It sounds crazy to even mutter the words in the same sentence but could the New York Rangers actually consider buying out Brad Richards this summer? It appears that crazy, bold statement isn’t far off from reality according to Tim Kavanagh of ESPN.com who believes the Rangers could part ways with Richards.
After being a healthy scratch for the final two games of their series against the Boston Bruins, speculation blew up that Richards may have played his last game in a Ranger uniform. It’s hard to fathom scratching a $60 million dollar man, but John Tortorella had the fortitude to do it and he salvaged some dignity by avoiding a series sweep. Was it the right call? When it comes to the playoffs, any call that helps your team win is the right call.
Richards has taken his fair share of criticism since signing the 9-year deal with the Rangers in the summer of 2011. Lately he’s been described as the latest Rangers’ big money bust and joins a long list of superstars that found their way to New York, only to leave their game behind in the city they left.
This past season Richards scored 11 goals and added 23 assists for 34 points in 46 games. Not bad, but not worth $6.66 million annually either. Last season, his first in New York, Richards netted 25 goals and 66 points in 82 games. Again, good numbers but not exactly what the Rangers were hoping for when they opened their wallet and signed the former 90-point man to a whopping contract.
The soon to be 34-year old Richards has his best days behind him. He still posts a powerful scoring punch and he sees the ice better than most, making it difficult to completely slander him and say he can’t be a useful asset for any NHL team. Kavanagh has some fun with the potential situation that could unfold and lists a few teams that would make ideal landing spots for Richards, should the Blue Shirts buy him out. He lists the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals as the five teams that make the most sense for Richards.
Taking it one step forward is ESPN hockey insider Craig Custance who writes that the best story would be if Richards left the Rangers and signed on with the rival Islanders. Oh how the New York rivalry would be renewed, if it isn’t already with the surging Islander team.
First things first and that is the Rangers have to agree to buy you Brad Richards before Islander fans can start salivating at the thought of having a one-two punch of John Tavares and Richards as their top two centermen.
The other factor to keep in mind is current head coach John Tortorella. After barely getting his Ranger team into the playoffs, Tortorella has to be on the hot seat with Glen Sather and company.
Considered by many as the Stanley Cup favorite going in to this shortened NHL season, the Rangers were one of the biggest disappointments. Even the Washington Capitals turned it around and proved they were as good of a team as most gave them credit for (at least in the regular season).
But the Rangers sputtered all season and now Tortorella could have the blame placed squarely on his shoulders. His walking papers could be served which would mean a new voice behind the bench for Richards. Maybe that would do the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner some good and help him regain his dominant offensive abilities.
Maybe New York isn’t big enough for both John Tortorella and Brad Richards. If that’s the case and the Rangers management has to choose between the two, I’m putting my money on Richards staying and Tortorella going.