Brad Richards

‘Gut feeling’ Rangers keep Richards, says agent

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Pat Morris, the agent representing Rangers forward Brad Richards, has spoken to Glen Sather in the wake of New York’s Stanley Cup Final loss to L.A.

Based on what he’s heard, Morris has some optimism that Richards will be a Blueshirt next season.

“Gut feeling, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s kept,” Morris told Sportsnet’s Fan 590 on Tuesday. “Glen was pretty positive about Brad’s role this season, especially after [former Rangers captain Ryan] Callahan left.”

Though he admitted potential bias given he was speaking about his client, Morris pointed to a number of reasons why New York would, and should, keep Richards in the fold. He said Richards’ 51 points this year would’ve made him a top-three scorer on “around 20” NHL teams (I did the math, and that number’s actually 14 teams) and said that, through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Richards was lauded for his leadership and essentially filled the role of New York’s vacant captain position.

But then the Stanley Cup Final happened.

Richards’ numbers in the five games against the Kings were ugly — no goals,  one assist, minus-4 rating and a demotion midway through the series. It’s something Morris alluded to in speaking with Sportsnet.

“After Game 2, [Richards] is an automatic buyout and ended up on the fourth line,” he said, referring to how quickly perceptions of his client changed.

The biggest issue, of course, has nothing to do with Richards’ regular season or playoff. It’s all about the money — both his hefty $6.6 million cap hit (combined with the fact the Rangers have 11 players to sign) and the potential cap recapture penalty for his back-diving contract. Richards’ nine-year, $60 million deal pays $57 million in salary in the first six years, and just $1 million over the final three seasons — so, should Richards retire prior to fulfilling the duration of the contract, the Rangers would be hit with gigantic penalties:

It’s something Morris acknowledged, noting the on-ice part of the Richards decision is completely separate from the financial part.

“It’s in the Rangers’ hands,” Morris explained. “[If it’s] a hockey decision I think they keep him, if it’s a business decision they might not. There’s not really any pleasant ways for the Rangers to look at this.”

Related: Will the Rangers use a compliance buyout on Richards?

PHT Morning Skate: Sharks name stray cat after captain Joe Pavelski

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

–The stray cat that ran onto the ice prior to Game 1 between the Sharks and Preds has been named after Joe Pavelski. (Associated Press)

–Speaking of that black cat, here’s a mountain of pucks shaped like the cat. (The Score)

–When Lukas Head was younger, he played with Steven Stamkos and P.K. Subban. Here’s his story. (Toronto Star)

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Stars and Blues. (Top)

–A look behind the scenes of the NHL draft lottery. (Canadian Press)

–Two-time Olympic gold medalist Sharon Szabados loves curing and the Oilers and she was forced to make a tough choice on Saturday. (Sportsnet)

Pascal Dupuis, who was named one of the Masterton Trophy finalists, is adjusting to retirement. (NHL.com)

Pavelski’s late goal helps Sharks grab 2-0 series lead over Preds

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The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.

San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.

The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.

Here’s the goal:

Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.

Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.

Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.

Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.

The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.

Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.

The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.

Video: Marc-Edouard Vlasic saved by his visor after taking Shea Weber shot to the face

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It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.

After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.

In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.

You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.

It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:

Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:

It sounds like Olli Maatta won’t be ready for Game 3

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You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.

After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.

“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.

“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”

After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.

“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”

And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.

Related:

Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta