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Tag:Toronto Maple Leafs
Posted on: August 9, 2011 10:33 am
 

Daily Skate: Schwartz's motivation; Pronger rehab

By Brian Stubits

MOTIVATING MEMORY: You might remember the story of Mandi Schwartz, the Yale women's hockey player who became an inspiration to many in her fight against leukemia before eventually succumbing to the disease four months ago. Her brother Jaden is one of the Blues' top prospects and he is dedicating his season to his late sister, saying she is the biggest inspiration as he tries to make the Team Canada roster for the World Juniors. "From here on out, this tournament, this camp -- everything is for [my sister]," Schwartz told NHL.com following the opening day of Canada's development camp. "While I'm obviously trying to do this for me, my family and for Canada; most of all, it's for her."

STILL GROUNDED: Chris Pronger continues to move along in his rehabilitation efforts, trying to get back in playing shape to join the Flyers this season. In an interview with Chuck Gormley of the Courier-Post, Pronger talked about his continued efforts to get back on the ice, but the snag at the moment is that he hasn't lifted weights in six months and strength is sort of important for a hockey player, especially a physical presence on the blue line. Back problems usually slow that process down. Pronger also has some thoughts on the offseason overhaul for Philadelphia, liking the move to defense first.

LEBDA STILL IN NASHVILLE: When the Predators acquired Brett Lebda in a one-sided traded with the Maple Leafs that saw the Preds ship Matthew Lombardi and Cody Franson away, it seemed clear that it was a salary shedding move by Nashville and Lebda would be on his way to another team after going on waivers. Well that might not happen (via Pro Hockey Talk) as Lebda cleared waivers untouched yesterday. Now the Preds might be stuck with him and his $1.45 million salary that is on a one-way contract. It will be interesting to see if he will stay in the NHL or be stashed in the AHL.

DUCK IN A SHORT ROW: If Randy Carlyle makes it to the end of his new contract, he will have been the head coach of the Ducks for nine seasons. In today's NHL, that might as well be three decades. Eric Stephens of the O.C. Register looks at the long tenure of Carlyle in Anaheim and how rare a stay it is.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For those that follow Eye on Hockey on Twitter, note a change in the account name. If you followed before, nothing has changed. If you weren't following, why not? Either way, for housecleaning purposes, the new address is @EyeOnHockey.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 6, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 4:18 pm
 

Burke: Richards deal designed to circumvent cap

By Brian Stubits

Brian Burke is a neverending bowl of fun. The guy is seemingly always doing something to get people talking, whether it's trading two first-round draft picks for Phil Kessel to the recent saga of visiting troops in Afghanistan on Canada Day -- which was also the first day of free agency.

Well he's at it again.

Speaking for the first time about his the Maple Leafs' unsuccessful pursuit of prized free agent Brad Richards, the Toronto GM cried salary cap-circumvention foul. From the Globe and Mail:

“I’ll make it clear, we made a very substantial offer to Brad Richards,” Burke said, referencing what was believed to be a six-year, $42-million offer the Leafs made on July 1.

“We lost out on the Brad Richards sweepstakes for two reasons. One, we didn’t offer as much money as other teams and more importantly we didn’t structure the contract like other teams did.

“These deals that are front-loaded and have small amounts at the back end in my opinion are designed to circumvent the salary cap. I won’t do them, I never had, I’m not going to. And that’s why we were unable to sign Brad Richards.

“I wish him well. He’s a good guy. But that’s not a contract structure we’re interested in.”

Uh, Mr. Burke, contracts like Richards' are allowed by the CBA. The NHL will determind their legality, not you. So while you might not agree with them or like the rule, it's one the league -- and you -- are free to play by. Taking moral stands on free agents isn't the best way to endear yourself to a rabid fan base that is beyond frustrated with the team's playoff drought.

Since Marian Hossa's contract with Chicago raised eyebrows and Ilya Kovalchuk's contract in New Jersey led to the team's forfeiture of a draft pick, there has been a much closer watch on such contracts. The deal Max Talbot signed with the Flyers has been questioned, but it would just require a very minor fix.

But as long as the deals are allowed, Burke has no reason to handicap himself and his team with his own stubbornness.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 6, 2011 10:28 am
Edited on: July 6, 2011 1:46 pm
 

Daily Skate: Doughty wait in L.A., labor outlook

By Brian Stubits

DOUGH FOR DOUGHNUTS: The most talked about RFA has been Steven Stamkos and it isn't close. But there's a certain young star defenseman in L.A. who is currently without a contract and is restricted, too. From the sounds of it, that won't be changing for some time. Kings GM Dean Lombardi told the Los Angeles Times that "this could take awhile" in regards to the negotiations to re-sign Drew Doughty. Now, it is unlikely -- winning the lottery unlikely -- Doughty will play anywhere but Tinseltown in the foreseeable future, but nobody likes these negotiations to drag on. The talks could get a serious spur when Shea Weber gets his new contract in Nashville.

