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Just where could Brad Richards end up next season?

Jun 2, 2011, 11:16 PM EDT

Brad Richards AP

With the news that the Dallas Stars ownership situation will lead to them not re-signing superstar center Brad Richards, the speculation immediately turns to where he may end up next season. While the Stars will look to trade Richards rights to a team interested in getting the exclusive time to negotiate a deal with him ahead of July 1 when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

While Joe Nieuwendyk will take plenty of heat in Dallas for not getting the maximized trade value for Richards back in February, they’ll do what they can to get something for him now. After the supposed pursuit by both Toronto and the New York Rangers at the trade deadline, it’s safe to assume that they’ll both be in the hunt. As for who else might want in on the 31 year-old all star and 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, we’ve got a hit list of the obvious and not-so obvious.

New York Rangers

The Rangers were hot after Richards at the trade deadline as they’re desperate for a playmaking center and someone to help Marian Gaborik continue being a 40 goal per year scorer. It’s clear that Glen Sather is interested and John Tortorella being his former coach in his days with Tampa Bay makes the Rangers a very attractive target. Richards’ skills would be shine on Broadway with the Blueshirts. The problem here is the cost it would take to get him on board.

The Rangers have a load of key restricted free agents to sign this off season. Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Mike Sauer, Matt Gilroy, and Artem Anisimov are all due to be re-signed. Dubinsky and Callahan will be due big time raises and time commitments meanwhile they’re paying big money to Gaborik and Chris Drury has one more year on his monster deal. The Rangers have just over $40 million already committed to next season’s salary cap and with the cap slated to be anywhere between $60-$63 million they’ll be cutting things close. There’s no doubt that Sather would like to make things work one way or another, but whether it’s worth the roster sacrifices to make it happen is another thing.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are another team with interest in Richards and they’ve been eyeballing him for a while now. They too would love to get his playmaking skills in Toronto and having him line up with Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin would give the Leafs a very solid first scoring line. The Leafs have $38 million committed to the salary cap next season and four important restricted free agents to get signed up. Luke Schenn, Carl Gunnarsson, Clarke MacArthur, and Tyler Bozak are all due to be retained and MacArthur is coming off a big year while Schenn, Gunnarsson, and Bozak are still very young and evolving into better players.

With guys like Colby Armstrong and Mikhail Grabovksi breaking out a bit last season as well, adding Richards would help give the Leafs the scoring depth they’d ideally like to have. Toronto also doesn’t have many contracts on the books that extend for an absurd number of years. It would make for an intriguing fit for Richards to join such a young team with potential.

Los Angeles Kings

One issue the Kings had last year was that when superstar center Anze Kopitar went down with a season ending injury, they were screwed not having a great option at center to fill the void. While the Kings could use some help with scoring wingers, Richards’ ability to help give the Kings two incredible all-star talents at center on their top two scoring lines would help snap their offensive woes and not let opposing defenses load up against Kopitar.

Dean Lombardi missed out on getting Ilya Kovalchuk last year and with Richards set to be the big prize in free agency, he won’t want to miss out again. He won’t give out a foolish contract or be tricked into a crazy bidding game, but if he’s got a shot at landing him he’ll need to do it to keep Kings fans feeling positive. And yes, they’ll be in on the hunt for him too.

While those are the heavy hitters in the hunt, there are a couple of teams I’d love to see get in the mix for more simple reasons.

Buffalo Sabres: With Terry Pegula owning the team and a guy like Tim Connolly coming off the books the Sabres are in desperate need of a playmaking center to help Derek Roy out. If Pegula wants to make a splash, finding a way to convince Richards to come to town would be a huge coup. Having Richards line up with guys like Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville would make the Sabres a serious offensive threat.

Tampa Bay Lightning: It’s where Richards started his career and he still loves the city. With stable ownership there and stable coaching and management he wouldn’t have to worry about outside interference again. The Lightning need to get Steve Stamkos locked into a long term deal this summer yet but if Richards took a hometown discount to play in a comfortable place, seeing him line up with Martin St. Louis once again would be dynamic.

