Brad Richards: Putting To Rest The Toronto Trade Rumors
While I would agree that Richards would be a fine addition to the Blue and White I think Maple Leaf fans are kidding themselves if they really expect Richards to be traded to Toronto.
Now, let’s be clear here, trading for Richards (who will be 31 years old in May) and signing Richards as an unrestricted free agent are two very different things. Trading for Richards is unrealistic, signing him to a free agent contract is a whole other story.
Think about it. Let’s say that Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk wanted to trade Richards—how many NHL teams do you think would be interested?
In a rental player situation, probably all 16 playoff teams would have interest in Richards with few willing/able to pay the steep price Dallas will ask.
As for teams that would be looking to acquire Richards with the visions of signing him to a long-term contract over the summer, you are probably looking at about six teams that could provide the Stars with enough of a return to snatch Richards up and have the cap room with which to sign Richards.
The cost for Richards (who currently earns $7.8 million) in a long-term deal to will probably run a team anywhere from $6.5-$8.0 million per season on a five to seven year deal, which is pretty steep, regardless of his talents.
“If” Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke was to inquire about the price tag of bringing Richards into the fold the Dallas Stars would likely be looking for a top prospect, a roster player and a first round draft pick.
Keep in mind, the New Jersey Devils gave up rookie forward Niclas Bergfors (who had 13 goals and 27 points through 54 games when he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers), Johnny Oduya (who many would argue is as good or better than Luke Schenn), former second round draft choice Patrice Cormier and the Devils first round selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
One could argue that Richards’ value is on-par with that of Kovalchuk’s, so I suspect the asking price will be similar.
Now, I am not Joe Nieuwendyk, but I think I can guess what Joe would ask for if he were to do business with Burke.
As for prospects, the Stars could use another Defenseman or two, so there may be a fit with the likes of Carl Gunnarsson or any number of Leafs prospects going to Dallas.
The addition of Carl Gunnarsson to any deal may be enough to get Nieuwendyk to back down from asking for a first round draft choice, but you never know.
So, potentially the Leafs would have to give up Schenn, Kulemin and Gunnarsson for a player who, while talented, may not chose to sign with the Blue and White when everything is said and done.
It says here Burke would balk at that deal, not because he doesn’t respect the talent of Richards, but because it would kill the Maple Leafs in the depth department, which may weaken his club rather than strengthen it in the long run.
Think about the fallout of the Ilya Kovalchuk deal, how it weakened the club both in terms of lost talent and the subsequent cap dollars being afforded to kovalchuk, virtually handcuffing the Devils for years to come.
As it stands right now, the Maple Leafs have approximately $38.8 million committed to 13 players in 2011-12. That Leaves Burke around $20.6 million with which to fill out his roster.
If Burke were to sign Richards to a five-year $32.5 million deal ($6.5 million per season) he would be left with approximately $14 million with which to fill out his 22-man roster.
With that $14 million Burke would have to find a way to sign a number of restricted free agents, including Luke Schenn, Tyler Bozak, Carl Gunnarsson, Clarke MacArthur, Luca Caputi and Mike Brown as well as unrestricted free agents Tomas Kaberle, J.S. Giguere, Fredrik Sjostrom and Tim Brent.
Needless to say $14 million with which to sign eight players should be enough to fill the holes, but it may not be enough to keep the likes of Schenn, Giguere, Sjostrom, Kaberle and Bozak (the Leafs most valuable free agents) in a Maple Leafs uniform.
As good as a package of Schenn, Kulemin, Gunnarsson or a first round draft pick (which would have to be from 2012 or beyond) would be, there are plenty of other NHL teams out there that could put together a better package for Richards.
Ask yourself this, would you trade your best player, a franchise player, for the likes of Schenn, Kulemin and Gunnarsson?
Richards is a great player whose accomplishments are well documented. He always brings tremendous talent, drive and passion to the rink and he might just be the perfect fit for the re-tooling Toronto Maple Leafs.
All I am saying is don’t hold your breath, landing Richards will not be easy, signing him to a long-term deal may be even tougher.
Until next time,