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Are the Stars in a bad position with centerman Brad Richards?

Oct 18, 2010, 11:57 AM EDT

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It’s awfully early to go looking ahead towards the off-season at who is going to be an unrestricted free agent, but one of the players that figures to get a lot of attention then if he’s available is Stars forward Brad Richards. Richards is one of the best set-up men in the league, perpetually at the top of assist lists year in and year out and he’s in the final year of his deal with the Dallas Stars.

Ideally, the Stars would love to lock him up with an extension, but with the team’s ownership in flux with Tom Hicks looking to get out of owning the team, spending the kind of cash needed to keep Richards in town is a major hang-up to getting anything done as The Sun’s Eric Francis discusses.

While both sides would love to start hammering out a deal, Nieuwendyk’s hands are tied by his club’s ownership uncertainty brought on by Tom Hicks’ company’s default on US$525 million in bank loans backed by the Stars and half his rink earlier this year.

“We had some informal discussions and decided if you can’t get instructions from ownership you’re talking in a vacuum,” said Richards’ agent, Pat Morris. “So instead of getting the player or the team excited about anything, we’ll have to wait.”

Question is, how long will it take for new ownership to be solidified? It could be awhile.

“I’m not worried about it now because we’re four games in, we’re off to a good start (4-0) and Brad is a big part of that,” said Nieuwendyk of the future contract talks with the league’s current scoring leading.

“At some point, I’ll have to talk to the league because we’ll have to get down to business.”

Why the Stars would have to talk to the NHL is because in situations where ownership is hung up in the air, the NHL functions as a proxy to square away major money moves and re-signing Brad Richards would certainly qualify as such because it would be a long-term commitment to big money. Obviously the best solution to this is to hope the Stars get a new owner in place sooner rather than later, but if that doesn’t happen this season the Stars will be in the uncomfortable position of having to decide whether or not to trade Richards lest they risk losing him to free agency at the end of the season and getting nothing in return.

We’re a ways away from that even being a possibility, but it’s something the Stars do have to keep in mind as the season goes on. With how Richards’ season has already started, the offers that could come in for his services might be too juicy to pass up. With two goals and seven assists through four games and leading the Stars to a 4-0-0 record the demand across the league would be at a record high. The Stars just hope they don’t end up in the position of having to make a very difficult choice come spring.

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