Cross Checks: Anton Volchenkov

The weeklong courting period of free agents -- essentially a window for legal tampering -- has added a new dimension to the excitement building up to the opening of the market July 1. The growing list of buyouts over the past few weeks has also added to the intrigue of the upcoming free-agent frenzy. Here is a look at some of the headliners of a class of players who have been cut loose. Where might they end up when the clock strikes noon on Tuesday?

Brad Richards -- There was no surprise when the 34-year-old center was bought out by the New York Rangers, despite the fact his leadership was integral to the team’s surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals. Ultimately, the whopping cap recapture penalties the Rangers risked in the event of Richards’ early retirement were the factor that spelled the end to the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner’s tenure on Broadway. True, Richards is not the most fleet of skaters, but he still has superb vision and creative playmaking skills, not to mention his intangible leadership qualities. It's possible that Richards would welcome a return to Tampa Bay, where he still has roots from his long stint with the Lightning, but the team’s already all set at the center position, which makes that an unlikely fit. What are more realistic landing spots? Chicago wants to add more depth down the middle, so depending on what happens with the Jason Spezza situation, perhaps this is a move the Blackhawks would consider, though it is difficult to see him fulfill the second-line center role that they covet. The Isles may also be a team that could benefit from his veteran savvy and experience, considering the team has a considerable amount of young talent but few marquee players with Stanley Cup championships on their résumés.

Christian Ehrhoff -- Similar to the situation with Richards, the Buffalo Sabres could not take a chance on the penalties looming should Ehrhoff retire early, since his cringe-worthy 10-year, $40 million contract back dives to just $1 million per year in salary the last three years of the deal. Considering how thin this year’s class of free-agent defensemen seems, the 31-year-old defenseman could garner significant interest from teams that lose out on some of the other top names out there, including Matt Niskanen, Dan Boyle and Anton Stralman. Both Detroit and Tampa Bay could use an upgrade on defense. Should be interesting to see if they put in a call.

Mike Ribeiro -- It’s hard to handicap how the comments by Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney regarding the buyout of the 34-year-old Mike Ribeiro’s contract could impact his list of suitors. Maloney made no effort to conceal that the decision to sign Ribeiro was a risky one that he has since come to regret. Maloney referenced Ribeiro’s long-rumored behavioral problems, so that might sour teams that, while interested in adding depth at center, harbor concern that he is not worth the gamble. Have to figure that Ribeiro’s prospects have thinned since the banner season he had in Washington during a lockout-shortened 2013. Would Chicago be willing to take a chance on him? He might be a better fit in Nashville, with the Predators looking for help at that position and to add offensive talent.

Ville Leino -- He's another interesting option for Nashville to consider, especially since the winger thrived under new Predators coach Peter Laviolette while both players were in Philadelphia. Leino has been nothing short of a bust in a dreadful three-season stint with the Sabres, where he wilted under the pressure of an ill-advised six-year, $27 million deal. Can he bounce back under a more modest deal that does not carry the same sort of lofty expectations? If so, could the one-time 53-point player (who recorded 21 points in 19 games during the 2010 NHL playoffs, if memory serves) be a steal for a team looking to do some budget-conscious shopping this week? If so, St. Louis and Ottawa could be intriguing options.

Anton Volchenkov -- The rugged 32-year-old defenseman does not provide much by way of offense, with only one goal in the past two seasons with the New Jersey Devils, but he could provide some physicality for a team looking to add some snarl on its back end. The tough, Russian-born blueliner has battled injuries in recent seasons, but has still proved to be an effective shot-blocker and adds some edge to any lineup. Colorado could use some defensive help, and a little grit wouldn’t hurt. We wouldn’t rule out Buffalo or a second tour in Ottawa, either.

Devils' Volchenkov to have hearing

April, 11, 2013

Devils defenseman Anton Volchenkov has a phone hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his elbowing hit on Boston's Brad Marchand Wednesday night, a source confirmed to

Volchenkov was assessed a five-minute elbowing major and game misconduct after he delivered an elbow to Marchand's head at 15:11 of the second period of the Devils' 5-4 loss to the Bruins. Marchand went down after the hit and did not return to the game.

With a suspension appearing imminent for Volchenkov, it is very likely the Devils will be down two defensemen when they host the struggling Senators on Friday night. New Jersey, also floundering without a win in the last eight games, lost captain Bryce Salvador to a wrist injury during the game.

