Brad Richards

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Two-time Cup winner Brad Richards retires after 15 years

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Brad Richards is hanging up the skates and calling it a career.

The veteran forward announced on Wednesday afternoon that he is retiring from the NHL after a 15-year career that saw him play in 1,126 regular season games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings.

Richards, 36, spent the 2015-16 season with the Red Wings where he scored 10 goals and added 18 assists in 68 games.

TSN’s Darren Dreger mentioned shortly after the announcement that Richards had an offer from a good team this summer but instead decided to retire.

His retirement was announced by the NHLPA and included the following statement from Richards:

“I want to thank the fans and the five organizations I have played for: Tampa Bay, Dallas, and the three original six teams — the New York Rangers, Chicago, and Detroit. During my time with those teams I met many great people,” said Richards.

“I also want to thank the staff and management in those organizations for all the help and support they gave me. I appreciate all the trainers who did tireless work to help me play and keep me healthy.

“I had many amazing teammates and made many great friendships along the way that I truly appreciate, and I will never forget the great times we had together. Thank you to all my coaches for pushing, teaching and giving me the opportunity to play this great game. Winning the Stanley Cups in Tampa Bay and Chicago was the best part of my career and I will never forget those moments. Nothing compares to enjoying that night with your team and knowing what you have accomplished together.”

Drafted by the Lightning in the third round of the 1998 draft (the same year they took Vincent Lecavalier No. 1 overall), Richards would go on to be a core part of the organization for six-and-a-half seasons and was a significant contributor to the 2004 Stanley Cup winning team. For a good five-year stretch in the middle of his career he was one of the best passers in the NHL.

His best season came in 2005-06 when he topped the 90-point mark.

He would go on to win a second Stanley Cup as a member of the Blackhawks during the 2013-14 season after he signing with the team as a free agent. He was bought out by the New York Rangers earlier that summer just three years after signing a massive free agent contract.

He finishes his career with 298 goals, 634 assists and 932 points.

David Booth: Still tormented by Tortorella

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Sometimes it feels like no one is safe from the wrath of John Tortorella.

There was the “absolute stupidity” that led to his lengthy suspension following that unforgettable locker room confrontation with Bob Hartley in 2014. He seems to relish opportunities to criticize players from other teams, particularly members of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

He’s the sort of guy who inspires highlight reels of his “best” and saltiest comments:

The “fiery” coach freely admits that he could get along better with the media.

Long story short, Torts spews venom outward, but his own players encounter the bile as well. David Booth reminded us of as much on Thursday as he recalled his Canucks days:

Amusing stuff.

This seems like a decent excuse to take a trip down memory lane and look at Torts’ best/worst moments. (For the sake of keeping this greatest hits package under three discs, we’ll skip his long-ago Lightning days.)

In Columbus

Tortorella hasn’t been with the Blue Jackets for very long, yet there are rumblings here and there that he’s not gotten along with certain personalities.

Both the Blue Jackets and Ryan Johansen deny that there was a rift with Tortorella, yet the rumors were abundant. If nothing else, it’s clear Torts told Johansen that he felt he was out of shape.

Canucks catastrophe

Torts only coached the Canucks for 67 games, but it was a pretty disastrous time, even beyond the Hartley scream-down. Tortorella has also memorably clashed with Adam Oates (who said he could easily beat him up) and Peter DeBoer over the years, just to name a couple other coaches.

Benching Roberto Luongo during the Heritage Classic likely hastened his departure. Accurate or not, it was a little harsh to label Zack Kassian the way he did in public. There may have been issues with Alex Burrows and there were questions regarding whether Torts “lost the locker room.”

Oh, and remember his tirade toward Jannik Hansen?

Bumpy exit from Big Apple

Torts enjoyed a long run with the New York Rangers. Still, things ended in an even uglier fashion than you usually see when a coach exits a team.

Henrik Lundqvist denied calling for his firing, but reports indicated that multiple Rangers wanted him out. Things got weird with Brad Richards despite his assurances and he deflected questions about how he got along with Marian Gaborik. His back-and-forth with Carl Hagelin was pretty entertaining, too.

Sean Avery seemed to savor Torts’ firing the most, but that’s up to debate.

***

One can almost picture former Tortorella charges handing each other gifts like Johan Franzen “gave” to Gustav Nyquist in regards to Mike Babcock:

Maybe Booth will hand Brandon Dubinsky something similar, considering the rugged forward’s experiences playing under Torts for the Rangers and now the Blue Jackets?

(H/T to The Score for the Booth tweet.)

So, who’s left? Jason Demers headlines list of remaining free agents (Updated)

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The sprint that occurred at the beginning of NHL free agency has, for the most part, settled into more of a marathon.

General managers were quick to throw around cash and term to the first wave of coveted free agents (click here to recap who has signed where), but there are still some notable names remaining on the board:

Jason Demers: He’s a defenseman with a right shot, which are two qualities in high demand for NHL teams. In 62 games last season with the Dallas Stars, he had seven goals and 23 points, and now at the end of a two-year, $6.8 million contract.

Related: UFA of the Day: Jason Demers

Kris Russell: Acquired by the Dallas Stars at the trade deadline, as that club looked to add to its blue line for the playoffs, Russell is now on the open market after a 19-point regular season between Dallas and the Calgary Flames. He’s often criticized in the analytics community for poor puck possession numbers.

Related: UFA of the Day: Kris Russell

Kyle Quincey: The writing had been on the wall for a while that Quincey was likely to hit the open market. The 30-year-old defenseman, at the end of a two-year, $8.5 million deal, had four goals and 11 points in 47 games for the Red Wings. In November, Quincey underwent ankle surgery, causing him to miss 35 games.

Justin Schultz: Schultz won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins following a trade from Edmonton earlier in the season. However, the Penguins didn’t extend Schultz a qualifying offer, meaning the 25-year-old right-shooting defenseman the open market today.

Shane Doan: Doan has spent his entire career with the same franchise (he began his career with that franchise in Winnipeg, went through the relocation to Phoenix and all the tumultuous times it has gone through since). He’s now 39 years old, but despite his age, he scored 28 goals and 47 points with Arizona last season.

Update:

Related: UFA of the Day: Shane Doan

Radim Vrbata: Vrbata’s time in Vancouver started well, after he signed with the Canucks as a free agent two years ago. He scored 31 goals in the 2014-15 season, playing on the right wing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin. But his second season in Vancouver was the polar opposite. He had stretches of bad luck and a lack of production and his season was eventually cut short due to injury.

Related: UFA of the Day: Radim Vrbata

Jiri Hudler: Acquired prior to the trade deadline by the Florida Panthers, the 32-year-old Hudler scored six goals and 11 points in 19 games with the Panthers in the regular season, but had only one assist in six post-season games.

Related: UFA of the Day: Jiri Hudler

Brad Richards: Richards saw his production dip this season with the Red Wings. Now 36 years old, he scored 10 goals and 28 points in 68 regular season games. Despite age and drop in production, he still feels he can play hockey.

Sam Gagner: Gagner, 26, appeared in 53 games for the Philadelphia Flyers this season, scoring eight goals and 16 points. He was also put on waivers, eventually cleared and loaned to the Flyers’ AHL affiliate.

Other notables:

Kris Versteeg: Right wing | 30 years old | 77 GP, 15 G, 23 A, 38 PTS

Brandon Pirri: Center | 25 years old | 61 GP, 14 G, 15 A, 29 PTS

Alex Tanguay: Left wing | 36 years old | 70 GP, 8 G, 27 A, 35 PTS

Luke Schenn: Defense | 26 years old | 72 GP, 4 G, 12 A, 16 PTS

Roman Polak: Defense | 30 years old | 79 GP, 1 G, 15 A, 16 PTS

Red Wings re-sign Helm to five-year, $19.25 million deal

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The Detroit Red Wings have already been rumored to be a serious contender for Frans Nielsen, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in keeping some of their own guys.

The Wings have moved on from Brad Richards, and Pavel Datsyuk‘s departure leaves the team with a good chunk of cap space. It sounds like they’re planning to use some of that cap space on potential free agent forward Darren Helm.

A report from the Detroit Free Press suggested that the two sides were close to a new deal on Friday morning. But since then, Aaron Ward has confirmed that the Wings have re-signed Helm.

Before the Helm signing, the Wings had $18.032 million in cap space, but they still need to re-sign RFAs like Petr Mrazek, Danny DeKeyser and Alexey Marchenko.

One of the main reasons the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup this year was because of their quickness, so it’s not surprising to see Detroit place special emphasis on bringing Helm back. Helm is well-known for his blazing speed.

The 29-year-old had 13 goals and 26 points in 77 games in 2015-16.

He’s coming off a four-year deal worth a total of $8.5 million ($2.125 AAV).

Report: ‘Early expectations’ on where Lucic, Nielsen, Ladd and Eriksson will land

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Teams can’t officially sign free agents until noon ET, but there are already heavy favorites for four of the top free agent forwards.

According to TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger, “early expectations” are that Milan Lucic (Los Angeles) will head to Edmonton, Frans Nielsen (NY Islanders) will go to Detroit, Andrew Ladd (Blackhawks) will go to the Islanders and Loui Eriksson (Bruins) will go to the Canucks.

Lucic to Edmonton has been talked about extensively for the last week and it seemed to become a forgone conclusion after the Oilers traded Taylor Hall to New Jersey. Should Lucic in fact chose to continue his career in Edmonton, he’ll add some serious size and grit to their top-two lines.

Frans Nielsen is one of the best two-way centers on the market. He’s solid in his own end, but he’s also been able to put up a respectable amount of points in the last couple of seasons. With the departure of Pavel Datsyuk and Brad Richards, it’s no surprise that the Red Wings are looking to add quality down the middle.

The Islanders are set to lose Nielsen and Kyle Okposo today. Those players have been two of New York’s key contributors over the last few years, so it’s easy to see why they’re trying to add Ladd. The 30-year-old has scored 20 goals or more in five of the last six seasons and the only year he didn’t hit that mark was during the lockout-shortened season (he had 18 in 48 games).

The Vancouver Canucks had a terrible 2015-16 season. If they can land Loui Eriksson, that would be a huge get for them. It seems natural to expect him to lineup with fellow Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin on the Canucks’ top line when October comes around. We’ll see if Jim Benning can get this one done.