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Everyone’s deflecting, but the Brad Richards buyout still looms

Jun 3, 2014, 4:24 PM EDT

Brad Richards Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — At the Rangers’ availability during Stanley Cup media day, Brad Richards‘ contract status was an unavoidable topic.

“I’ve thought about it a lot,” Rangers GM Glen Sather said when asked about Richards’ future in New York. “But it’s not something that we’re thinking about right now. We’re focused on what we’re doing, what the team is doing, how we’re going to play, who we’re playing against.

“Certainly haven’t thought much about it lately. But that decision will come in the summer. It’s like all the decisions, we’ve got lots of free agents to sign. We’re happy with the way it is right now.”

Richards, 34, has enjoyed something of a bounce-back campaign this year, the third of his nine-year, $60 million deal. He racked up 51 points in 82 games — third on the Rangers in scoring — and 11 points through 20 playoff games, averaging close to 17 minutes a night.

It is, as Richards put it, miles ahead of where he was last postseason.

“It was the lowest point of my career,” Richards said, reflecting on being a healthy scratch during last year’s second-round playoff loss to Boston. “You never want to be on the outside looking in when your teammates are battling in what I consider to be the best part of hockey — the playoffs.

“That situation, when you’re in it, it’s awful.”

The Richards buyout talk has been happening since John Tortorella parked him last May. The former Conn Smythe winner said Sather provided a vote of confidence during the offseason — “Glen said he didn’t want to buy me out, and it made [me] feel like they weren’t giving up,” Richards explained — but this summer marks the last window of opportunity New York has to use a compliance buyout on his deal.

Financially speaking, it might be tough to pass on the chance.

Sather has three key RFA negotiations on the horizon: Derick Brassard, Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello, New York’s leading scorer in the regular season. Veteran role players like Brian Boyle, Dominic Moore, Benoit Pouliot and Anton Stralman all need new deals as well and while some might be expendable, some have also proven vital to this current Cup run.

Looking further down the road, the financials are even trickier. Next year will see Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin go to restricted free agency, with Martin St. Louis and Marc Staal becoming unrestricted.

Which begs the question: Can New York continue to pay Richards $6.7 million a year until 2020? Or risk the potentially huge cap recapture penalty should he retire prior to fulfilling his deal?

Nobody is answering, and Richards insists this isn’t the time to dwell on it.

“I’ve been too busy,” he explained. It’s not the right time to think about it. It would hurt my game and it would hurt the team if I was worrying about it, so I haven’t really thought about it.”

He might not have, but others certainly are.

  1. imleftcoast - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    Hopefully the Sedins, Burrows, Kesler etc. can bounce back after their career-lows with John Tortorella.

    • blomfeld - Jun 4, 2014 at 1:35 AM

      “That decision will come in the summer” …

      Yes Halford, it probably will eh ? :)

  2. barkar942 - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Perhaps the better choice may be Rick Nash’s $7.8 Million a year. Clears an additional 1.2 M per year than Richard’s would. Nash would do fine in free agency, and that would allow the Rangers to just about resign the remainder of the team.

    • lgm32 - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Seems unlikely given that Richards is 34 and under contract through 202 left while Nash is 29 and his contract runs through 2018

    • lgm32 - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:57 PM

      Seems unlikely given that Richards is 34 and under contract through 2020 left while Nash is 29 and his contract runs through 2018

  3. canada2014gold - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    I dunno, neither seem to be worth the money anymore but are still hot free agents

  4. 19to77 - Jun 3, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    Nash is moveable through trade, especially if they retain a bit of salary, and his contract’s up sooner. Brad Richards is untradeable if retained, and he’s not likely to crack 60 points again going forward. The question is, are the Rangers better retaining the rest of the (younger) core of this team, or letting a couple of them go and hoping Richards remains a top-six guy for most of his remaining career?

  5. mjasper24 - Jun 3, 2014 at 5:16 PM

    They’re not talking about buying out one of their players right before the Stanley Cup finals start?! You don’t say?!!?

  6. homerx - Jun 3, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    Richards has to go. He is having a great bounce back year but way too much time and money left on his current deal for a player of his age and production. Too bad they can’t let him go and resign later for a more reasonable deal if no one else picks him up.

