At around 11 p.m. tonight the window opens that allows teams to use their compliance buyouts on any players they desire. Remember the New York Rangers used their first buyout on Wade Redden last summer. Also remember that next summer is the final year the buyouts can be used. Once that second window passes the buyouts (even if you didn't use both of them) are no longer available for use.
The Rangers are lucky in that they're not full of bad contracts. In fact, Brad Richards' pact seems to be the only glaring issue in the Rangers lineup. Granted there are some UFAs and RFAs who need contract extensions, but none of those are on the books yet.
Richards' deal, however, is massive. It contains a $6.6-million cap hit until 2020. You read that correctly, 2020.
The current CBA is built to punish teams who contain these types of deals. Gary Bettman and co. wanted these deals out of the NHL, which is why you now can't sign players for more than eight years. Want to know the punishments for the Rangers if Richards doesn't finish his deal?
This is from Katie Strang (sit down before you read this):
Plummeting from first-line center to healthy scratch in a matter of months, Richards has become a prime candidate for a compliance buyout and it has more to do with another crucial factor other than the utter deterioration of his game. In fact, the Rangers would likely have to consider exercising a buyout on the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner even if he'd have played like one. Why? The "cap advantage recapture rule" in the new collective bargaining agreement that penalizes teams for any cap benefit gained in a long-term deal in the event of a player's early retirement.
The Rangers would be facing whopping penalties should Richards not play out the remaining seven years of his contract. Should he retire in the offseason of 2017, the Rangers would be hit with a $5.66 million penalty, $8.5 million in 2018 and a dizzying $17 million in 2019. Plus, if the Rangers don't utilize the buyout this summer, they run the risk of Richards sustaining an injury next season. A team cannot buy out an injured player.
Did you read that last segment? A $17-million penalty in 2019! Forget the penalties, assume Richards does complete his deal. We all knew this deal was going to be a bargain for the first few years before being a tough pill to swallow the last couple of years.
Some of you think Richards will bounce back next year. I agree, I think he's going to be better next year. But the risks associated with keeping Richards are too significant to keep him on the roster. If Richards is injured during the buyout window next year the Rangers cannot use it on him, and they will be stuck with his contract.
I have no doubt Richards will be bought out at some point. If the Rangers want to give him another year to try and see if he can't elevate the Rangers to a Stanley Cup then so be it, but understand the risks associated with not using it on him this summer. Buying him out this summer removes that risk. Let the NHL laugh, let another team sign him and get a quality player. The business risks are too high right now.
The Rangers have to be careful about their future here. Not to say this will happen, but the worst case scenario is Richards not bouncing back, getting injured and the Rangers not being able to buy him out. Not saying that will happen, but the Rangers have to be prepared for anything.
Right now they need to watch out for their future. Richards shouldn't be part of that future.
Nothing personal, sometimes this is a business.