When the news broke yesterday that the Dallas Stars would not even be sending a contract offer in the direction of Brad Richards this off-season, the Rangers number one target, and biggest off-season plan, suddenly became much more acquirable.
Yes, Richards will certainly be hitting the free agent market. Or will he? Larry Brooks had speculated two weeks ago the Rangers should send a second round pick to Dallas to acquire Richards' rights. Yesterday, the Dallas News confirmed the Stars were actively pursuing a trade so they don't lose Richards for nothing to free agency:
``We have had talks with Brad throughout the year, and he's not going to sign with us unless we have the ownership situation resolved, and it doesn't look like that's going to happen by the start of free agency,'' Nieuwendyk said. ``So while we could have discussions, it just doesn't make much sense right now. So we would like to see if we could get something for his rights and allow another team to have a chance to sign him, but a lot of that is up to Brad and his agent.''
For those of you who don't know what any of this means allow me to explain. When a player is at the end of his contract, only the team he is currently employed by may negotiate with him before July 1st (opening day of NHL free agency). So if New York were to trade for Richards right now, while he wouldn't be under contract for next season, they could be the sole negotiators to work out a deal before July 1st.
Now, obviously the Rangers just used both of this season's second round picks to acquire Tim Erixon. But what if Glen Sather decided to ship next year's second round pick, or even maybe a third round pick to get Richards' rights?
Would it be worth it?
Join me after the jump to find out.
There is a lot of strategy that goes into a move like this. But before Sather pulls the trigger on any deal he has to make sure that the player is even interested in packing his bags and moving to New York. It doesn't make any sense to trade for a player's rights if they have no intention of signing with the Rangers. They would just deny all contract offers, and go to free agency on July 1st, leaving the Rangers without a pick and without the player.
Thankfully in this case, that doesn't seem to be a problem. The Rangers were rumored to be one of the only teams that Richards would have been willing to waive his no movement clause for at last season's trade deadline, and there are whispers that he would love to play for John Tortorella again. The two have kept a great relationship, and remain good friends even though they're no longer teamed up in Tampa Bay.
The next thing Sather needs to worry about is if the player is worth taking the risk on.
Simply put: Absolutely. Richards is one of the top players in the game, and is a dynamic center who can score 30 goals a year and add 60 assists. He's only 31-years-old, and has proven that, not only is he is his prime, he doesn't seem like he will be losing a step anytime soon. Don't compare his age to Chris Drury when he signed, they are two different players and two different situations. Richards is different, much different.
The Rangers have been looking for a number one center for a few years now, and although they expect Derek Stepan to fill that role, he's not ready yet. Richards would easily fill the number one center role, allowing Stepan to develop at his own time, and not be rushed into something he's not ready for.
Richards would also make Marian Gaborik that much more dangerous. Although Gaborik had an off year last year (in which he still scored 22 goals), I fully expect him to bounce back next season and find his own form. Imagine what 2009 Gaborik would have done with Richards as his center?
Richards is a top center in this league because he knows where his line mates like the puck on the ice, and he's talented enough to get it to them there. Everyone on the ice with Richards becomes more dangerous, and that's a very good thing.
Richards would also add an tremendous boost to the stagnant power play. Richards scored 29 of his 77 points last year on the power play. It should be noted that last season is widely considered to be an "off year" for RIchards, especially since he missed some time due to a concussion. But two years ago, when he scored 91 points in 80 games a whopping 40 of them came with the man advantage. While you can't call him a power play specialist, because he puts up better numbers at even strength, he would certainly be a boost to the power play.
Now, onto the only negative surrounding Richards, the concussion. First of all, let me make something clear: Brad Richards is not "injury prone."
Richards missed 26 games in 2008-2009. He missed 15 games due to a broken wrist, and then 10 games with a broken hand. He then played in 80 games in 2009-2010. Last season he missed 10 games due to a concussion, but came back to put up eight points in his final six games. I'll say it again, Richards is not injury prone.
Obviously there is some concern over head injuries, but Richards came back (a little earlier than he should) and got his game back together at the end of the season. The Rangers (if they sign him) would have to be more careful with Richards if he takes a hit to the head, but that's a minor strategy which most teams employ regardless of a history (and one concussion doesn't mean a player has a history) of head injuries.
Now, obviously the price would have to be right, and that's only something he and Sather can work out. But for the most part, it seems like the Rangers shouldn't have any problem striking a deal with him, if he is actually willing to come to New York.
What do you guys think? Should the Rangers trade for Richards' rights?