Chicago signs Richards — one year, $2M — to solve 2C problem

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Chicago’s lack of a second-line center has been well documented — often times by our very own Jason Brough — so it came as no surprise today when the ‘Hawks decided to address the issue.

How they addressed it, though, is a bit of a stunner.

The ‘Hawks inked ex-Rangers center Brad Richards to a tidy one-year, $2 million deal, one that comes with a no-movement clause, per CapGeek. Financially speaking it’s a major win for Chicago, a team that was pressed right up against the salary cap but still able to bring in a quality middle man… at a very affordable price.

Richards, who became an unrestricted free agent 10 days ago following his buyout from the Rangers, is coming off a solid-if-unspectacular campaign in which he finished third among all Blueshirts skaters with 20 goals and 51 points. While the 34-year-old was a lightning rod for criticism given his $6.6 million cap hit, Richards is now working under far better financial terms — just $2 million  — and should be thrilled at the prospect of playing with any one of Chicago’s talented wingers: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa or Brandon Saad.

The move will also be good from a familiarity standpoint as it returns Richards to the Western Conference, where he scored a career-high 91 points with Dallas during the 2009-10 campaign.

As for the finances, it’s easy to see why Richards chose to go where he did. He’s going to make an awful lot of money from his Rangers buyout ($3.05 million this year) so the option to take less salary to join a winner was out there. Few Cup contenders needed help at center more than Chicago, especially after St. Louis inked Paul Stastny in free agency earlier today.

Looking ahead, few will argue Chicago didn’t upgrade the 2C position in getting Richards over Michal Handzus, but it’ll still be interesting to see how Richards fits. There’s no denying he’s lost a step (which was one of the criticisms of Handzus) and, given Chicago’s speed up front, the ability to skate is at a premium.

Richards does, however, buy the ‘Hawks at least one year for prospect Teuvo Teravainen to cut his teeth at the AHL level and learn the nuances of playing center. That’s an important aspect of this deal.

Islanders agree to terms with Mathew Barzal on 8-year extension

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Mathew Barzal has agreed to terms with the New York Islanders on an eight-year extension, a move that keeps the franchise’s top forward under contract for the balance of his prime.

The deal is worth $73.2 million with an annual salary cap hit of $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.

Barzal has led the team in scoring, or been tied for the lead, every season since he became a full-time NHL player in 2017-18. He has 349 points in 411 regular-season and playoff games for the defensively stingy Islanders, who qualified for the postseason three consecutive times before an injury- and virus-altered last year.

“We feel recharged,” Barzal said recently. “We feel like everybody had good summers and worked hard, and we got that excitement back.”

Barzal, now 25, is coming off putting up 59 points in 75 games. The offensive star will now be asked to round out his game.

“I’m a fan because Mat has the ability to raise his game and to be a special player,” general manager Lou Lamoriello told reporters at the team’s practice facility on Long Island. “And now, with this contract and our faith in him, (it) puts that responsibility on him. We’re trusting that. It’s up to him to respond to that.”

Senators goaltender Cam Talbot out 5-7 weeks with injury

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OTTAWA, Ontario — Ottawa Senators goaltender Cam Talbot is expected to be out five to seven weeks with what the team called an upper-body injury.

The Senators initially called Talbot day to day with what they hoped was a minor injury. Instead he’s now expected to miss at least the first month of the NHL season.

Ottawa claimed goalie Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken upon announcing Talbot’s expected absence. Hellberg, who played for Sweden at the Beijing Olympics could split time with countryman Anton Forsberg while Talbot is out.

The Senators acquired Talbot from Minnesota during the offseason to make him their starter after the Wild opted against bringing him back along with Marc-Andre Fleury. Talbot, 35, had a 2.76 goals-against average and .911 save percentage this season.

Losing Talbot is a blow to the Senators, who also acquired winger Alex DeBrincat from Chicago and signed longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux as part of a move toward contending and ending their playoff drought.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.