THE L WORD: The last thing anybody in sports wants to hear, especially in hockey, is talk about another lockout. With the NFL and NBA currently in labor battles (although they haven't cost either league a game or anything truly substantial yet) the NHL is OK for next season. But after that, the CBA runs out, and we could have a whole new set of issues up for contention. Lyle Richardson at Spector's Hockey says the fight this time wouldn't be about leveling the playing field, but about saving the playing field (i.e. poorly managed/endangered franchises), something the other owners might not be willing to do.

AHL SHAKEUP: Not only did we see a carousel on the AHL affiliation circus this offseason with numerous teams taking on a new minor-league city, but the AHL announced it will have a new look to it, too. A realignment of divisions was released yesterday as well as a new playoff format. It will look very similar to the NHL's version, just with a first round being a best-of-5 series instead of seven. Check out the layout here.

RISKY BUSINESS: Martin Havlat, Brent Burns, Michal Handzus, Jim Vandermeer. That's who the Sharks have brought in while losing some of the bigger parts of their back-to-back Western Conference runnerups. Typically teams don't make such drastic changes after being so close. Although this team has been together with the same core for some time, and that's the most they have to show for it. But I digress. Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News says there is no denying GM Doug Wilson is undertaking one massive risk with all these moves.

BURKE BURN PART II: Yesterday we pointed out how Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was angry with criticism he received from a Toronto Sun columnist for spending Canada Day -- which is also the opening of free agency -- in Afghanistan visiting the troops. Now, a fellow writer at the Sun is coming to his co-worker Steve Simmons' defense after a slew of negative responses, pointing out, rightfully, it was just the man's opinion.

ANTTI-NHL: OK, so he might not have anything against the NHL, but his name works so well! Former Minnesota Wild forward Antti Miettinen is apparently not coming back to North America next season, instead signing a contract with a team in the KHL, according to Andy Strickland.He was one of the better free agents still left, having scored 16 goals and 35 points last season (20-22=42 the season before).

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 5, 2011 11:30 am
Edited on: July 5, 2011 11:49 am
 

Daily Skate: Burke not too pleased with criticism

BURKE BURN: If you happened to catch the free-agency coverage on TSN (Versus was carrying the stream) you probably noticed Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons more or less lambasting Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke for not being present on the opening day of free agency, which included the team's meeting with Brad Richards. Instead, he was spending Canada Day with troops in Afghanistan. Burke, who had plenty of communications with everybody back in Canada via cell phone and Skype, is offended by the criticism, saying he would do it again. The National Post has the whole story.

RICHARDS OR POORER? Since Brad Richards elected to sign with the Rangers, it's been a lot of euphoria in Blueshirt land as they finally got a top-line center they hope can give them close to the production that messiah Messier once did. But it's not all rainbows and sunshine. Blueshirt Banter reins in the party on Broadway a bit by looking at the downsides to Richards, going deep into the world of statistics to do so.

COLE AS GOOD AS GOLD: As you might have gathered by now, this was not a deep free-agent class by any means, so it was tough for teams to fill their needs. But Montreal Canadiens blog Lions in Winter thinks the team did a fantastic job of taking care of its principle need: a top-six power forward. Outside of the pipedream of signing Richards, the conclusion is that Erik Cole was about the best fit they could find.

HEAT-ING UP? Dany Heatley had 26 goals and 38 assists for the San Jose Sharks last season. For most players in the league, those are great numbers. For a guy that has shown he can score 50 goals in a season? A little lackluster. So he gets a fresh start in Minnesota, a team that will be looking for every ounce of scoring it can find. Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune takes a look at the new partnership between the two and how they all hope it brings a return to form for Heatley.

TORRES' TREK: Raffi Torres is the son of a Mexican father and Peruvian mother who hails from Canada and has red hair. All make for one interesting player ... and determined. Torres, who just signed with the Phoenix Coyotes, gained that proverbial chip on his shoulder growing up facing the prejudices of playing hockey as a Latino. The Arizona Republic explains.

By Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.


Posted on: July 2, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: July 2, 2011 6:50 pm
 

Brad Richards settles on signing with Rangers

The biggest free agent is heading to the biggest market.

The front-runners all along, the New York Rangers won the race to sign former Dallas Stars center Brad Richards. Darren Dreger of TSN reports the deal is for nine years and $60 million, an average hit of $6.67 million.

"Very happy to become a New York Ranger today!!!" Richards wrote on his Twitter account. "Playing at MSG will be amazing and looking forward to working with a great young team"

Richards spent the opening day of free agency entertaining team presentations in his agent's office in Mississauga, Ontario. There he hosted the Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs (sans Brian Burke), L.A. Kings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames. It was expected Richards would make his decision late Friday but instead elected to sleep on it before deciding on the Rangers.

"You can find a player like this as a free agent or find a player like this in the top five [of the draft] and it takes a long time to develop," general manager Glen Sather said. "We needed somebody like this to take us to the next step. I think it's a great opportunity for us. I know he left a lot of money on the table by accepting the offer."

And what about that concussion he suffered near the end of the season? Richards says it's nothing to worry about.

"I have been training for six weeks, way ahead of any other training schedule I have been on because I was healthy after the season," Richards said. "My body felt great, my head felt great, so I got at it pretty quick."

