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: Jagr doesn’t understand why Peyton Manning would retire after winning the Super Bowl

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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.

Jaromir Jagr doesn’t believe Peyton Manning should retire. (ESPN)

Victor Hedman wrote about “How We Play Hockey in Sweden” for The Players’ Tribune.

–Did the Senators make a smart move by acquiring Dion Phaneuf? (Sportsnet)

–And if you have a Maple Leafs jersey with Phaneuf’s name on the back, the Sens want to dispose of it:

–Watch the highlights from yesterday’s game between the Rangers and Penguins. (Top of the page)

–A Zoolander tribute to Coyotes center Martin Hanzal. (Puck Daddy)

Steven Stamkos had a run-in with the paparazzi in Montreal. (Bardown)

Sidney Crosby‘s confidence could be dangerous for the rest of the league:

Video: Canucks escape Arizona with another win for the moms

at Pepsi Center on February 9, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.
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With their mothers traveling on the road trip — Matt Bartkowski‘s mom, Beth, has become a cult hero in Vancouver after another priceless media interview — the Canucks took back-to-back wins, moving them right back into the thick of the playoff fight in the Western Conference.

After beating the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, the Canucks held on for the 2-1 victory in Arizona on Wednesday, despite being without Brandon Sutter (broken jaw), Alex Edler (broken fibula) and Derek Dorsett, who was scratched from the lineup due to illness, as per Sportsnet’s Dan Murphy.

It was only a few days ago, following a home loss to the Calgary Flames, that it felt like the Canucks’ playoff hopes were essentially dashed. They fielded their healthiest lineup in months and couldn’t score and couldn’t win.

Two quick wins later, they’re two points out of a Wild Card spot in the West, despite getting outshot in Arizona.

Up by a goal in the third period, defenseman Alex Biega played the hero, pulling the puck out of the crease after it got by Ryan Miller on a backhand shot from Kyle Chipchura, maintaining Vancouver’s lead.

Phaneuf burned on Zetterberg game-winner in Sens debut

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A day after getting traded out of Toronto, Dion Phaneuf made his Ottawa Senators debut.

It ended with a 3-1 road loss for the Senators, and Phaneuf getting burned by Henrik Zetterberg on the eventual game winner early in the third period.

Zetterberg picked up the puck near the Ottawa blue line, beat Phaneuf to the outside, slipped the puck under the stick of the Sens’ newest blue liner and quickly roofed his shot on Craig Anderson.

“He made a real good play and you’ve got to give credit when credit is due,” Phaneuf told the Ottawa Sun.

“I put my stick there, he put (the puck) under and he made a good shot. I’ve got to have a better stick in that situation, but you’ve got to give him credit for that play.”

Phaneuf finished the night with a minus-one rating and two hits in almost 22 minutes of ice time, putting him second among Sens defensemen in that category behind Erik Karlsson, who played a whopping 33:30.

Phaneuf drilled Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser with a hard slap shot early in the third period.

DeKeyser played one more shift — all of 10 seconds — before exiting the game.

Video: Rangers shut out red-hot Sidney Crosby and the Penguins

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The New York Rangers are likely too far behind the Washington Capitals to take any legitimate run at the Atlantic Division down the stretch.

But winners now of four straight, the Rangers have opened up a bit of a gap between them and other Eastern Conference teams in the playoff race. New York scored a 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, winners in six of their last seven games, on Wednesday.

In the process, they held a red-hot Sidney Crosby off the score sheet, which has been a difficult, sometimes impossible task for opposing teams since about the middle of December. He entered this game with a seven-game scoring streak.

(In fact, New York held No. 87 to without a shot on goal in the entire game.)

Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout.

Kevin Hayes gave the Rangers the lead in the first period, before Dominic Moore and Jesper Fast put the game away in the third.

Pittsburgh remains in the second Wild Card spot in the East. The Rangers now move three points clear of the rival Islanders for second in the Metropolitan.