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Rangers spend big again, land Brad Richards with 9-year, $60M blockbuster

Jul 2, 2011, 11:36 AM EDT

Brad Richards,  Patrick Sharp AP

It almost had to happen this way, didn’t it?

The New York Rangers organization is known for making splashy, often-regrettable deals for big-name free agents. Brad Richards ranked as far-and-away the biggest name (and probably the largest risk) in the unrestricted free agent pool. If those two factors weren’t enough to make these two parties seem predestined, go ahead and add Richards’ familiarity with Rangers head coach John Tortorella and New York’s abundant desperation for a top-line center to the list.

Whichever way you slice it, the Rangers landed that big fish at a huge cost, locking up the 31-year-old playmaking center to a mammoth 9-year, $60 million deal. From a cap hit standpoint, Richards will cost the Rangers a satanic $6.67 million, which is actually palatable compared to his overblown previous hit of $7.9 million. Of course, the biggest concern is the term of that deal; one can only assume that this contract is front-loaded like other lengthy deals before it (see: Christian Ehrhoff’s 10-year pact with the Buffalo Sabres).

Rangers make another huge, risky investment

The Rangers are hoping that Richards leans more toward Jaromir Jagr (a big star who mostly justified his big contract in the big apple) than just about every other expensive investment they’ve made. GM Glen Sather has almost become a walking punchline for all of the bad deals he handed out. From Bobby Holik in the older days to more recent albatrosses such as Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Wade Redden’s deals, it seems like Sather has some sort of reverse-Midas touch. If nothing else, it’s clear that nothing has been learned from those mistakes.

There is a key difference between Richards and some of the worst deals: there isn’t as much desperation in the air. There seemed to be an assumption that Drury, Gomez and other free agents could achieve bigger things in New York than they ever have before. Richards has shown that he can be a top-end center a few times in his career, although the worrisome thing for Rangers fans is that he suffered some ugly years in the early part of his last huge deal.

The pros of Richards

If you ask me, Brad Richards is one of the five best passers in the NHL. My guess is that the Rangers hope that his supreme playmaking will inject some life into fellow risky investment Marian Gaborik ($7.5 million per year through 2013-14). After struggling mightily through much of his deal, Richards finally hit the level expected by his salary the last two seasons, scoring 91 points in 2009-10 and 77 in 10-11. The Rangers were a team that was severely lacking in elite players, especially at the forward position. Their lineup should be a little bit more natural now.

The cons of Richards

That being said, there are concerns about his health. Richards’ 10-11 season took a bit of a dive when he suffered a concussion right around the trade deadline. While he managed to play later on, it seemed like he fell short of his once red-hot pace after that. Handing a nine-year deal to a guy who might not be 100 percent is the kind of gamble that might give some Rangers fans indigestion during this holiday weekend.

Sather’s work isn’t done yet

The Rangers have 16 players covered and about $16 million in cap space to lock up the 4-7 remaining spots, but it might not be as easy as it sounds. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan were often the Rangers’ go-to forwards last season, so re-signing those two restricted free agents remains a point of emphasis. Artem Anisimov and big forward Brian Boyle also rank as players Gather might want to retain.

***

The Rangers and Richards have been linked for quite some time, with many saying that the road to Richards basically went through New York. Ultimately, Sather won that game of free agent chicken with the Los Angeles Kings and other suitors, likely handing the veteran playmaker the type of term that was too much for more conservative spenders to stomach. There are reasons to believe that it will work out (Richards is the most legitimate offensive talent the Rangers signed since Jagr) and plenty of reasons why it won’t (past history, Richards’ age and health plus the typical downfalls of adding free agents), but either way, it should be interesting to watch.

We will find out soon enough if Richards will be a big difference-maker in New York or yet another name on the list of Sather’s scroll of epic blunders.

  1. finodelfino - Jul 2, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Good luck resigning Callahan and Dubinsky. I’ll give it 4 years until sather buys out Richards contract…

    • hanktheking - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:16 PM

      Good luck signing Callahan and Dubinsky? 2 guys who have grown up in the organization, love playing for Torts and have both stated they want to be Rangers for life. Factor in 16 million dollars of cap space remaining and the fact the team just landed another superstar to push for the cup.

      You don’t need luck when things are a done deal.

      • stakex - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:42 PM

        You act like $16 million is a lot of cap space for the Rangers right now. Its not. Callahan and Dubinsky both had good years last season… and are going to want a raise.

        Callahan had 23 goals and 48 points, while missing 20 games… so he likely would have had 60 points and nearly 30 goals. Hes going to want 5-6 million this time around. Dubinsky had 24 goals and 54 points in 77 games. Hes also going to get a raise, and probably want 5-6 million this year. Also, you have to remember that they are RFAs… meaning other teams can make them offers that the Rangers would have to match. Its not crazy to think someone could make a very high one or two year offer considering theres not a lot of good UFAs out there. If that happens the Rangers are really screwed.

        Lets assume for a second that the Rangers gave both Cally and Dubinsky $5 mil each. That leaves the Rangers with just $6 mil in cap space. With that, they still need to sign a couple defensemen…. and what about Anisimov and Boyle? Both looked really good last year, and Anisimov has a future as a great goal scorer. Are the Rangers ready to let yet another young talent walk to sign an over the hill super star?

        Spin it how you like, but there is no “done deal” when it comes to re-signing Cally and Dubinsky. Odds are one of them is going to be walking out of town.

      • jpelle82 - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:24 PM

        good luck signing both.

  2. hanktheking - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    Fino delfino you’re a complete idiot. Callahan will be wearing the “C” next year and Duby will be his linemate. Everyone better pray Richards is a bust, otherwise the Rangers will be extremely dangerous next year.