Washington Capitals: Hey, why not? The Caps desperately need another playmaking center and while Nicklas Backstrom had a bit of a down season last year, Richards would come in and either help Alex Ovechkin get back to 50 goal form or give Alexander Semin someone to feed him perfect passes and become more consistent. The Caps offseason is set up to be fascinating and if they let Jason Arnott go and Brooks Laich gets away to free agency, getting Richards would make the Caps offense get back to its scary capabilities from the recent past.

Where do you think Richards will land next year? Make your choice from the teams we’ve talked about here or let us know in the comments who else you think he could sign with.

  1. bzarcher - Jun 2, 2011 at 11:23 PM

    I’m surprised you left out Columbus. When Richards was originally traded to Dallas, it was pretty well established that they were trying hard to get him from Tampa Bay, and a deal on the table fell through because they were unwilling to throw (then prospect) Steve Mason into the deal.

    If Richards goes to July 1, I would not be shocked to see Scott Howson offer him a deal.

    • cannonblast14 - Jun 2, 2011 at 11:33 PM

      Not sure why Tampa is on there. Just because he used to play there? Dont think they would really need him with Stamkos, Lecavier down the center already. Columbus makes more sense than Tampa and from what i remember, Richards used to want to come to Columbus to play with Nash

      • hystoracle - Jun 3, 2011 at 9:58 AM

        He still summers in Tampa. His best Friend is the Captain. HE is loved by the community and the fans. HE loves the city. HE won’t get bombarded or heavily criticized for an untied shoelace like in Toronto or New York. Do you remebr waht happened the last time he was paried with St. Louis. Cup, Conn Smythe, etc. Did I mention he loves this city and still lives here in the Summer? Steve Yzerman. Oh, and the Bolts were 1 goal away from the Stanley cup finals int he first year of a rebuild. So he could win now.

        Just a couple reasons that Tampa would be mentioned.
        Tampa may not be able to out spend those other teams due to cap considerations but they have more to offer than just money. Speaking of money – there is no income tax in Florida either. So, you keep more of the money you earn.

      • boltsftw - Jun 3, 2011 at 9:59 AM

        In addition to all that he said, Richards was recently seen with Lightning representatives at a Bay area restaurant. Perhaps discussing possible deals?

  2. bigbear42 - Jun 3, 2011 at 5:46 AM

    What about Nashville?

  3. miketoasty - Jun 3, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    Pittsburgh needs a great playmaking center, they haven’t had one of those since the Lemieux days.

    • cannonblast14 - Jun 3, 2011 at 8:11 AM

      Dont think he would want to go to be a second/third line center behind Crosby and/or Malkin. Plus they cannot afford him

    • hystoracle - Jun 3, 2011 at 10:19 AM

      “they haven’t had one of those since the Lemieux days” – Have you been a coma? Have you not heard of this guy named Sidney Crosby? I know he had his melon jumbled up but lest you forget so quickly. He’s a pretty decent player and kind of makes lots of plays. I’m glad he was indisposed when they played the Bolts or we might not have gotten out of that 3-1 hole. if your tired of him I know of 29 other teams and an entire Russian league (KHL) that would take him off your hands.

    • jpelle82 - Jun 3, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      ha ha ha. nice jab.

    • tk1966 - Jun 3, 2011 at 2:57 PM

      Going quite a way out of the way to take a jab at Pittsburgh in a totally unrelated article, aren’t you, tool?

  4. govtminion - Jun 3, 2011 at 9:21 AM

    I’m actually thinking the Kings. He’d fit well there, they have the cap space for him, and he’d be surrounded by emerging top talent. Win-win.

  5. jpelle82 - Jun 3, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    i bet montreal wishes they didnt get that scrub gomez now

  6. dasboat - Jun 3, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    By the way, his Twitter profile still shows Tampa as his home. I’m just sayin’…..

  7. finodelfino - Jun 3, 2011 at 5:45 PM

    Toronto is desperate for Richards services. A pass first center would compliment kessel and lupul incredibly. Brian Burke has the cap space to work with unlike every other team on that list except for LA. Richards has stated he does not want to join a “hockey market” but with a Stanley cup on his resume he could provide great leadership to their young core. And hey,theres always Winnipeg!

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kane (1735)
  2. P. Kessel (1502)
  3. M. Richards (1268)
  4. P. Datsyuk (1091)
  5. N. Backstrom (1074)