For months it had been assumed the Rangers would be the ultimate winner of the Richards sweepstakes. The Blueshirts needed a top-line center, had the money to spend and Richards had said he wanted to play in a big market where hockey matters. Seems to be a natural fit. But it didn't stay that easy.

The Leafs, Kings and Lightning were not surprise suitors at all. And if any other teams were to be in the mix, it was assumed it would the Sabres in Buffalo and maybe even the Flyers in Philly. Instead, the underdog came in the form of the Flames, who gave Richards a lot to think about.

Dreger reported Saturday morning that the Flames actually offered more money than the Rangers, giving an offer at the same length but for $65 million total. In the end, Richards took less money to head to New York and reunite with his former coach in Tampa, John Tortorella.

The Kings also came to the table with an aggressive offer, trying to give L.A. perhaps the best collection of centers in the NHL with Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar already on the roster. Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the Kings, was part of a group that included general manager Dean Lombardi and several others who went to Canada to meet with Richards. Not even video messages from Wayne Gretzky and Kobe Bryant won over Richards.

"We have a lot of respect for Brad and Pat Morris and the way they handled this," Leiweke said. "We understood his desire to play out East and did the best we could to overcome that. We wish him the best. Dean [Lombardi] and his team did a great job. We are focused on other options and are certain this team is going to be very good next year."

His contract isn't as high as I anticipated it might go. Considering some of the contracts that were flying around yesterday in the free-agent frenzy, it was reasonable to assume he would see a number around the $70 million-$75 million range. Instead, the Rangers get him at an average cap hit of $6.67 million -- still a lot, but a reasonable price for a player that had 77 points in 72 games last season. The Rangers could have done worse.

Now, the Rangers still have around $15 million under the salary cap ceiling, according to capgeek.com, which should be enough room to sign restricted free agents Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle.

Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

Click here for more free-agency updates.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 10:46 am
Edited on: July 7, 2011 5:31 pm
 

Free-agent tracker: Leafs make move, add Connolly

It took more than 24 hours, but the Toronto Maple Leafs, no strangers to free-agent signings, spent their first dollars on a free agent, signing Tim Connolly for two years, $9.5 million, according to Darren Dreger of TSN.

The Maple Leafs were among the favorites to sign Brad Richards, who ended up going to the Rangers. GM Brian Burke took some criticism for not being present at the presentation to Richards, instead spending Canada Day overseas with Canadian soldiers in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The Leafs needed to find a center and wanted it to be Richards. Once they missed out, they turned their attention straight to Connolly, most recently with the Sabres. The 10-year veteran has spent the past eight seasons in Buffalo, notching career highs of 18 goals (in 2008-09) and 65 points (2009-10). He is coming off a 13-goal, 29-assist season.

It seems to be a bit high for Connolly, $4.75 million annually, but Toronto had money to spend and needed to grab a center. Plus, the risk is minimized a bit with just a two-year contract instead of something in the four- or five-year range.

