The Dallas Stars won't be re-signing marquee center Brad Richards. With the ownership situation in Dallas still up in the air, the team has all but closed the door on the return of their best player. Richards has been through some interesting ownership groups in Tampa in the past, and therefore stable owners are something that this year's biggest free agent covets. Former Lightning owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules were a major part of the reason that Richards was traded out of Tampa Bay in the first place, so expect him to sign in a city where he can expect to stay.
To all the Oiler fans who think maybe Richards would come to Edmonton: don't bet on it. Richards is 31 years old, and he'll be looking for a situation where he can get paid and have a chance to win. Oilers General Manager Steve Tambellini has stated that the team isn't in the market for the big-ticket free agent right now, and the Oilers certainly aren't in a position to win. There's little to no chance that Brad Richards will sign here.
The same might not also be true for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Brian Burke knows that a number one center is first on his wish list this off season, so the Leafs GM may be putting together a hefty offer for Richards right now.
Whatever the offer, it will have to be bigger than what the New York Rangers have, because Glen Sather is apparently going to be right in the thick of things come July 1st. Rangers coach John Tortorella is very familiar with Richards since they won a Cup together in 2004 (over Calgary; just had to mention that part). Also, the retirement of Brian Rafalski leaves a large hole on Detroit's blueline, but an even larger hole in their payroll. Detroit and LA will probably make serious pushes for Richards' services.
If one of those four teams trades for Richards' rights (essentially the right to negotiate with him on a contract before July 1st), there's a good chance that he will sign there. Because the of the shallow free agent pool and the interest in Richards, the trade for his rights may be somewhat more significant than what one might expect. Still not a big trade, obviously, but perhaps bigger than what's warranted given the circumstances.
Some Other Headlines:
- Winnipeg fans didn't waste any time buying up all the remaining season tickets once they went on sale to the general public. In fact, they sold in just 4 minutes. The drive for 13,000 was completed in only 3 days, which is 17 days before the NHL board of governors will vote on the sale of the Thrashers to Winnipeg's True North group. If it hadn't been for a cap on how many seats that Manitoba Moose season seat holders could buy (or if seats had been sold to the general public from day one), the goal could probably have been reached even sooner. It's a solid showing from fans who lost a team once and don't want to leave anything to chance when it comes to bringing the team back. More than that, though, it shows the passion of the hockey fans in Winnipeg. There's no doubt that the MTS Centre will be sold out all of next season, but now it seems as though it would have been wise to build it for more than 15,000 spectators. If things continue as is, the organization will undoubtedly have to add seats if at all possible.
Phoenix is obviously still in dire financial straights, and the strong showing from Winnipeg fans will only encourage the NHL to move poor-performing American teams north of the border if they have the opportunity in the future.
- The NHL combine wrapped up yesterday and Nugent-Hopkins didn't hurt his case for going first overall. Here's the results of some of the kids who the Oilers might take at 19 or 31 overall who finished well in combine events:
Winterhawks forward Ty Rattie tied for first in the dreaded Wingate Peak Power-Output Test, which measures how hard a prospect can go for a 30 second stretch. Rattie is ranked 17th among North Americans by Central Scouting and scored 28-51-79 in 67 WHL games.
Defenseman David Musil finished tied for first in the VO2 Max test at 14 minutes. He was tied with Adam Larsson in this test, and may have helped move himself up the rankings somewhat. Musil is ranked 38th in Central Scouting's list of North Americans.
Travis Ewanyk of the Oil Kings finished tied for second in the long jump at 115 inches.
Thomas Jurco was in a 3-way tie for first in the bench press (150 pounds) with 13 reps. Monster defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak was in a 3-way tie for second with 12.
Mark McNeill (6'2", 210 lbs) was clearly the greatest physical specimen of the combine, who won the grip test, tied for a win in the bench press, and won the push/pull strength test outright. McNeill had 366 pounds of push strength, which beat out the much larger Jamieson Oleksiak (6'7", 240 lbs). Only Tyler Biggs was close with 323 pounds. Winning 3 of 11 events that are done by 102 prospects is huge for McNeill.
- Everyone is happy to see Manny Malhotra back in the lineup for the Stanley Cup Final. The former 7th overall pick has paid his dues and has moved around among contenders for the last two years. This could be his year to win it all, and it would be that much sweeter given the potentially career-ending surgery he has gone through.
- Fernando Pisani is coming back to Edmonton to support a Crohn's and Colitis golf tournament. It's hard for fans to imagine how the hero of the 2006 Cup run could be too weak to go up the stairs in his own home, but that is the nature of the disease. When I first heard of Pisani's illness it didn't strike a chord. I had no idea how draining, debilitating and downright painful the disease could be. All of that changed when I was diagnosed with it in early 2009. Pisani serves as a beacon to those who are afflicted with Crohn's and Colitis, because it would require a great commitment from him to continue to participate in a gruelling and phsyical sport in spite of his illness. Please help to support efforts to find a cure whenever you can, and cheer for Fernando Pisani no matter who he plays for.
Pisani recently did an interview with The Team 1260's Jason Gregor. Listen to it here: