Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rangers Analysis: Brad Richards Is The Easy Move, But Not The Right One.

Once the New York Rangers made the move to trade for McCabe yesterday the rumors predictably turned back to discussing Brad Richards being moved to New York.  There really is no easier rumor to write about than that one.  The Rangers love big name players, and they have a need for a first line center.  Richards is the biggest name potentially on the market and well what do you know, he just happens to be a first line center.  As it is the easy rumor to write it is the easy trade for the Rangers to make.  It is the Rangers answer to the Carmelo trade of earlier this week that says to the media and the fans that the team is in it to win the whole thing instead of just squeaking in the playoffs.  The fact that the move is the easy one to make and the flashy one as well does not mean it is the right one.
The Rangers have preached all season about how important the youth and the young core of this team are.  Trading for Richards goes against that movement.  Brad Richards is a great player.  He would be the best offensive player the Rangers have on their roster today.  My concern is not about today, but making sure there is a tomorrow. 
At a minimum, you have to assume that, New York would have to give up at least Artem Anisimov or Michael Del Zotto and a number 1 pick in a package for Brad Richards.  There are surely some who are willing to take that risk whether it is a lack of belief in the development of those Rangers players or the fascination with the big name first line center.  I am not one of those people.  Hopefully Glen Sather is not one of those people either.
After years of building with aging veterans the Rangers rebuilding has reached a point where there is enough contributing youth in the lineup to see the bright future on the horizon.  The same people who complained about the lack of young talent are now ready for a quick fix to improve today.  Cashing in some of those assets for a soon to be 31 year old center who is not only a rental player, but currently out with a concussion is a horrible idea.  Even with Brad Richards the New York Rangers are not winning the Stanley Cup this season. 
I know that is hard for some to hear and they will tell me that anything can happen in the playoffs.  It is true that anything can happen in the playoffs and if every single thing fell right there is the remotest of possibilities they could win it, but I try to deal in more realistic terms.  Richards ensures the Rangers get in, which they will either way, as long as they don’t play Boston or Philly first round that the team wins at least one series.
There is this magic theory for some that if the Rangers trade for Richards he will suddenly decide that he does not need to test the free agent market and sign an extension here before July 1.  Sorry, but I am not buying this at all.  Pierre LeBrun at sort of dealt with this idea last night in regards to Richards.
“I still think July 1 is the best play for Richards. One NHL GM I spoke with Saturday said while he can't make a play for him now, he'll certainly get into the fray July 1. And this is a team that hasn't been remotely linked to Richards this season. Translation: July 1 will be a bonanza for Richards, who will clearly be the top UFA in a weak market.”
It is fun to think about how we could convince him that he loves New York and that he wants to stay here forever and even at a discounted price, and it could all happen, but I do not see any of it happening before he plays the market come July 1.  If you want him to give that up you likely have to overpay him since he has the leverage knowing you dealt assets for him and need to make it worth it by signing him.
Then there comes the question of what Richards is worth in terms of not his past production but his future.  Richards is going to be 31 and coming off a season where he has 24-39-63 in 56 games and even with a concussion issue someone will pay him at least 7 million a year and my bigger problem is the number of years which anything over 3 or 4 means he will be paid to be Scott Gomez in production by year 3.
The combination of cost in being counter to the building around the you for the long haul, the assets, the money, paying for declining production and lack of any guarantee he stays makes trading for him the wrong move.  As I said earlier this week, I am not averse to making a big move and going after a top line talent, but if I am moving a Del Zotto or an Anisimov or both in a deal then I want a young top player who is signed longer term back, not an older one who has hit his peak and had no certainty to his future destination.  The Rangers do not need to make a Carmelo splash. This team is not built on sexy moves anyway.  What they are is a team at critical point where they just need to make the right move which is Paul Stastny and not the easy  one in Brad Richards.