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Rangers avoid arbitration with Michael Sauer, lock up Artem Anisimov

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The New York Rangers are staring down the barrel of some rather awkward situations with prominent restricted free agents this summer. If progress isn’t made in the next couple weeks, they’ll need to go to salary arbitration with the likes of Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle. That being said, GM Glen Sather narrowed down his list of problems by signing arbitration-eligible RFA Michael Sauer as well as one RFA who wasn’t eligible for arbitration in Artem Anisimov.

Sauer signed a two-year deal worth $2.5 million, according to Jesse Spector. Meanwhile, Andrew Gross reports that Anisimov agreed to a two-year, $3.75 million contract extension. Anisimov’s $1.875 million cap hit and Sauer’s $1.25 million mark drive the Rangers’ current payroll to $51.4 million, according to CapGeek.com. That gives the Rangers about $12.9 million to sign Boyle, Dubinsky and Callahan (or make other moves if they decide to let one or more of those players walk).

Sauer is a Rangers second round pick (40th overall in 2005) who finally found his way into the team’s rotation after playing just three games heading into the 2010-11 season. Sauer appeared in 76 games in 10-11, scoring 15 points while earning an impressive +20 rating while averaging 17:31 minutes per game. Sauer seemed promising in a role as a second pairing defenseman, working well with fellow young blueliner Ryan McDonagh.

The Rangers also drafted Anisimov in the second round (54th overall in 2006). After playing in just one game in 2008-09, Anisimov played all 82 games in both 09-10 and 10-11. He scored 28 points while averaging a little under 13 minutes per game in 09-10 before improving to 44 points and more than 16 minutes per game in 10-11. Anisimov spent some time as the center of the Rangers’ top line last season but should be their second or third line center with the addition of Brad Richards.

Both of these moves are solid ones for the Rangers, a team that stays afloat largely because homegrown talent picks up the slack for questionable free agent moves. If Richards actually works out, this team could really be onto something … but let’s make sure they lock up their remaining free agents before anyone gets too excited.

Stars end Capitals’ winning streak, pass Blackhawks for West lead

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For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”

They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:

  • Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
  • This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
  • By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.

Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).

Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.

Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.

Blackhawks fall to Ducks in OT, lose Hossa to injury

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The Chicago Blackhawks are on edge on Saturday, and it’s not because of what’s currently a close game against the Anaheim Ducks.

(Not that they’re indifferent toward a match against their opponents from last year’s conference final match, mind you.)

Instead, the Blackhawks are quite concerned about the health of Marian Hossa, who needed help off of the ice following an awkward, scary-looking crash into the boards. (Hampus Lindholm delivered the hip check that sent Hossa sprawling, in case you’re wondering.)

You can see that moment in the video above, while My Regular Face’s GIF also captures that troubling moment:

It’s too early to tell if Hossa will bounce back or miss some time from this. Stay tuned for potential updates.

Update: Joel Quenneville seems optimistic about Hossa, broadly speaking:

Ryan Getzlaf scored the overtime game-winner as the Ducks won 3-2 (OT).

Understatement: Saturday was a rough night for Panthers

Nashville Predators center Colin Wilson (33) checks Florida Panthers center Jonathan Huberdeau (11) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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If it weren’t for Mike Yeo and the Minnesota Wild, you could argue that the Florida Panthers suffered from the worst night so far.

You can see that Saturday was unpleasant merely from looking at the scoreboard: the Nashville Predators pummeled the Panthers by an unkind score of 5-0.

The pain goes beyond that … literally so.

For one thing, Quinton Howden suffered an upper-body injury and did not return. That’s no good, but if you want to feel sick to your stomach, footage of Brandon Pirri‘s likely lower-body injury (ankle maybe?) may do the trick.

(Seriously, you may be happier if you don’t look.)

The Panthers didn’t make an announcement about Pirri one way or another, so we’ll see if he somehow avoided anything significant.

Either way, it was a night this team would like to forget.

Fractured jaw from fight sidelines Chris Stewart for 4-8 weeks

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It’s unlikely that Chris Stewart will generate another 30-goal season in the NHL, but he still might be missed by the Anaheim Ducks.

The team announced that the ornery forward is expected to miss four-to-eight weeks with a fractured jaw. If that’s the recovery window, Stewart may go into the playoffs a little rusty (if he can get in any regular season games at all).

The Ducks didn’t elaborate, but the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline believes that the injury happened during a fight with Dalton Prout of the Columbus Blue Jackets. You can see that brawl in the video above.

One bright side for Anaheim: if they believe that they need to replace what Stewart brings to the table (rugged play with a dash of offense), then at least this injury happened before the the Feb. 29 trade deadline.