Richards sealed Rangers deal at cookout

The NHL’s top 2011 free agent, Brad Richards, signed his nine-year, $58.5 million contract with the New York Rangers in plain view of other guests at team owner Jim Dolan’s Long Island estate at an Independence Day party last week, the New York Post reported Sunday.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather pulled the 31-year-old center aside at the barbecue to sign the papers.

Teammate Sean Avery was standing nearby at the surprisingly low-key and impromptu moment.

"He just sat down and signed on the dotted line on a table outside," a source said. Later in the evening, fireworks rocketed over the beachfront property.

Richards ignored offers from six teams to join the Rangers on the second day of free agency after previous stints with the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The playmaker’s move to New York reunited him with head coach John Tortorella. In 2004, Richards won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP of the Stanley Cup-winning Lightning, with Tortorella at the helm.

The veteran centerman has 716 points in 772 career games.

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