  3. nittanylion0 - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    Nice try with the whole “rain on the parade” thing there, fino. The Rangers have been looking to make this whole Richards thing work for months now. I have no doubt they figured out a way to make it work… and it looks like their plan was to get a front-loaded deal to maybe back-load some deals for the other, equally important guys like Cally and Dubi. The Rangers absolutely needed to make this move if they had any interest in not wasting Henrik’s time on Broadway. They need Richards’ passing skills, they need him to set up Gabby. I hope this works, because if it does… this team is going to be very dangerous next year.

  4. peanutflower - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    The hockey owners world has lost its mind. Ridiculous. But hey, we’ve got two of the other five best passers in the NHL in Van couver and they sure didn’t cost $58 million.

  5. stakex - Jul 2, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    Sather should be fired… plain and simple.

    He wanted Richards soooo bad that he gave him a deal thats far worse then the Gomez, or Drury deals. Sure Richards is a better play then those two, but hes not THAT much better.

    Couple things to point out:

    1. Richards might never be the same after his concusion last year… and he might in fact be more prone to suffering another one.

    2. Richards will have a $6.5 million cap hit when he is 35-40. Talk about a massive waste of cap space.

    3. The Rangers are most certainly gonna have to let some of their young talent walk now. Dubinsky, Anisimov, Callahan, Boyle, Saure, Gillroy….. can’t keep them all now, which is a mistake. Richards might provide a boost for a couple years, but you can’t expect him to be a top player into his mid/late 30’s. However, the Rangers young talent is likely to keep growing over the next few years into the core of a team that could win cups… don’t expect Richards to drastically increase that possibility.

    4. The Rangers history with such signings should have been a massive, and I mean massive, warning sign. No team (actually no GM) has continued to make such horrible “blockbuster” free agent signings that have turned into garbage. Everyone knows the obvious ones, but hell even Gaborik looked bad last year. You could make the agument he was hurt, but Sather KNEW Gaborik was injury prone when he threw a $7.5 mil a year deal at him. Its getting annoying seeing how often Sather just runs out and signs the most expensive player hoping for results.

    —————————————————————————————————————————————–

    As a Rangers fan obviously I want this to work out… but its not going to. Richards never was a super star. He had a couple solid seasons, but he never put up massive numbers. Odds are he only has a couple years of peek performance left before his play starts falling off….. all the while the Rangers have to pay for declining numbers. On top of that, the Rangers young core they have been grooming over the last few years is certain to take a hit given the poor cap management by Sather.

    Want to see a deal happen that will give the Rangers a real shot at winning the cup? Fire Sather…. becuase its not going to happen while hes still there.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 2, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      What’s ironic is that year after year in Edmonton, Sather did a good job of working with a limited budget and putting together competitive teams (talking about after the dynasty days) and it led to his reputation as one of if not the best GM in the game during that time.

      Then he goes to the Rangers with an unlimited budget and he turns into the second worst GM in hockey, Garth Snow being the worst…Darryl Sutter was also worse before the Flames finally fired him.

      It’s not as if the Rangers are a bad team, but if Sather had gone to New York and used the same skills that he used in Edmonton, rather than just trying to throw money at “stars” the Rangers would have won some Stanley Cups during his tenure.

      • stakex - Jul 2, 2011 at 10:22 PM

        It could definatlly be said that the game has passed Sather by. He did a great job with the Oilers… but has been a nightmare for the Rangers. Not to say he hasn’t done some good things with the Rangers, but his blunders over the last few years are so bad its hard to remember what hes done right in NY.

  6. sippindasyzurp - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Didnt Richards say he wanted to go to a stanley cup contender?? Dont the rangers fight for 8th place every year?

  7. jpelle82 - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:37 PM

    thats a lot of money for a guy with ok numbers and old. getting paid more than henrik and daniel, datsyuk and zetterberg, st louis and stamkos. wow. some of the best tandems and they all had more pts and assists than he does and they all make less. genius.

    • jpelle82 - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:39 PM

      ribiero was the better center anyway

    • stakex - Jul 2, 2011 at 10:24 PM

      Well in fairness Stamkos contract ended this year…. Richards won’t be making more then him for long. Stamkos is going to get the big bucks this summer.

  8. theghostofwillisreed - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:47 PM

    the deal is front-loaded. he can be bought out later and there is no guarantee he plays to forty years old anyway.

    it’s nine years for 58.5 million

    the rangers were not the highest bidder. calgary was.

    i’ll take an overrated player who scores 91 points like richards on my team any day of the week.

    i’m not a brad richards fan but the blueshirts needed him

    • stakex - Jul 2, 2011 at 10:26 PM

      The thing is, there are some serious questions behind Richards. Hes only scored 91 points twice, never scored more then 28 goals, had a serious injury last year after which his production fell a little bit, and hes 31 years old.

      I agree the Rangers need a top line center, but I don’t agree the Rangers needed Richards. What if hes never the same after his concusion last year? What a waste of money that would be.

  9. sonofsamiam - Jul 2, 2011 at 1:58 PM

    The Sedins making less than Richards is reasonable when you take into consideration the fact that Brad has a cup ring and won’t be taking diving penalties or half a dozen unanswered punches to the face from a undersized rookie.

  10. nyncsports - Jul 2, 2011 at 5:27 PM

    Me being a Ranger fan, I want this to work and it will. Brad is 31 and has maybe 4 or 5 really good years a head of him. “if he doesn’t get hurt again”. Sign Cal and Dubie and it’s a wrap!!

  11. flavadave10 - Jul 2, 2011 at 11:51 PM

    If he can come back from his concussion strong, this should be a nice deal since it’s front loaded. If he doesn’t, this will probably get Sather fired.

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