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SportsColumnistsSteve Zipay

Rangers Insider: Rangers' Jeff Halpern to part-own a donut company

Jeff Halpern of the Rangers defends against Tom

Jeff Halpern of the Rangers defends against Tom Pyatt of the Tampa Bay Lightning. (Feb. 28, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Watch out, Tim Hortons.

The late Maple Leaf, whose doughnut shop opened in Hamilton, Ontario in 1964 and blossomed into a franchise with 3,500 stores in Canada and the U.S., soon won't be the only player with an eye on the holey roller business.

Forget Stan Mikita's Donuts, the fictional Chicago-area joint popularized in "Wayne's World."

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken is a legit venture, with co-founders Elliot Spaisman and childhood pal Jeff Halpern, the Rangers center, set to open the gourmet sweet spot on G Street in Washington, D.C. later this month.

"I've known him since we were five," said Halpern, who was born in Washington and played seven of his 12 NHL seasons with the Capitals before signing with the Rangers last summer. "We've played a lot of hockey together."

After games, the treat was selections from Montgomery Doughnuts in Rockville, Md. "It's not there anymore, maybe that'll be our second location," Halpern joked yesterday.

Astro "is only open for catering right now and we've done some events," said Halpern, 36, a faceoff specialist whose winning percentage, 56.6, leads the Rangers and at the moment, is higher than that of John Tavares and Vancouver's Henrik Sedin. "I'm hoping to have doughnuts some for the guys next weekend [when the Rangers visit the nation's capital], we'll see."

Among the flavors: Creamsicle, peanut butter chocolate chip, creme brulee, passion fruit, maple-bacon, carrot cake and Brooklyn Blackout, which presumably the Rangers wouldn't mind serving to the Islanders in 2015. Some doughnuts, which cost between $2.25 and $2.85, are square, and "we had a triangle last week," said Halpern.

By we, Halpern is referring to Jason Gehring, Astro's pastry chef and fry cook who burnished his craft at Fiola on Pennsylvania Avenue and Francois Payard Bakery in Greenwich Village. The fried chicken is expected to be served with buttermilk, a hot-chili glaze or a spicy dry rub.

The early reviews have been quite good, with bloggers praising Inauguration week specials: "Obama Then," a chocolate-glaze with caramel drizzle and smoked sea salt and "Obama Now," oatmeal raisin with honey glaze and granola crumble.

Spaisman, a veteran entrepreneur in the D.C. area, is in charge, said Halpern. "I'm like 10 percent involved," he said. And as in the NHL, there's increasing competition: Zeke's Donutz, District Doughnut and GBD are opening around the city. "For a while, it seemed like everybody was making cupcakes," Halpern said. "That's kind of over, so I think this has potential."

Trade winds?

DC@1,3,242,0,0,0,0,-1,3,55,0>With the April 3 trade deadline a month away, the speculation has begun. If the Rangers want to upgrade at center, and perhaps on defense, several players who will be unrestricted free agents next summer might be available as rentals. Two pivots who likely will attract interest from a number of teams: Stephen Weiss (Florida) and Brenden Morrow (Dallas), either of whom might fit as a No. 3 here. On defense? Doug Murray (San Jose) and Ron Hainsey (Winnipeg). If Calgary shops right wing Jarome Iginla, some teams might hold on to assets and wait because he'll be available next summer.

Heard around

Coach John Tortorella said yesterday that Brad Richards played "probably his best game of the year" against Tampa. "You could see his skating, he made a lot of plays with the puck. He had confidence to turn up in the [offensive] zone and look for late people. Sometimes I wish he didn't care as much because it paralyzes him a little bit but he allowed himself to play and you could see just the flow in his game. It's encouraging and I'm sure it was to him." . . . We'll have to wait longer for word on whether Mats Zuccarello will join the Rangers after the KHL season. His team, Mettalurg Magnitogorsk, is ahead 3-2 in their first-round playoff series. Being Rangers property, he would not have to clear waivers . . . Friday's Casino Night, including auctions, raised more than $230,000 for the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

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