According to the Devils, Salvador will be re-evaluated Thursday.

NEWARK, N.J. -- As the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers elevate the level of rhetoric -- if not their downright dislike for each other -- in their Eastern Conference finals, both teams will be introducing lineup changes that could have a significant impact on the outcome in Game 4 on Monday night.

In the 48 hours since the Rangers took a 2-1 series lead with their second 3-0 whitewashing of the Devils on Saturday afternoon, Rangers head coach John Tortorella took issue with what he believed to be the dirty play of the Devils, their propensity for selling calls and illegal picks on the power play.

New Jersey head coach Pete DeBoer simply said the allegations were “comical.”

The Rangers also found out they will be without the services of gritty forward Brandon Prust, who was suspended for one game for an elbow to the head of Anton Volchenkov in Game 3. The play went unpenalized on the ice but was reviewed by league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan after the fact and announced Sunday afternoon.

Prust averages 1:50 a night in penalty-killing duty for a Rangers unit that has limited the Devils to just one goal on 12 opportunities in this series. That represents the fourth-highest amount of ice time per game among penalty-killing Rangers forwards. It is not overstating the matter to suggest that the Devils’ inability to solve the Rangers and specifically netminder Henrik Lundqvist with the man advantage has been the single biggest factor thus far in the series.

Brandon Dubinsky was a candidate to move into Prust’s slot, but an injury to his right foot in Game 7 of the Rangers’ first-round series against the Ottawa Senators will keep him out again Monday night. That means defenseman Stu Bickel will play in Game 4.

The Devils, meanwhile, will insert young center Jacob Josefson into the lineup in the place of the ineffective Petr Sykora. Josefson, the 20th overall pick in the 2009 draft, will be seeing his first-ever NHL playoff action after he suffered a broken wrist late in the regular season. This followed an earlier broken right clavicle that saw him miss 37 games. He registered nine points in 41 games but did have two goals and an assist in his last six games.

But when the 21-year-old has played, he has shown skill and speed that could benefit a lineup that has struggled to score even though the Devils have enjoyed better chances overall through the first three games of the series.

"I had a brief conversation with him yesterday. Basically, just 'Get in, bring us some energy, play like you did the last three, four weeks of the season.' He's had a tough year between the injuries and the adversity, really over the last two years,” DeBoer said after the Devils’ optional skate Monday morning.

"And I really felt the last two, three weeks of the season he had refound his game and his confidence. And if we can get a version of that player in the lineup tonight, we'll be a better team,” the coach said.

Based on practice lines, it appears Josefson will play with David Clarkson and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

"You know what, he’s a great kid who’s been through a lot in the last couple of years with injuries,” Clarkson said. "You see a kid go through those ups and downs and the way he handles them. He comes back today, I don’t know if you’ve spoken to him, but he’s like a little kid in here. He’s so excited. It’s his playoff game, so it’s a great feeling."

“Great skater, great young kid, so it’s nice for him to get that chance,” Clarkson said.

Josefson admitted it’s been both frustrating and exciting to be on the sidelines during the Devils’ playoff run.

“Kind of both. Of course, it’s frustrating to not be playing but it’s a great experience to sit on the side too and watch and learn a little bit,” he said Monday morning. "The team has been playing great and it’s been fun to watch, but of course you want to be out there and play."

Hit of the Night: Anton Volchenkov on Jason Chimera

March, 19, 2011

The Devils' Anton Volchenkov hit the Capitals' Jason Chimera at center ice, but Washington shut out New Jersey 3-0 on Friday night:

It was a day of punishment ... cruel, unusual and just.

It was a day that may have marked the unofficial start to the trade deadline frenzy, and one that saw a former playoff MVP go under the knife.

In short, it was a pretty wacky day in the NHL.

Here's a look:

The Penguins will be without pesky winger Matt Cooke as the NHL roosters came home to roost Wednesday with the announcement that Cooke had been suspended for four games for his hit from behind Tuesday night on Columbus defenseman Fedor Tyutin.

Cooke is considered a repeat offender because he was suspended for two games in November 2009. But he is more than that, having KO'd Boston's Marc Savard a year ago, an injury that led directly to Savard recently shutting it down for the season.

On Sunday, Cooke went knee-on-knee with Washington captain Alex Ovechkin and, while penalized in the game, escaped supplementary discipline. Consider this suspension a lifetime achievement award from the league.

