next month. (USA Today)

–Going through a scoring slump is never fun, but going through a scoring slump when you’re the captain of the Montreal Canadiens might be one of the more unbearable things in professional hockey. Max Pacioretty was able to overcome a slow start thanks to some big-picture thinking. “At the end of the day, look at the life we have, look where we’re playing. I love playing here so much, and the fact I’m able to be the captain here, it sounds cheesy, but what’s better in life right now? I’ve got a family, I’ve got an awesome team, I’m the captain of the best franchise in the world,” said Pacioretty. (NHL.com)

Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

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Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

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People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

“He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

Is this time different?

Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percentage in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

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For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

(It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.