My take on some of last week’s notable NHL news.
Long-time NHL center Brad Richards announced his retirement last week after 15 NHL seasons. While he wasn’t the first Prince Edward Islander to reach the big league, he was certainly the Island’s first superstar.
With 932 points in 1,126 NHL regular season games and 105 points in 146 playoff games, Richards carved out what could be Hockey Hall of Fame resume.
Richards’ best seasons ran from his NHL debut with the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2000-01, when he was a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy as rookie of the year, to his final season with the Dallas Stars in 2010-11. He reached or exceeded 70 points six times, along with four 60-plus point campaigns.
With Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, Richards was one of the foundation players who lifted the Lightning from a bottom-feeding laughingstock into a Stanley Cup champion in 2004. He netted seven game-winning goals during that Cup run, a record that still stands. For his efforts, he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
From 2003-04 to 2010-11, Richards established himself among the NHL’s top centers. He was a skilled, creative playmaker and a natural on-ice leader. He was also involved in many childrens charities in the NHL cities he called home and on Prince Edward Island.
His trade from the Lightning to the Dallas Stars in the 2007-08 season was not something he or Bolts management wanted. Ironically, the very salary cap implemented three years prior to help teams in non-traditional NHL markets (like the Lightning in Tampa Bay) ultimately led to his being dealt to Dallas as a cost-cutting measure. He quickly become a valuable member of the Stars, matching his career high in points (91) in 2009-10.
Richards signed a lucrative long-term deal with the New York Rangers in the summer of 2011. Soon afterward, his performance began to decline. In 2014, the Rangers bought out his contract and he joined the Chicago Blackhawks on a one-year deal.
He had a last hurrah in the 2015 playoffs, helping the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. He collected 14 points in 23 games, including the primary assist of Patrick Kane’s Cup-clinching goal.
Skating last season with the Detroit Red Wings, however, age and injury took its toll on Richards. He netted only 28 points in 68 regular-season games and one assists in five playoff games.
Richards’ NHL playing career is over, but he left a lasting legacy for young Prince Edward Island players with aspirations of reaching the NHL. For Atlantic Canadians, he bridged the years between they heyday of Cape Breton-born Hall of Fame defenseman Al MacInnis and Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia native and current NHL superstar Sidney Crosby.
Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane was charged with four misdemeanors by Buffalo police relating to a late-June incident in a local bar.
If convicted, Kane won’t serve jail time. It also doesn’t sound as though the NHL will suspend him, though he could be recommended for behavioral counselling.
Regardless of the outcome, this doesn’t bode well for his long-term future with the Sabres. Earlier this month, there was speculation claiming the Sabres were trying to trade the 24-year-old.
True or not, if the recent remarks of Sabres GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma are anything to go by, they’re certainly not pleased with Kane’s off-ice antic. Couple that with a disappointing first season with the Sabres, and it’s not surprising there’s talk the Sabres front office wants to be rid of the troubled winger.
Given Kane’s baggage, however, it’s unlikely the Sabres will find many takers in the trade market. He’s under contract through 2017-18 with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.25 million, which also won’t be easy for rival clubs to swallow.
Regardless of the outcome of Kane’s current legal problems, he’ll likely remain part of the Sabres roster when the curtain rises on the 2016-17 campaign. How much longer he’ll be with them is up to him.
Kane has the talent to be an offensive star, reaching 30 goals back in 2011-12. A spate of injuries related to Kane’s physical style of play is partly responsible for his inability to regain that 30-goal form.
Attitude, however, also seems to be affecting his game. Away from the ice, he’s given off the vibe of a swaggering showoff. That could be overlooked if he was backing it up on the ice. But he hasn’t, and he’s in danger of becoming yet another promising young star derailed by fame and money.
It just wouldn’t be an NHL offseason without some speculation over where the New York Islanders will be playing. Turns out last year’s move to Barclays Center didn’t put an end to that talk once and for all.
Complaints about fans sight lines and ice conditions have given rise to rumors the Isles are in talks with the New York Mets about building an arena adjacent to the ball park in Queens.
Well, at least the talk isn’t about the Islanders moving to Quebec City or Seattle. Yet.
Kidding, Isles fans! I kid!
Long-time Islanders blogger and pal B.D. Gallof has the breakdown of the whole situation on his Twitter feed. In short, based on his discussions with his sources, he’s skeptical about this story.
Regardless of the truth behind this report, there’s no question something has to be done to address the issues the Isles face at Barclays Center. The venue was built primarily for basketball, not hockey, and that could make such adjustments for hockey difficult.
The Toronto Maple Leafs soothed the jangled nerves of their fans by signing top prospect, future franchise player and 2016 NHL first-overall draft pick Auston Matthews to a bonus-laden three-year entry-level deal. Matthews is getting the same deal as Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel.
It’s believed the reason it took so long to get him under contract is Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello’s longstanding aversion to including bonus clauses in entry-level contract. That’s a habit dating back to Lamoriello’s many years as GM of the New Jersey Devils.