The news didn't get better for the Penguins later in the day as the team announced former scoring champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin was set to undergo knee surgery Thursday. The procedure will require about six months of rehabilitation.

Although it's not exactly news, there is an air of finality seeing the "six month" time frame in print and it reinforces the challenges facing GM Ray Shero, who is also without captain Sidney Crosby (still out with a concussion), Mark Letestu (out at least another month) and Chris Kunitz.

Cooke wasn't the only one to feel the pinch from the NHL's den of discipline Wednesday, as New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov was nicked for three games for an errant elbow thrown at Carolina's Zach Boychuk in Tuesday's overtime win by the Devils.

Volchenkov is a minute-muncher on a Devils blue line that has been much improved of late. Missing Volchenkov for three games won't help a Devils team that was not so long ago dead last in the NHL but is now on the outer, outer edges of the playoff race (the Devils trail eighth-place Carolina by 15 points), having gone 10-1-2 in its past 13 games.

Kudos to the NHL for handing out justice in a timely and harsh manner for both players.

After some speculation about whether New York Rangers captain Chris Drury was going to be able to stay in the slumping Rangers' lineup once everyone got healthy, it turns out Drury will be lost to the team for six weeks with a left knee injury that will require surgery. Drury had already missed 29 games with a broken finger and, while he never quite lived up to his billing (or his contract) since coming to New York, you could hardly find a classier gentleman than Drury.

Although his absence will be unlikely to be felt on the score sheet (Drury had not scored this season and added just four assists), he will most certainly be missed in the Rangers' locker room, as they struggle to halt their biggest slide of the season (3-7-1 in their past 11).

In other injury news, the red-hot Calgary Flames will be without surprisingly productive winger Alex Tanguay, who sustained a neck strain.

Tanguay is second only to captain Jarome Iginla in team scoring and has been a bright spot since returning to Calgary as a free agent last summer, forming the team's top offensive trio with Iginla and Brendan Morrison.

Tanguay can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. The move will force head coach Brent Sutter to juggle his lines as the Flames, 6-0-1 in their past seven to move into the eighth spot in the Western Conference, will try to maintain momentum in spite of Tanguay’s loss.

Interesting that the Flames' first test sans Tanguay will come Wednesday night against an Ottawa team that is vying for the title of NHL's worst. As if being winless in 10 wasn't bad enough, GM Bryan Murray confirmed to’s Pierre LeBrun Wednesday that captain Daniel Alfredsson is out of the lineup.

"I'm not sure how long he'll be out, it's not critical but he's not feeling well so we’ll keep him out for a bit," Murray told on the phone from Calgary.

When it rains it pours and the Senators are thoroughly drenched as they move into full sell mode between now and the Feb. 28 trade deadline.

Then in the "and now for something completely different" category, the New York Islanders announced that netminder Kevin Poulin is gone for the season after falling during warm-ups Tuesday and dislocating his kneecap. The injury forced the Islanders to play most of Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to Toronto without a backup. Rookie Mikko Koskinen allowed goals on the first two NHL shots he faced against Toronto and is expected be the team’s starter moving forward.

Somewhere, we hope Evgeni Nabokov feels shame. But we doubt it.

Finally, the NHL's trade deadline season officially opened with two old friends, Toronto GM Brian Burke and his replacement in Anaheim, Bob Murray, swapping familiar players.

Burke acquired Joffrey Lupul, defensive prospect Jake Gardiner and a conditional draft pick for former Anaheim defenseman Francois Beauchemin.

Lupul was a member of the Ducks during Burke's tenure and was traded by Burke to Edmonton as part of the deal that brought Chris Pronger to Anaheim in advance of the Ducks' Stanley Cup run in 2006-07.

Beauchemin was a member of that Cup-winning squad in Anaheim and followed Burke to Toronto, signing as a free agent in the summer of 2009.

The move will strengthen the blue line of the surprising Ducks, who began play Wednesday just three points out of the top spot in the Pacific Division. Although his offensive numbers dipped in Toronto (whose don't?), Beauchemin can play the power play and will log a lot of ice time against opposing teams' top players as well.

Lupul, if he can stay healthy, may help an anemic Toronto offense. But the attractive part of this deal for Burke is in adding more young assets, a pattern that can be expected to be repeated between now and the Feb. 28 trade deadline.