2011 NHL Free Agency: Where Will Brad Richards Land?

June 29th, 2011 No Comments

With Chris Drury expected to accept a buyout from the New York Rangers on Friday, New York looks to be positioning themselves to take a good run at the NHL’s premier free agent, Brad Richards.

Richards is expected to have as many as 20 different NHL teams interested in him, but in the end there are only a few teams that have the cap room and competitive roster in place to attract the likes of Richards.

At 31-years old Richards is no spring chicken. That said, there is no other free agent player in the class that Richards is. That is why Richards is expected to garner a contract in the $6.5-$8.0 million range with a term as high as nine years.

Richards looks to be set on playing for a Stanley Cup contender, regardless of the money thrown at him, the question is, where will Richards land?

Realistically, the New York Rangers look to be the front runners in the Richards’ sweepstakes. The Rangers currently have a total of 13 players under contract with $25,558,333 in cap room, which includes the $3,716,667 buyout of Chris Drury.

The Rangers lineup currently features an all-world goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, a stud defenseman in Marc Stall and one of the NHL’s most dangerous snipers in Marian Gaborik.

Add Richards to that line up and you’ve got yourself a great core with which to build with, but hardly a Stanley Cup contender. Let’s face it, the Rangers can buy a ton of talent with $25 million dollars—probably enough talent to make a long playoff run as early as this season, with or without Richards’ services.

Don’t count out the likes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that is desperate for a first line centre and, with the likes of Richards in the lineup, have a good chance at making a deep playoff run in the near future.

The Maple Leafs currently have a total of 17 players under contract with just under $19 million to spend. Maple Leafs general manager is expected to offer unrestricted free agent defenseman Luke Schenn a multi-year deal in the $4-5 million per season range, while fellow UFA Clarke MacArthur’s (who may also get an offer from Burke), future with the team is suspect at best.

Given the Maple Leafs cap space and current roster, Burke may have to overpay in order to land Richards—something Burke has said all along he would never do.

One move Burke may consider is burying struggling defenseman Mike Komisarek  and his $4.5 million contract in the minors in order to create more cap room. The Rangers did it with Wade Redden and Burke has already buried Jeff Finger in the minors, why would burying Komisarek be a huge shock?

A couple of dark-horses may include the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Kings.

The Red Wings certainly have the lineup with which to make a run at the Cup, as does Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles for that matter.

Detroit currently has a total of 17 players under contract with $16,207,955 with which to fill out their roster. With veteran defenseman Brian Rafalski retiring the Red Wings are in need of another puck moving defenseman— the cost of which could make it next to impossible for Detroit to land Richards.

On the surface, given Richards’ success with the Tampa Bay organization, his long standing relkationship with head coach John Torterella and the fact that Richards resides in Tampa, the Tampa Bay Lightning would seem to be Richards’ preference, but is it even remotely realistic to think Richards is headed to T-Bay? Probably not!

The Bolts currently have a total of 16 players under contract with $18,785,000 with which to round out their roster.

Tampa has been in negotiations with restricted free agent Steven Stamkos for severla weeks now. While Tampa Bay is yet to announce a new deal, Stammer expected to sign a long term deal that should fetch a contract in the $5-7 million range. If that happens it will be tough for the Bolts to add the likes of Richards unless they can find a taker for Vincent Lecavalier and his $7,727,273 cap hit, which is unlikely.

The Los Angeles Kings added Dustin Penner to their mix at last years trade deadline and recently added Mike Richards via trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. Together these two players alone carry a cap hit of $10 million, which handcuffs their chances of landing Brad Richards.

Further complicating matters is the fact that star defenseman Drew Doughty is expected to ink a new deal in the $5-6 million range which will make it will very tough for the Kings to add Richards to their roster.

That said, even with Doughty scoring a $6 million deal, the Kings will have somewhere in the neighborhood of $28 million in cap space in 2012-2013 if they play their cards right. If the Kings could get Richards to take less money in the short term they may be able to get him under the cap for 2011-12.

The Kings have long been rumored to be interested in Brad Richards and, when you consider their current roster, a move to Los Angeles would seem to fit Richards’ need to play for a contender.

Could you imagine a lineup that featured Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Brad Richards down the middle? Wow!

In the end Richards will likely sign with the Rangers, it will be interesting to see which teams make it into the mix.

Until next time,

Peace!

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