Friday, June 3, 2011

Next Move Brad Richards

TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie reported yesterday that Dallas Stars Brad Richards will not be resigned.

Brad Richards will become a UFA July first and he will be able to pick almost any team in the NHL to play for. The list of team seeking his services will be very long and some teams at the top of the list will be the New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay lightning, Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadians, and Los Angeles Kings to name a few. Some of the factors that will go into Richards decision as to where to sign are money, term, geography, family and of course the organizations chance to win. Lets have some fun and break down the top contenders and chances of Richards signing there.

New York Rangers strength of offer will come in the form of money and term. The Rangers have shown in the past that they are not afraid to throw out ridiculous money and term to UFA players. I would expect a contract offer of $50M over seven years with a cap hit of  around $7M per year. Sather will offer the most cash and term no doubt. Richards will also become a bigger profile star playing in New York and will have plenty of endorsement opportunities to supplement even more income. Richards and his family will be recognized in the community not like in Canada. The Rangers feel like they are a team on the rise with lots of young talent. Will Richards see himself  as the missing piece?

Brian Burke has made his intentions this summer crystal clear. Add a star player to be the teams number one center. Burke has also gone on record by stating his disdain for long term front end loaded contracts like the Kovalchuk deal last summer. Burke has lots of cash and cap space to work with of course but his offer will likely be out bid by Rangers. Burke will offer a reasonable offer in the range of  $40M over five years. A cap average of $8M per year but only for five years taking Richards to thirty six years old. Playing for the leafs will provide Richards with a life time of endorsement opportunities. Just ask Doug Gilmore and Wendel Clark. Living in Canada and being a hockey star means he will be recognized everywhere he goes. His kids will be well known at school as Brad Richards kids. Brian Burke feels like the Leafs are a good team. Burke recently said in a n interview that to win, a team needs two or three elite players. Currently the Leafs really have none. Richards is a legit star player and playing in Toronto would make Kessel a star and possibly Phaneuf as well. Richards would put the Leafs into a playoff position but not a cup contender. Can Burke sway Richards and add one or two more pieces?

Richards may choose to go back to his former team the Tampa Bay Lightning. He and his family would obviously be familiar and comfortable there. Richards has said he never wanted to leave. Tampa Bay was one win short of going to the Stanley Cup finals and his long time good friend and teammate Vincent Lecavalier is there. Money becomes the stumbling block for Richards to go back to Tampa. According to Cap Geek, Tampa has eleven players signed and $23M cap space to work with. However, Stamkos is a RFA and will command top dollar in the Crosby Ovechkin range. Not to mention Lecavalier, St. Louis, Malone and Ohlund are already under long term deals. Can rookie GM Yzerman work the numbers and make an offer to Richards that both Yzerman can afford and Richards will accept?

Richards former GM Jay Feaster will see Richards as a dream option to center star winger Jerome Iginla. Flames only have $3M in cap space and seventeen players signed. Finding cap space for Richards will be challenging as almost all of Calgary's big ticket players have NMC in their contracts. Calgary feels like a veteran team capable of challenging for a cup run and Richards could push them over the top. Will Feaster clear cap space and make an offer? Will Richards be tempted to sign long term on a veteran team and will his family want to move from sunny Dallas to freezing Calgary?

Montreal Canadians may have the cap space to offer Richards by letting star defender Andrei Markov walk as a UFA. Montreal has long needed a true number one center and Richards clearly fills the bill. With $23M in cap space Gauthier has the cap space but has only ten players signed. Richards would take up at least seven of the available cap space leaving only $16M to sign at least nine players. Montreal does have plenty of young players who can cheaply fill out the roster, Pouliot, White, Desharnais, Pyatt and Leblanc. While Gauthier's offer may not be as much as what Rangers or Leafs can offer the endorsement opportunities will be rich as long as Richards speaks, or learns to speak French.  Montreal is a good young team with a young core lead by Elite goalie Carey Price. Richards could lead the Habs back to the Stanley cup finals but will he do so for less money? Will he and his family be happy in a French speaking community?

Last year the Los Angeles Kings were the runner up in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes. Lombardi was unwilling to commit as much money and term as the Devils ultimately did. Will Lombardi be willing to do this summer what he was not last  summer? With only $11M in cap and sixteen players signed Lombardi needs to resign RFA defender and franchise player Drew Doughty. Signing Doughty will eat up a big chunk of the teams long term cap making the timing to sign a big ticket UFA less than ideal. Richards would not have to move far and he and his family could continue to enjoy living in a warm climate in privacy. Richards signing in Los Angeles would move them into cup contention and he would make the Kings relevant the way Gretzky did to a lesser extent. With Kopitar, Stoll, Schen, and Loktionov already in the system do the Kings really need Richards? Will Lombardi be determined to not be outbid this time? Will Richards see the Kings as the best fit for him and his family?

Richards will have plenty of great options this summer as these and several other will make strong offers. The consensus favorite seems to be the New York Rangers, but do not count out Brian Burke. Ultimately it will be Richards decision and only time will tell where he plays and who is the winner of the Richards sweepstakes.

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