Rangers reel in C Brad Richards with 9-year deal
Brad Richards impatiently waited for this day, the day he could
finally pick a new team from a whole slew of suitors.
After a day of being wooed by teams around the NHL, Richards
chose the one that was the front-runner all along – the New York
Richards, considered the biggest prize in this year’s
underwhelming free-agent market, struck it rich Saturday when he
agreed to a nine-year, $60 million deal.
”The phone will probably get thrown in a lake later today and
we’ll get on with just relaxing,” Richards said. ”You have to
respect the process but I’m not a person that likes to wait around
for something to happen and it’s kind of been like that for 60, 70
days knowing that nothing can happen until July 1.
”You’re kind of in limbo. Your mind doesn’t really relax like
it might in a regular summer.”
The 31-year-old center will be reunited with coach John
Tortorella, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2004 with the Tampa
Bay Lightning. He’ll be alongside Marian Gaborik on New York’s
revamped top line. The Rangers will likely pick a left winger from
After a career-high 28 goals and 49 assists last season with the
Dallas Stars, Richards jumped to the head of the free-agent class
and was coveted by the Rangers. The Los Angeles Kings and Toronto
Maple Leafs also made in-person pitches at the office of his agent,
Pat Morris, in Ontario.
The Calgary Flames also made a late push Friday, the first day
of the free-agent shopping season, to try to land the Prince Edward
Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of Anschutz Entertainment
Group, which owns the Kings, was part of a group that included
general manager Dean Lombardi and several others who went to Canada
to meet with Richards. Not even video messages from Wayne Gretzky
and Kobe Bryant won over Richards.
”It’s not easy to say no to people,” he said. ”The offers
being made are very flattering. I am excited to play for one NHL
team, let alone having that many options.”
New York stated its case remotely and did enough to lure
Richards, despite not offering the most lucrative deal. The Rangers
hope Richards can carry them further than their first-round exit of
”You can find a player like this as a free agent or find a
player like this in the top five (of the draft) and it takes a long
time to develop,” general manager Glen Sather said. ”We needed
somebody like this to take us to the next step. I think it’s a
great opportunity for us. I know he left a lot of money on the
table by accepting the offer.”
The Rangers hope Richards will end their search for a center to
power their top line and run their often struggling power play. New
York thought it filled its hole in the middle four years ago when
it signed Chris Drury and Scott Gomez on the first day of free
agency, hoping for a good mix with Jaromir Jagr.
It didn’t work.
Gomez was traded just two years into his seven-year, $51.5
million deal, and this week the Rangers bought out the final year
of Drury’s contract – a five-year, $35.25 million pact – ending the
captain’s stay with the team and opening more cap space to squeeze
”John Tortorella pushes people to be the best they can be,”
Sather said. ”We needed to be pushed a little further. I think
(Richards) pushes us to the next step. It helps everyone move
forward and brings a lot of confidence to the room.”
Richards will occupy $6.66 million of cap space for nine years,
although the length of the deal lessens the amount each season.
Sather said Richards’ work ethic and condition eliminated his
concern about the number of years.
The Rangers have been burned many times on lucrative contracts
with veteran players. New York stashed defenseman Wade Redden in
the minor leagues all of last season to get his $6.5 million off
the cap. Redden still has three years left on his deal.
Richards carries another risk – he was sidelined for a month
last season after a concussion. He was struck in the jaw on a check
against Columbus on Feb. 13 and missed 10 games before returning
”I have been training for six weeks, way ahead of any other
training schedule I have been on because I was healthy after the
season,” Richards said. ”My body felt great, my head felt great,
so I got at it pretty quick.
”I know there is a lot of talk about those things, but it’s
really in the past.”
Two seasons ago, Richards had 16 goals and 48 points in 55 games
before breaking his right wrist when he was checked by Columbus’
Jakub Voracek. He missed 15 games, but a broken left hand against
San Jose in his first game back ended his season.
In 11 NHL seasons with Tampa Bay and Dallas, Richards has 220
goals and 496 assists in 772 games. Among active players, Richards
is seventh in the NHL over the last two seasons with 1.11 points a
game. During his career, Richards ranks 20th at 0.93 points, and
13th in the playoffs with 0.98 points.
Richards had 12 goals and a NHL-best 26 points, seven power-play
goals and seven game-winning goals during the 2004 postseason to
win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP to go with the
Lightning’s Stanley Cup title. He was traded to Dallas during the
2007-08 season in a big deal after six-plus seasons with Tampa
”He just fits. There are things we need within the club and he
brings quite a few of those things,” Tortorella said. ”At the end
of the day, we’re a better hockey club than at the beginning.”
New York was relatively quiet Friday, agreeing to a three-year,
$4.5 million deal with former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Mike
Rupp, and re-signing forward Ruslan Fedotenko for one year, $1.4
Now that they have secured their biggest target, the Rangers can
move to re-sign restricted free agent forwards Ryan Callahan,
Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Brian Boyle, and restricted
defenseman Mike Sauer.
Unrestricted free agent defenseman Matt Gilroy left the Rangers
on Saturday after two seasons by agreeing to a deal with the
Lightning. New York also traded minor league forward Brodie Dupont,
who played one game with the Rangers, to Nashville for right wing
Andreas Thuresson. Both players are restricted free agents.
Thuresson has been with Milwaukee of the AHL for most of the
past four seasons. In 25 career games for Nashville, including 22
in the 2009-10 season, he has one goal and two assists. Thuresson
was pointless in three games last season with the Predators.