When the Winnipeg Jets opened up a 2-0 lead in the second period after a scoreless opening frame, the fear was that the New York Rangers would fall asleep and open the door for the Pittsburgh Penguins to make up ground in their race. Winnipeg deserves credit for putting up an honest fight, but the Rangers eventually took over the game, winning 4-2 and expanding their Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference lead to a daunting five points.
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Sure, the Pittsburgh Penguins still have an April 5 date with the Rangers that could chip two points off of that lead and now have a game in hand, but New York is doing its part to lock up the No. 1 spot in the East.
The Rangers might also look further with their aims, as they tied the St. Louis Blues with 105 points and would actually grab the Presidents’ Trophy right now because of tiebreakers.
The perks are obvious – avoiding a Philadelphia Flyers team that must be taken seriously – but considering the danger presented by the possible eight seed Buffalo Sabres, the top spot is a little less desirable than usual in the East.
Still, the seeding is still a week and a half away from being determined, and a lot can change in that time. It just so happens that it’s looking less likely that the Rangers will move down in the standings – even if the Jets briefly threatened to make that far more plausible.
The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.
You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:
If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.
The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.
The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.
“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.
“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”
While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.
“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”
Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?