Vigneault praises Richards’ overall season, as buyout speculation continues

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Brad Richards currently has six years remaining on his current nine-year, $60 million contract, however he may soon find himself a headliner in the compliance buyout season.

Speculation that Richards could be bought out is running rampant right now, especially given his salary – a cap hit of $6,666,667 per year – and the fact he struggled mightily toward the end of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

In the final series against the L.A. Kings, the eventual champions, Richards registered just one point – an assist in Game 5, which the Rangers lost, giving L.A. its second title in the last three years.

Go back even further. Richards had only one goal in his last 11 playoff games, dating back to the start of the Eastern Conference final. So, it’s not hard to see what’s fueling this talk.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault gave the 34-year-old Richards a glowing review of his entire season, which included 20 goals and 51 points in the regular season. But the bench boss didn’t offer anything definitive on whether the skilled forward would escape the buyout season.

“If you look at Brad’s overall season, he had a real good year,” said Vigneault, as per NHL.com.

“In the Final series I don’t know if it was a combination of some other guys might have been playing better than he was, but we had some decisions to make in Game 4 and Game 5. But his overall play, 5-on-5 and on the power play, during the year was very good.

“I’m very happy with what he brought to the table; a veteran player that from Day 1 was a real good extension of the coaching staff in that dressing room. I think he should walk away from this season very pleased in how he played and how he contributed to our team.

“As everybody knows there are decisions to be made. We haven’t made those yet. We’re going to talk and figure it out.”

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.