Friday the New York Rangers bought out center Brad Richards contract. Where he ends up is anyone’s guess at this point, though there has been speculation of him ending up back with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Is that the right move?
Even though there have been no official talks between Richards and the Lightning, it’s been reported by numerous media sites that he’s open to a possible return. Why not? He won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy with Tampa Bay back in 2004, and would probably love to start fresh, out of all the media spotlight that followed him around New York City since his arrival many years ago.
The Lightning, meanwhile, are a young team with no holdovers remaining from their championship squad after buying out Vincent Lecavalier last summer and trading Martin St. Louis (by request) to the New York Rangers in exchange for Ryan Callahan at the 2014 Trade Deadline. Once that occurred, Tampa Bay officially began a new era. A time where youth dominates and grows into something special, with eyes set on winning a league championship. Richards just doesn’t fit that mold.
Also, the Lightning have a large abundance of elite centers in their system. Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn are just a few who leap into my mind. Valtteri Filppula’s another one, making four natural centers in their top six forward core. If they were to add Richards, one of those would be forced to leave via free agency or a trade. Since Killorn and Johnson recently got extensions, the likely candidates to leave would be either Stamkos or Filppula. Now, how bad of a move would that likely end up being for Tampa Bay?
Richards will no doubt have a job somewhere next season, but I’ll be extremely surprised if it’s in Tampa Bay. The fit’s just not right anymore.