Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the last week:
+ The All-Star break interrupted five-game winning streaks for the Ducks, Detroit and Winnipeg. That success put the Ducks atop the NHL with 68 points, moved the Red Wings into second place in the Atlantic Division and helped the Jets solidify their hold on a wild-card playoff spot. Can all three teams pick up where they left off when play resumes Tuesday?
+ Congratulations to Ray Whitney, who retired last week. Always told he was too small to succeed in the NHL at 5 feet 10 and 180 pounds, he was a fine playmaker and power-play specialist in 22 seasons and won the Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006. He finished with 1,064 points in 1,330 games.
+ Franchise player Steven Stamkos said he hopes to sign a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning this summer, good news for the Atlantic Division leader. Stamkos, who has one season left on his contract, can re-sign after July 1. “I think that’s exactly what the plan is,” he said during All-Star festivities last week.
- Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi should have bought out Mike Richards’ contract last summer, before he lost the chance to make a compliance buyout without affecting the team’s salary cap. Instead, Lombardi yielded to sentiment and chose to believe Richards could be an effective two-way center again if he got in shape. Richards’ struggles continued and the Kings, hoping to off-load the $5.75-million cap hit he carries for five more seasons, put him on waivers Monday. It’s tough to imagine they’ll find any takers and likely will have to make a trade and keep a big chunk of his salary.
- The All-Star break couldn’t have come soon enough for the Buffalo Sabres, who have an 11-game losing streak, or the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had lost six games in a row. The Arizona Coyotes (2-7-1 in their last 10 games before the break) and Minnesota Wild (2-6-2) also stumbled closer to oblivion.
- Bryan Murray, who is being treated for Stage 4 colon cancer, told the Ottawa Citizen this might be his last season as general manager of the Senators. He said he’d like to pick his successor and remain involved with the team as a consultant. Here’s wishing him continued strength in his fight.