New York Rangers v Ottawa Senators - Game Six

Derek Stepan emerging as New York’s set-up man

One of the most impressive lines the New York Rangers threw out late in their series against Ottawa was one featuring captain Ryan Callahan, rookie Chris Kreider, and second-year forward Derek Stepan. They were the line that saw the bulk of the clutch minutes late in the Rangers’ Game 7 win and while Kreider is getting his fair share of attention, Stepan might be the guy that makes it all go.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post lauds Stepan’s play saying it reminds him of what Bryan Trottier used to do with the Islanders. As Stepan tells Brooks, he’s just trying to do what he can to help win games.

“I approach every game with the same mindset and the same principle no matter who I’m playing with,” Stepan said yesterday on the one day between Game 7 against Ottawa and today’s Game 1 against Washington. “Artie [Artem Anisimov] and Gabby [Marian Gaborik] might have different abilities than Cally and Kreids, but the mindset is to skate and work on every shift and do what I can to get my wingers the puck.

“That doesn’t ever change.”

Being the set-up man doesn’t always get you the attention, goals are king after all, but if Stepan can continue feeling comfortable in this role and feeding the puck to his linemates, the Rangers will be more than happy to see his point totals climb. Goals were at a premium against Ottawa and Stepan finished with a goal and three assists. More of that against Washington could see the Rangers move on to the Eastern Conference finals.

Report: Kings, Richards nearing settlement

Mike Richards
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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.

Bettman to players: Don’t screw up ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ with drugs

Gary Bettman
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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?