This week's moves

Who ended up where
Anaheim Ducks F Brian McGrattan (1-year contract)
F Jean-Francois Jacques (1-year, 2-way contract)
D Bryan Rodney (1-year contract)
F Andrew Gordon (2-year contract)
D Kurtis Foster (trade)
Boston Bruins F Josh Hennessy (1-year contract)
D Joe Corvo (trade)
F Benoit Pouliot (1-year contract)
F Trent Whitfield (2-year contract)
G Anton Khudobin (2-year contract)
Buffalo Sabres F Colin Stuart (1-year contract)
F Derek Whitmore (1-year contract)
G Drew MacIntyre (1-year contract)
D Mike Webe (multi-year contract)
F Cody McCormick (multi-year contract)
F Ville Leino (6 years, $27 million)
D Christian Ehrhoff (10 years, $40 million)
Calgary Flames G Leland Irving (1 year, $600,000)
F Sven Baertschi (3 years, $2.775 million)
D Anton Babchuk (2 years, $5 million)
F Guillaume Desbiens (1 year, $525,000)
F Ben Walter (2 years, $1.075 million)
F Jon Rheault (1 year, $95,000)
D Clay Wilson (2 years, $1.05 million)
D Chris Butler (2 years, $2.5 million)
F Carter Bancks (2 years, $1.12 million)
D Joe Piskula (2 years, $1.05 million)
Carolina Hurricanes D Tomas Kaberle (3 years, $12.75 million)
F Anthony Stewart (2 years, $1.8 million)
F Justin Soryal (1 year, $525,000/$80,000)
F Alexei Ponikarovsky (1 year, $1.5 million)
F Jiri Tlusty (1 year, $525,000)
C Tim Brent (2 years, $1.5 million)
G Brian Boucher (2 years, $1.9 million)
F Jussi Jokinen (3 years, $9 million)
F Chad LaRose (2 years, $3.4 million)
D Joni Pitkanen (3 years, $13.5 million)
Chicago Blackhawks F Dan Carcillo (1-year contract)
D Steve Montador (4 years, $12 million)
F Andrew Brunette (1-year contract)
D Sean O'Donnell (1-year contract)
F Jamal Mayers (1-year contract)
F Brett MacLean (1-year contract)
Colorado Avalanche G Jean-Sebastien Giguere (2-year contract)
D Jan Hejda (4-year contract)
F Chuck Kobasew (2-year contract)
G Semyon Varlamov (trade)
Columbus Blue Jackets F Ryan Russell (trade)
D Radek Martinek (1 year, $2.2 million)
D Marc Methot (4 years, $12 million)
D Aaron Johnson (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Alexandre Giroux (1 year, $825,000/$325,000)
D James Wisniewski (6 years, $33 million)
G Curtis Sanford (1-year contract)
F Andrew Joudrey (2-year contract)
F Nicholas Drazenovic (1-year contract)
G Mark Dekanich (1-year contract)
D Dalton Prout (3-year contract)
Dallas Stars D Sheldon Souray (1 year, $1.6 million)
C Vernon Fiddler (3 years, $5.4 million)
F Radek Dvorak (1 year, $1.5 million)
D Adam Pardy (2 years, $4 million)
F Michael Ryder (2 years, $7 million)
C Jake Dowell (1 year, $800,000)
Detroit Red Wings F Chris Conner (1-year contract)
D Logan Pyett (1-year contract)
D Garnett Exelby (1-year contract)
D Ian White (2 years, $5.75 million)
D Mike Commodore (1 year, $1 million)
D Jonathan Ericsson (3 years, $9.75 million)
F Patrick Eaves (3 years, $3.6 million)
F Drew Miller (2-year contract)
Edmonton Oilers C Ryan Keller (1 year, $625,000/$225,000)
F Yann Danis (1-year contract)
D Theo Peckham (1 year, $1.075 million)
F Josh Green (1-year contract)
F Darcy Hordichuk (1-year contract)
D Cam Barker (1-year contract)
F Ben Eager (3-year contract)
D Andy Sutton (trade)
C Eric Belanger (3-year contract)
D Corey Potter (1-year contract)
Florida Panthers F Mike Santorelli (2 years, 3.2 million)
F Matt Bradley (2 years, $1.9 million)
F Sean Bergenheim (4 years, $11 million)
F Kris Versteeg (trade)
D Ed Jovanovski (4 years, $16.5 million)
F Tomas Fleischmann (4 years, $18 million)
G Jose Theodore (2 years, $3 million)
F Scottie Upshall (4 years, $14 million)
C Marcel Goc (3 years, $5.1 million)
F Tomas Kopecky (4 years, $12 million)
Los Angeles Kings F Simon Gagne (2 years, $7 million)
Minnesota Wild F Colton Gillies (2 years, $1.25 million)
F Jeff Taffe (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Darroll Powe (3 years, $3.2 million)
F Dany Heatley (trade)
F Jeff Taffe (two-way contract)
G Josh Harding (1-year contract)
D Drew Bagnall
D Kyle Medvec
C Jed Ortmeyer
Montreal Canadiens F Michael Blunden (trade)
F Brian Willsie (1-year contract)
G Nathan Lawson (1 year, $525,000/$105,000)
G Peter Delmas (3-year, 2-way contract)
F Brock Trotter (1-year contract)
F Erik Cole (4 years, $18 million)
G Peter Budaj (2-year contract)
Nashville Predators C Cal O'Reilly (1 year, $1.05 million)
F Nick Spaling (2 years, $2.1 million)
F Matthew Halischuk (2 years, $1.425 million)
F Chris Mueller (2 years, $550,000/$65,000)
F Zack Stortini (1 year, $550,000/$75,000)
C Kyle Wilson
F Niclas Bergfors (1 year, $575,000)
D Brett Lebda (trade)
F Robert Slaney (trade)
F Brodie Dupont (trade)
New Jersey Devils D Andy Greene (4 years, $12 million)
G Johan Hedberg (1 year, $1.25 million)
New York Islanders F Trevor Gillies (1-year, 2-way contract)
C Trevor Frischmon (1-year, 2-way contract)
C Marty Reasoner (2-year contract)
F Kiril Kabanov (3-year contract)
New York Rangers F Andreas Thuresson (trade)
C Brad Richards (9 years, $58.5 million)
C Mike Rupp (3 years, $4.5 million)
F Ruslan Fedotenko (1 year, $1.4 million)
Ottawa Senators F Erik Condra (2-year contract)
C Zenon Konopka (1 year, $700,000)
G Alex Auld (1-year contract)
F Francis Lessard (1-year contract)
Philadelphia Flyers F Wayne Simmonds (2 years, $3.5 million)
G Jason Bacashihua ($525,000/$125,000)
F Tye McGinn (3-year, 2-way contract)
F Jaromir Jagr (1 year, $3.3 million)
C Maxime Talbot (5 years, $9 million)
F Jakub Voracek (1 year, $2.25 million)
D Andreas Lilja (3 years, $5.1 million)
Pittsburgh Penguins D Alexandre Picard (1 year, $600,000)
G Brad Thiessen (1 year, $525,000)
D Boris Valabik (1 year, $550,000)
F Steve Sullivan (1 year, $1.5 million)
F Tyler Kennedy (2 years, $4 million)
F Colin McDonald (1 year, $525,000)
Phoenix Coyotes F Matt Watkins (1-year contract)
D Dean Arsene (1-year contract)
D Nathan Oystrick (1-year contract)
D Keith Yandle (5 years, $26.5 million)
D Tyler Eckford (1-year, 2-way contract)
G Curtis McElhinney (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Radim Vrbata (multi-year contract)
D Boyd Gordon (2 years, $2.65 million)
G Mike Smith (2 years, $4 million)
F Raffi Torres (2 years, $3.5 million)
C Alex Bolduc (1 year, $575,000/$105,000)
San Jose Sharks F Martin Havlat (trade)
D Jim Vandermeer (1 year, $1 million)
C Michal Handzus (2 years, $5 million)
St. Louis Blues C Jason Arnott (1-year contract)
F Jamie Langenbrunner (1-year contract)
G Ben Bishop (1-year contract)
C Scott Nichol (1-year contract)
F Brett Sterling (1-year, 2-way contract)
D Kent Huskins (1 year, $1 million)
F Matt D'Agostini (2 years, $3.3 million)
G Brian Elliott (1 year, $600,000/105,000)
F Adam Cracknell
F Cody Beach
Tampa Bay Lightning C Tom Pyatt (1-year, 2-way contract)
C Trevor Smith (1-year, 2-way contract)
D Richard Petiot (1-year contract)
D Matt Gilroy (1-year contract)
F J.T. Wyman (1-year, 2-way contract)
G Dwayne Roloson (1 year, $3 million)
G Mathieu Garon (2 years, $2.6 million)
F Michael Oullete (1-year, 2-way contract)
F Brett Connolly (3-year contract)
Toronto Maple Leafs D Matt Lashoff (1-year contract)
F Philippe Dupuis (1-year contract)
F Tyler Bozak (2-year contract)
C Clarke MacArthur (2 years, $6.5 million)
D Cody Franson (trade)
F Matthew Lombardi (trade)
C Tim Connolly (2 years, $9.5 million)
G Ben Scrivens (1-year contract)
Vancouver Canucks D Alexander Sulzer (
G Matt Climie
D Sami Salo (1 year, $2 million)
F Chris Higgins (2 years, $3.8 million)
F Marco Sturm (1 year, $2.25 million)
D Kevin Bieksa (5 years, $23 million)
F Mark Mancari (1 year, $525,000)
D Andrew Ebbett (1 year, $525,000)
Washington Capitals F Troy Brouwer (2 years, $4.7 million)
D Danny Richmond (1-year contract)
G Tomas Vokoun (1 year, $1.5 million)
F Chris Bourque (1-year contract)
F Ryan Potulny (2 years, $1.05 million)
F Joel Ward (4 years, $12 million)
D Roman Hamrlik (2 years, $7 million)
F Jeff Halpern (1 year, $825,000)
D Sean Collins (1-year contract)
Winnipeg Jets F Jason Gregoire
F Andrew Ladd (5 years, $22 million)
C Rick Rypien
D Mark Flood
D Randy Jones (1 year, $1.15 million)
D Derek Meech (1 year, $700,000/$105,000)
F Tanner Glass (1 year, $750,000)
C Aaron Gagnon

By Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: June 29, 2011 6:23 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 2:36 pm
 

Free agency: Richards cream of offensive crop

You ever see a fish feeding frenzy? When the fish basically jump on top of each other to get the food first? That's what free agency will look like because of the dearth of big fish to be found, to mix our metaphors.

There is no doubt who the most coveted free agent is this season. Brad Richards tops all names up for grabs and pretty much every team is likely to show some interest in signing the former Stars center.

NHL Free Agency

Richard expects to be a busy man come Friday, according to his agent, Pat Morris, who spoke to Buffalo radio station WGR 550 on Wednesday.

"If five teams call, I'd be shocked by the limited number. If 25 teams called, I wouldn't be shocked," Morris said.

Perhaps the first ring will come from the Rangers, who seem to be the team most coveting Richards. They would love to find a center who can score to anchor the first line with Marian Gaborik. Just a reminder, though: veteran newcomers don't always work out so well for the Blueshirts, just think of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.

If Rangers GM Glen Sather isn't first to get in touch with Richards, then it could very well be Brian Burke and Toronto. The Leafs are hungry to get back to the playoffs after a lengthy drought by the organization's standards (six seasons). Richards grew up a Leafs fan, so that has helped drive speculation in Ontario. But honestly a massive chunk of the NHL players grew up Maple Leafs fans, so that means next to nothing.

His former team in Tampa Bay, the Sabres in Buffalo, and even the Flyers are potential suitors, too.

Frankly, any team that has enough room to sign Richards will probably be standing with food in hand, hoping to get the hook, line and sinker on the best player to be had.

Here are this year's best forward options (in alphabetical order).

Sean Bergenheim -- Lightning: Before the postseason, Bergenheim would have likely re-signed quietly with the Lightning after a modest 14-goal, 15-assist season. But he busted out in a big way during the playoffs, scoring nine goals in 16 games. Since then he has turned down an offer from Tampa Bay with GM Steve Yzerman commenting that the two sides obviously see Bergenheim's value a little differently. At this point it looks like he'll be playing elsewhere.