  7. johnstone17 - Jun 3, 2014 at 5:36 PM

    Cross that bridge when you come to it.

  8. djshnooks - Jun 3, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    I’m asking this seriously to any rangers fan who would give me a legit answer…

    Wouldn’t the rangers be better off cutting bait with Nash AND Richards, and using that money elsewhere? Are they both that valuable where underperforming seasons is worth the money they’re being paid?

    I’m so glad Buffalo didn’t get a shot at either one of them when they tried, between them and Ville Leino, this rebuild would take about 10-15 years. Lol.

    • stakex - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:44 PM

      I certainly wouldn’t lose sleep if the Rangers bought Richards out and traded Nash. Neither one is really worth what they are making right now.

    • jonnyhammersticks - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:04 PM

      I think that’s getting rid of too much firepower at once. Yes they are both overpaid, but take out either one of those guys and the Rangers wouldn’t be in the finals right now. That’s 46 goals you’d have to replace (their two leading goal scorers in the regular season). So no, I personally don’t think they’re better off cutting ties with both.

      One of them, probably Richards, has to go because they can’t resign the core of the team and keep his contract, it’s not feasible. If Sather could also trade Nash without retaining any salary or taking any back, and get a perennial 30-goal scorer for cheaper, then I’d say go for it but that’s extremely unlikely.

      • 19to77 - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:09 PM

        Especially in light of St. Louis legitimately having to retire eventually. I still like the idea of dealing Nash at some point, but only if the return is something like you describe – and you’re right, it seems pretty optimistic to expect that. Guess the best option is hoping for Nash to rebound.

  9. nashernation - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    There is no way Nash would ever be bought out over Richards. Nash is in his prime. Hasn’t had a great year and playoff but I think he is going to step up n the finals. I think he has a bounce back year next year as well if he stays healthy.

  10. homerx - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:10 PM

    They can only buy out one and as mentioned earlier the Nash contract is shorter, he is younger and at this point in their respective careers he has much more upside. He could also be traded. I am hoping that Richards realizes this may be his last chance at a cup so hopefully he steps it up even more than he has. I like the core of this team, buy out Richards, sign some of your young guys who are in contract years like Zucc and Boyle for the right price and use Richards salary to add some scoring and grit.

    • DED - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:53 PM

      For the record, Boyle will be 30 in December. Nash will also be 30 in a couple weeks. Zuc and Brassard will be 27 in September.

  11. Professor Fate - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:27 PM

    I was bummed when Brad Richards picked the Rangers over the Kings. Then L.A. traded for the other Richards (Mike), won the Cup, and haven’t looked back.

  12. stakex - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:42 PM

    At times this year I thought it was possible that Richards would stay with the Rangers. However, the more I think about it I really do think his time with the Rangers will end after this series. The fact of the matter is that his production this season we better, but still just on the edge of what’s acceptable given what he’s paid. This was the second worst year of Richards career, only slightly better in terms of per game point production than last season…. and very far removed from just four years ago when he put up 91 points in Dallas.

    The game has passed him by, and at 34 its unlikely he will be able to catch back up. As such, I don’t see the Rangers taking the risk with so much time still left on his contract. If it was only two years? Sure…. roll the dice, it can’t hurt much. But six? There is almost no chance the Rangers risk six more years with Richards.

  13. homerx - Jun 3, 2014 at 9:25 PM

    If they could get rid of both of them I’m sure they could replace their point scoring with the newly realized $14mm

  14. canada2014gold - Jun 4, 2014 at 1:25 AM

    It is weird that we are talking about buying out a player before the SCP but what are you gonna do? Salary cap. I think he is heading down VC road, I don’t feel sorry for him. There are worse things than being in the SCF and getting a pile of money with a new contract as well. Some players just do not produce into their late 30’s. I am seeing this in Van…….Sedins anyone?

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  1. P. Kane (2099)
  2. P. Kessel (1299)
  3. M. Richards (1274)
  4. N. Backstrom (1170)
  5. M. Giordano (1011)