Stars keep Richards, Rangers add Mitchell on quiet Deadline Day

This deadline was a dud. Perhaps due to so many teams still in contention, there wasn’t much activity, disappointing puckers around the stratosphere. With most big deals taking place prior to today with big names Tomas Kaberle (Bruins), Kris Versteeg (Flyers), Erik Johnson (Avs), Chris Stewart/Kevin Shattenkirk (Blues), Francois Beauchemin (Ducks), Bryan McCabe (Rangers), James Wisniewski (Habs), Dwayne Roloson (Bolts) and Brad Boyes (Sabres) all finding new homes, it didn’t figure to be that busy.

Instead, calculated trades were the story with the exception of the Kings getting their big forward Dustin Penner for the steep price of D prospect Colten Teubert, a first round pick and a conditional ’12 third rounder. A move which they needed once the Stars took big fish Brad Richards off the market, which in our opinion is the right decision for a dangerous club who if B-Rad comes back healthy could make some noise if they get in this Spring. The Kings and Rangers were Richards’ chief suitors with Dallas very interested in Artem Anisimov, a 1st round pick and a prospect. Eerily similar to what we proposed the other day. Our guess is they coveted Brayden Schenn from Hollywood. But at the end of the day, with Richards still yet to return from a concussion despite being symptom free for five days, they probably couldn’t maximize the potential free agent’s value, making the choice very easy. If it works out, they take their best shot which is good news for Star fans like Twitter favorite starsfan10_91 who celebrated by re-changing to richardsfan91. 🙂 Why else do you go out and trade James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski?

While the Stars are now all in, it left the Rangers with little alternatives. So, Glen Sather turned to Toronto pal Brian Burke, acquiring forward depth in John Mitchell for a seventh round pick. The 26 year-old was decent his first two seasons used in a checking role, supplying energy for the Leafs. He’s a good enough skater if the former ’03 fifth round pick actually stays up with his likely destination Hartford. Not much else to say following another nail biting one-goal defeat to Kryptonite Tampa yesterday with two one-timer goals by Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier the difference- keeping the Rangers from gaining ground and only three up on Carolina, who added blueline help by swapping Sergei Samsonov to the Sunshine State for Bryan Allen.

At least new addition McCabe looked good in his debut, getting better as the game went on with the ex-Panther crunching Steve Downie against the boards and nearly tying it in the waning second with Henrik Lundqvist on the bench. Unlike a Post columnist who doesn’t have a clue on why overpaying for a potential rental made no sense, the Rangers are better off waiting to take their shot at B-Rad come July 1. It’s nothing like trading for a superstar who wanted New York, with Carmelo Anthony forcing his way out of Denver to come to the Knicks.

So, our team basically stands pat with hopefully Marian Gaborik able to return in a few weeks. Don’t bank on it. Ruslan Fedotenko and Marc Staal are close to returning with the team’s next big game against the Sabres, who actually made a real trade- sending a second rounder to St. Louis for Brad Boyes. Nice boost for Brian’s team and even he was pleased sending me not one but two texts last night just as I was texting him. Haha. Buffalo trails eighth Carolina by two and us by five with games at hand on each. So, tomorrow’s contest at MSG looms large.

Biron Done For Year: In the mean time, the Rangers got terrible news when valuable backup Martin Biron was struck by a puck during team practice and broke his collarbone. The former Sabre’s been a great addition, providing superb goaltending, allowing John Tortorella to rest Lundqvist. He got into 17 games making 15 starts, posting an 8-6-0 record with a 2.13 GAA and an identical save percentage (.920) to our Vezina candidate.

Ironically, Lundqvist had started the last eight, going 4-4-0 with a 2.22 GAA and .922 save percentage while recording his league-leading eighth shutout in a 6-0 win at Washington Friday. Interestingly, Henrik has permitted three-or-more in eight of his last 11 starts. Encouraging is he gave up only two yesterday following a 35-save shutout. Dating back to Jan.20, he’s allowed three+ in 10 of the last 14. All the more reason Biron’s injury couldn’t be worse timing, with it discovered too late. Unless they are lucky enough to find someone on the waiver wire, unknown Cam Talbot will backup Lundqvist starting tomorrow. In 13 starts with the Connecticut Whale, the 23 year-old undrafted free agent went 8-3-2 with a 2.42 GAA, .919 save percentage and two shutouts. How many starts are you going to trust in a rookie who’s never been up before? A potential big problem for the final 18.

Arnott dealt to Caps: In a deal already mentioned in these parts by Hasan, the Devils unloaded Jason Arnott to the Caps for David Steckel and a second round pick in ’12. I’m only going to echo what he already said about this move, which is an absolute steal for the Devils. Steckel is a great faceoff guy and will fit right in on a gritty New Jersey club pushing hard for the playoffs. He also is an effective forechecker who Devil fans will take to. That Lou Lamoriello also got a second round pick tossed in like it was Panther-esque speaks volumes. Between the trade for Dennis Wideman and this Arnott one, I frankly don’t get what George McPhee’s doing. He also gave away Tomas Fleischmann for Scott Hannan. Unfortunately for Fleischmann, he suffered a pulmonary embollism and is done for the year in Colorado.

One other deal of interest was Max Lapierre going to Vancouver along with former teammate Chris Higgins with both now adding character to a serious Cup contender. This is the Canucks’ best shot. It’s now or never for a team that has everything. The pressure’s on.

Finally, Columbus and Phoenix hooked up on a two-for-two with the ‘Yotes acquiring original Jacket Rotislav Klesla and ex-Ranger Dane Byers who of course winds up on Rangers West for Scottie Upshall and Sami Lepisto. Looks like a good deal for both clubs with Phoenix adding blueline depth with Ed Jovanovski still sidelined and the Blue Jackets acquiring a guy who can find twine to relieve pressure from Rick Nash, RJ Umberger and rookie Matt Calvert.

Before closing, Niclas Bergfors was packaged with Patrick Rismiller for Radek Dvorak. Guess the key piece to last year’s Ilya Kovalchuk deal just didn’t fit in Craig Ramsay’s system. He was in the doghouse often, scratched several instances despite totaling 11 goals and 29 points. Oddly enough similar to his 13-14-27 output in Newark. So much for the talented Swede becoming an Atlanta fixture.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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