Erik Cole -- Hurricanes: Cole has been a near lifer in Carolina, spending all but a part of his nine seasons in the red of the 'Canes (he was sent to Edmonton and then promptly reacquired by Carolina). He enters free agency coming off a 26-goal, 26-assist campaign, more than attractive numbers. Carolina GM Jim Rutherford would still like to re-sign Cole and keep him around longer, but at this point they haven't been able to find common ground. Carolina is still the odds-on favorite, though.


Simon Gagne -- Lightning: Gagne is coming off a 17-goal, 23-assist season in Tampa Bay, his first with the Lightning. It wasn't long ago that Gagne was a 40-goal scorer for the Flyers, last hitting that mark in 2006-07. It isn't as if he's too old to still flash that form at 31, but the concern might be in the injury department, specifically concussion concerns. Could be worth a shot from a team looking for scoring on the wings.


Jussi Jokinen -- Hurricanes: Another player Rutherford has said he's not sure if he'll be able to re-sign but wants to, Jokinen should draw a good amount of interest if Carolina can't lock him up. The last two seasons for the 'Canes he has surpassed 50 points, highlighted by a 30-goal, 35-assist campaign in 2009-10. (June 30: Re-signed with Hurricanes for three years, $9 million)


Ville Leino -- Flyers: The 27-year-old Fin is coming off his best season in the NHL, scoring 19 goals with 34 assists on the heels of his 21-point postseason when the Flyers went to the Cup Finals. There is no question the Flyers would like to have him back, but it's a matter of if they can have him back. The Flyers are still reportedly eyeing RFA Steven Stamkos, so Leino could be left in the lurch and snagged by another team while Philly chases that option.


Richards -- Stars: Richards is a true No. 1 center. Last season in 72 games for the Stars he tallied 77 points on 28 goals and 49 assists. The mystery isn't who will be interested in Richards, it's who will Richards be interested in? He will likely have his pick of the litter, from his old stomping grounds in Tampa to New York or Chicago.


Michael Ryder -- Bruins: The 31-year-old Ryder hasn't made the best impression in the world in either Montreal or Boston, the two stomping grounds in his career. However, the guy has scoring ability, hitting the 25-goal plateau in four of his seven NHL seasons, including 38 as a rookie.



Maxime Talbot -- Penguins: Talbot isn't the highest-scoring center you'll find (just eight goals and 13 assists last season) but he has earned a reputation as a postseason performer, which never hurts. The Maple Leafs have shown interest in Talbot since it became clear he wouldn't be returning to Pittsburgh and seem the most likely destination at this point.


Scottie Upshall -- Blue Jackets: Smack dab in the middle of his prime at 27, Upshall has plenty of talent to draw interest. He hasn't found the perfect spot for himself in either Columbus or any of the spots before. But each of the past four seasons has seen his goal total rise, hitting 22 last season for the Jackets. Once concern is that last season was the first time he played 75 games (he played all 82).


Others of interest: Jason Arnott (WAS), Tomas Fleischmann (COL), Radim Vrbata (PHO), Joel Ward (NSH), Marcel Goc (NSH), Raffi Torres (VAN), John Madden (MIN), Andrew Brunette (MIN), Tim Connolly (BUF)

By Brian Stubits

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: June 25, 2011 5:46 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2011 11:07 am
 

NHL Draft: Grading each team for the weekend

Anaheim Ducks: I like the move trading down in the first round to get another early pick in the second from the Maple Leafs, assuming they weren't absolutely in love with any prospect on the board at No. 22. With the additional pick in Round 2 they grabbed who many felt was the top goaltender available in USA's John Gibson. In time, he could be excellent. Grade: B

Boston Bruins: The Stanley Cup champions were very quiet, as you would expect. They were picking from a position of luxury at No. 9 in the first round to finally wrap up the Phil Kessel trade and had to be ecstatic that defenseman Dougie Hamilton fell to them. They closed out with a goalie in the sixth round, a good idea to grab one at some point. Grade: A-

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres only had one pick in the top 75, which they spent on Finnish winger Joel Armia at No. 16. From there they selected three centermen, in Rounds 3, 4 and 7. But their biggest move was trading for Robyn Regehr and Ales Kotalik for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. I think the move benefits Buffalo most with Regehr's physical presence. Grade: B

Calgary Flames: Out of just five players drafted, the biggest they picked was a goalie in the sixth round. Three of the other four picks are all less than six feet, including fourth-round choice John Gaudreau. Top pick Sven Baertschi could be a very nice pickup for offensive punch. The move of Regehr and Kotalik wasn't a great trade in its own right, but it was solid when you consider it allowed them to re-sign Alex Tanguay. Grade: C+

Carolina Hurricanes: The 'Canes weren't active shoppers, content to take their six picks in peace. Among them, they selected three centermen, two defensemen and a goalie. Would have liked to see a little more balance and somebody to play outside, but there's always a chance for position changes. Top pick Ryan Murphy is unquestionably most offensive defenseman in the draft, but he's allergic to defense. Grade: B-

Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago was incredibly busy, selecting 11 players over the weekend, including six of the top 80. First-round selections Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault are both high-character, gritty forwards, then in the second round they scooped up a slipper in winger Brandon Saad. The biggest move though was getting rid of big contracts in Brian Campbell and to a lesser extent Troy Brouwer, freeing up cap flexibility. Excellent weekend. Grade: A

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs did most of their heavy lifting on Day 1 of the draft, first sending John-Michael Liles to the Maple Leafs for a second-round pick. I don't like the move all that much, but it shows they are serious about rebuilding. But they had a big play in the first round, selecting Gabriel Landeskog at No. 2, and he'll step in right away. They also grabbed a few defensemen, including Duncan Siemens at No. 11, to fill the void. Grade: B+

Columbus Blue Jackets: Their biggest move came Thursday when they landed Jeff Carter from Philly. It did cost them a first-round pick and a Jakub Voracek, but they got a guaranteed top-notch contributor, so it's a good get. They also traded Nikita Filatov to Ottawa. Thought they might be able to get more for him than a third-round pick, but it was a good decision to move him as he was likely going to KHL instead of returning and it just wasn't working in Columbus. As for the draft, I like the pick of LW Seth Ambroz in the fifth-round best. He was the 31st ranked skater by NHL Central Scouting. Grade: A-

Dallas Stars: Everything really is bigger in Texas. The Stars' six draft picks average over 6-feet-3 and 201 pounds. The three defensemen have an average height of just over 6'5 and 212 pounds, highlighted by first-round selection Jamieson Oleksiak from Northeastern at 6'7. It will take a little bit of time, but they will soon could have the biggest blue line in hockey. Grade: B+

Detroit Red Wings: In classic Ken Holland fashion, the Wings weren't afraid to move back in the draft, trading out of the first round to grab three picks in the second. Their first selection was Saint John winger Tomas Jurco at No. 35. I'm a big fan of the kid and he is oozing with potential. They decided to get defenseman-heavy with five out of nine picks, but I'm not going to challenge Holland's track record in the draft. Grade: B

Edmonton Oilers: They came in to the draft in a great position, obviously holding the top spot, but also the 19th overall selection. Drafting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the easy, but right choice. With their second pick they grabbed Swedish defenseman Oscar Klefbom. While many point to his lack of offense as a concern, I'm very high on him as a project. They did draft two goalies, one in Samu Perhonen who most considered the top European goalie. Grade: A-

Florida Panthers: The first pick of Jonathan Huberdeau was a great selection as I will maintain he could be the best in this draft. The Panthers didn't have quite the same impact as last season, but still selected eight of the first 91 players, including 5'6 dynamo Rocco Grimaldi. The move everybody is talking about, though, is trading for Brian Campbell. It's not a bad move for Florida as it actually needs to take on salary just to get to the floor and he has some use for an inexperienced blue line. Grade: B+

Los Angeles Kings: They too hopped into the Philly salary shedding by snagging Mike Richards in exchange for Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. I love the addition for the Kings as it gives them two elite centermen in Richards and Kopitar. They didn't draft until 49th overall when they grabbed who I thought was the best goalie in Christopher Gibson, but didn't get any defensive help in any of their six picks. Would have liked to see at least one D-man. Grade: B

Minnesota Wild: I thought they made the best trade of the draft itself with their deal to get Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle and San Jose's first-round selection -- which they used to get centerman Zack Phillips -- for Brent Burns and a second-rounder next year. They had a big need in offense and they addressed it for the current time with Seto. They also traded up to grab local favorite Mario Lucia, one of two Minnesota high-schoolers they drafted. Grade: A-

Montreal Canadiens: They patiently waited until the 17th pick when, much to the surprise of most, puck-moving defenseman Nathan Beaulieu was still on the board. For a team that's a bit thin on the blue line, he was the first of five defensemen they brought aboard. But Beaulieu was the only pick they had until the fourth round began, so they got great value and somebody who could prove to be a great pairing with P.K. Subban down the road. Grade: B+

Nashville Predators: I like the player they drafted with their first pick, No. 38 overall, but I don't like the fit. Magnus Hellberg is a very intriguing goalie prospect who stands 6'5, but going goaltender with your first pick, and making Hellberg the top goalie selected, was a bit surprising, especially when they have a still-young Pekka Rinne. After that they added a few guys who are a bit more stout, toughening up for years of Barry Trotz hockey. Grade: C

New Jersey Devils: With their first pick they took top defenseman Adam Larsson, who became the highest defenseman they drafted since Scott Niedermayer. But that's partly because the Devils don't often draft this high. And here they got a guy who most years would have gone first or second, but offensive needs above them dropped Larsson to New Jersey and I'm sure the staff has no qualms about that. Thought this was one team that could have stood to grab a goalie late. Grade: A-

New York Islanders: A lot of smoke before the draft was that they were showing the most interest in defenseman Dougie Hamilton, but they instead went out to get a Ryan Strome, a centerman they hope can be the yin to John Tavares' yang. He has great playmaking ability so it could be a great complement down the line. They got their big-bodied D-man in the second round with a nice selection of 6'4 Scott Mayfield from St. Louis, Mo., after trading Bruno Gervais to Tampa Bay Grade: B+

