May 23, 2013, 12:21 PM EDT
It hasn’t even been two years since the New York Rangers signed Brad Richards to a nine-year, $60 million contract, but the buyout speculation officially begins today as the 33-year-old has been made a healthy scratch for his team’s most important game of the season.
If the Rangers do decide to cut ties with the former Conn Smythe Trophy winner this summer, it will cost them $24 million over 14 years, per CapGeek.
Here are three reasons they might bite the bullet:
1. They could use the cap space
As part of the new CBA, each team gets two compliance buyouts to help adjust to next year’s cap, which is falling from $70.2 million to $64.3 million. The Rangers already have $51.5 million committed to next season, and that’s just for 18 players. Restricted free agents in line for significant raises include Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello are also RFAs.
2. They’ve got Derick Brassard now
Brassard, 25, came over from Columbus as part of the Marian Gaborik trade. With 10 points in 10 playoff games, he leads the Rangers in postseason scoring. Richards is a top-six center, but right now he’s not playing better than Brassard or Stepan, two young centers with bright futures.
3. Best days behind him
If Richards is a healthy scratch at 33, where will he be in two years? Four? Compliance buyouts can only be used this summer and next. With a cap hit of $6.67 million, Richards’ heavily front-loaded contract doesn’t expire until after the 2019-20 season. And if they keep him and he retires early, the Rangers would pay a significant cap benefit recapture penalty (another element of the new CBA).
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