Anton Stralman

Report: Rangers offer Stralman about $4M, will let Falk walk

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Depth was a big reason why the New York Rangers made it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, but with a slew of free agents – both restricted and unrestricted – it could be a challenge to maintain that strength.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks took an in-depth look at that situation, indicating that Brad Richards’ buyout will be used to retain current players rather than making a typically splashy Rangers acquisition.

While he focused first on Rangers forwards, there are some key details about their defense.

For one thing, Brooks reports that the Rangers are dangling a three or four-year deal worth about $4 million per season to Anton Stralman (pictured). Some likely look at that as a fine offer for the unrestricted free agent, yet the advanced stats community labels him as a “secret star.” It should be interesting to see if the 27-year-old draws much more interest than that offer would suggest if he does hit unrestricted free agency, especially since the market is pretty dry.

The Rangers hope to keep Stralman in the fold, but it sounds like Justin Falk played his last game for the team. Brooks reports that they’ll pass on qualifying the 25-year-old at a $1.025 million clip, allowing him to become a UFA.

Ultimately, Brooks believes that Richards’ $6.67 million will funnel into the pockets of the breakthrough line of two RFA’s (Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello) plus one UFA (Benoit Pouliot):

Brassard probably goes from $3.2 million to at least $4.5 million per on a multi-year deal, if not closer to $5 million. Zuccarello, perhaps the biggest bargain in the league in leading the Rangers in scoring (19-40-59) while earning $1.15 million, probably is going to command at least $4 million per on a long-term deal, and maybe $4.5 million. And Pouliot, who rescued his career working for $1.3 million, likely is going to get at least $2.5 million.

Cap Geek estimates that the Rangers will have $23.78 million in cap space this summer, yet with an unclear cap ceiling that might be a little lower, it’s likely safer to call it approximately $23 million. Let’s consider what Brassard, Zuccarello, Pouliot and Stralman would cost combined based on Brooks’ numbers:

Brassard: $4.5 – $5 million
Zuccarello: $4 million
Pouliot: $2.5 million
Stralman: $4 – $4.5 million
Range for Rangers: $15 – $16 million

The Rangers also need to re-sign Chris Kreider and John Moore (both RFAs) while making decisions on the likes of Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore (both UFAs), so Brooks is probably accurate in saying that the Rangers will spend most/all of their excess cash on keeping the band together.

Naturally, Stralman could end up pricing himself out of Sather’s budget and guys like Boyle could fetch a ransom on the market, so this situation could change. Sather’s also known for being a tough negotiator with restricted free agents, so perhaps Brassard and Zuccarello wouldn’t be so expensive.

Every now and then, a team rides some contract year hot streaks to unexpected success, making for some tough organizational decisions. It’s only tougher to assess some of these players considering Alain Vigneault’s very different philosophy compared to John Tortorella. However this situation shakes out, it should be almost as entertaining to watch as the Rangers were during their impressive playoff run.

Fights, hits and a blown kiss: Stars and Blues get nasty

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Things were getting out of hand between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues on the scoreboard in an eventual 6-1 Blues win.

They were also getting a little raucous on the ice when it was clear that the Stars weren’t going to stage a comeback.

Jamie Benn was whistled for cross-checking Alex Pietrangelo, but it was Stephen Johns‘ hit from behind on Pietrangelo really revved up the violence.

Watch that hit and then the scrum that ensued in the video above, which included a scary display of an angry Ryan Reaves … who got creative at the end.

You may also want the kiss alone, so here it is:

Memo: rough stuff might not work so well against the Blues.

Read about that blowout here.

Blues bombard Stars, go up 2-1 in series

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Sometimes a final score is misleading. In the case of the St. Louis Blues’ 6-1 thrashing of the Dallas Stars, it might just be the start of the story.

Honestly, the most positive thing the Stars can say is “Well, at least it was just one game.”

It was one ugly game, however, and now the Blues hold a 2-1 series lead with a chance to really take control if they can win Game 4 at home.

The Blues dominated just about every category on Tuesday, firing more shots on goal, enjoying better special teams play and throwing more hits. They even blocked a higher number of shots, which often isn’t the case for the squad that carries play.

This leaves the Stars picking up the pieces, especially when it comes to their work in their own end.

Do you put greater blame on struggling goalies Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi or is this more about the Stars’ lax defensive coverage? The scary answer may be “Both,” and the Stars likely know that they need to find answers quickly.

On the bright side for Dallas, it is just one game … and the Blues were searching for answers of their own after Game 1.

We saw the Blues turn things around with these two straight wins, so now the Stars must show that they can gather themselves and play the attacking, out-score-your-mistakes style that got them here.

Granted, they may have to keep an eye out for supplemental discipline after some rough stuff toward the end of the game.

Predators smash Sharks to get back in series

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After a dispiriting 1-0 goal allowed by Pekka Rinne, things were looking bleak for the Nashville Predators for a moment there.

Nashville’s developed into a resilient group, however, and they stormed back for a commanding 4-1 win to shrink San Jose’s series advantage to 2-1.

The Predators saw some of their big names come up huge as the series shifted from San Jose to Nashville.

Pekka Rinne looked sharp following that first goal (and didn’t allow another). Their goals came from James Neal, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and captain Shea Weber.

Weber’s tally was the game-winner, and it was downright thunderous:

Another promising sign: after a struggling to a 2-for-31 clip in previous playoff games, the Predators’ power play went 2-for-5 in Game 3.

Overall, the Predators really couldn’t ask for much more from this win, especially if Colton Sissons is indeed OK after a scary crash into the Sharks’ net.

Things could get really interesting if Nashville manages to “hold serve” with another home win on Thursday.

Stars’ goalie carousel goes around again: Lehtonen replaces Niemi

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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It’s pretty tough not to make jokes about the Dallas Stars spending $10.4 million on their goalies at times like these, even if Dallas’ defense should shoulder plenty of blame.

After Kari Lehtonen was pulled from a Game 2 loss, the St. Louis Blues chased Antti Niemi early in the second period of Game 3 after Niemi allowed three goals on 12 shots.

Troy Brouwer‘s 3-1 goal was enough for Lindy Ruff to give Niemi the hook:

Unfortunately for the Stars, Lehtonen got off to a slow start as well, allowing an immediate Vladimir Tarasenko goal.

The Blues are now 4-1 and the Stars are searching for answers … and probably wishing Tyler Seguin was around to help them out-score their problems.