New York Rangers: Another team that was very quiet in this draft, they went up the middle with centers in their first three picks, starting with American J.T. Miller at No. 15 overall. It will be interesting to see how their last two picks develop, two defensemen who stand at least 6'3 and both weigh more than 205 pounds, you have to like where those guys are starting for blue line bruisers. But all in all, not much was happening for the Blueshirts. Grade: B

Ottawa Senators: My favorite team in this draft. They had a ton of draft picks entering the weekend and they made the most of them, spending two second-rounders to move into the first round for a third pick. Their No. 1 selection of Mika Zibanejad should be a good one, he's got a lot of power and grit. They got a lot of potential scoring with the other first-round picks in Stefan Noesen and Matt Puempel. They topped everything off by getting a talented but still unproven Nikita Filatov from Columbus for just a third-round pick. Grade: A+

Philadelphia Flyers: Philly did its work on Thursday with their three blockbuster moves. While they seem to have weakened the roster by getting rid of Carter and Richards, it allowed them to bring in Ilya Bryzgalov and clear some cap space to maneuver. And, the part many were forgetting on Thursday, gave them a high first-round selection, which they must be thrilled with. Sean Couturier was a preseason favorite as the best player in the draft class, so to get him at No. 8 was a great nab. Could help fill one of the holes that just opened. Grade: A-

Phoenix Coyotes: The pick of defenseman Connor Murphy in the first round carries with it plenty of risk. He missed a significant amount of time due to injury and he has a pretty long projection. This is another organization I thought would be well served to look at a goaltender, considering they are pretty thin all throughout the organization, including with the big club. It's a need they will certainly look to address via free agency. Grade: C

Pittsburgh Penguins: They really must have taken the best player available strategy as they went defense with their first two picks, starting with Joseph Morrow at No. 23. I thought they really could have used some forward depth in the organization considering they have seven defensemen under contract next year with the big club and a good amount more in the system. The last three picks (just five total) did go offense, though. Grade: C+

San Jose Sharks: I said it before and I'll say it again, I don't like the Setoguchi-Burns trade, and right after they signed Seto to a new deal? Ouch. Sure, the Sharks landed a great defenseman after losing Niclas Wallin from the back after last season, but the price is too steep for me. As a result of dealing their first pick, San Jose wasn't on the clock until pick No. 47, taking Boston University's Matthew Nieto. For a team that is in full-contention mode, the move addresses a need, but I just feel the cost was too high. Grade: D+

St. Louis Blues: The Blues sat out the first round, but had three selections to make in the second and came out alright. Their pick of Ty Rattie at No. 32 was a very good one, getting a first-round talent. He still needs to put on some weight, but I like his outlook. Their next two picks of winger Dmitrij Jaskin and 6'5 Canadian defenseman Joel Edmundson were solid. They were another team that spent two picks on goaltenders, but it's an organization that could use some reinforcement in the crease. Grade: B

Tampa Bay Lightning: With their first three picks (Rounds 1, 2 and 5) they went all Russian. In the first they grabbed Vladislav Namestnikov, a center who can also play wing and was projected by many to go a little higher. They followed that up with winger Nikita Kucherov then defenseman Nikita Nesterov. One thing is for sure, though, they didn't add much size in the draft with nobody over 6'0. They know something about short guys, though. Add a little something to the blue line now in a small deal for Isles D Bruno Gervais. Grade: B

Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke came out to make some moves, and he did. The first was landing John-Michael Liles from Colorado, a player he long coveted. While Toronto has a slew of defensemen already, Liles is still a solid addition. He then made a swap with Anaheim to move up for two picks in the first round, using one to grab defenseman Stuart Percy. I'm not terribly high on the guy, but he's somebody they saw a lot of in Ontario, so at least they have a conviction. The other first-round pick was Tyler Biggs, a true power forward. All in all, they added a lot of prospects to the system. Grade: B+

Vancouver Canucks: No team was treated more rudely in Minnesota than the Canucks, taking the podium each time to a chorus of boos and mocking shouts, many calling for a new goalie. I'm sure they are in no hurry to push Roberto Luongo away, but they did draft goaltender David Honzik with their second pick of the weekend. Their first selection of Dane Nicklas Jensen is a very nice selection as he possesses potential to become a potent scorer when his game is more refined. Grade: B+

Washington Capitals: Were the Caps even present in the Twin Cities? Aside from a move to get Troy Brouwer from the Blackhawks in exchange for Washington's first-round selection. Because of that trade, the D.C. brass sat on their hands until the fourth round when they spent their first pick on a goaltender. I do think the addition of Brouwer will be welcome as a power forward, but they leave the draft without taking home much in the way of restocking the system. Grade: B-

Winnipeg Jets: Well let's just start off by saying nothing is going to take away from the high in Winnipeg right now as the Jets are back and this was the first true hockey steps as a franchise in the 'Peg again. With that said, their pick of Mark Scheifele at No. 7 came as a surprise. With Couturier still on the board, they seemed to reach a little early for Scheifele, but they said after the pick they had done their homework on him. With the rest of their picks, they added great size. But we won't rain on any parades here. Grade: B+

--Brian Stubits

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnhl on Twitter or @BrianStubitsNHL

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com