Larry Brooks of the New York Post is reporting that Brad Richards is seeking a long term contract at a minimum average salary of $7 million a season. As scary as the dollar amount per season might be to many, the long term is what scares me more in any deal for Richards. I would rather pay Richards extra up front to go away quick than even get him at a discount to stay longer. It appears that Richards wants both the money and the length, and personally you cannot blame the guy.
This means that, a) general manager Glen Sather will not be sending an asset to Dallas for the right to try and convince the 31-year-old center to sign before he hits the market; and, b) the Blueshirts already are pondering a Plan B to bring a first-line pivot to Broadway.We're told by well-placed sources Richards has no intention of signing for a discount in order to reunite with coach John Tortorella, with whom he won the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. That's fine. If five years at $6.5 million per -- that's the number -- doesn't represent enough green to get Richards into a Blueshirt, then that's that.
There has been the fantasy notion for many who follow the New York Rangers that the relationship with Tortorella was going to somehow inspire Richards to take less to play here. I have never bought into that idea or the idea that winning is the most important thing to Richards. Sure, if the money is close between two places, then he would probably take the one with a better chance to win than the pure highest dollar amount. Nothing Richards has said or done all season has given any indication that he wants anything other than the attention of being an unrestricted free agent for the first time, and the bidding war that will likely ensue.
The fact that Richards is far and away the best forward on the market this summer gives him all the leverage in the negotiations as this is no fallback option available without a trade. Brooks tosses out the names of Jason Spezza, Stephen Weiss and Patrick Sharp as potential fits in the trade market. Of the three, Sharp is likely the best combination of player and contract, but he would cost significant assets to pry him out of Chicago and only has one season left on his contract before being an unrestricted free agent next summer. Spezza is a supremely talented player, but his injury history and having four years at $7 million per left on his contract makes it a no go. I discussed the idea of trading for Weiss as a plan B here.
If Richards is about money and not winning, then the Rangers are better off not signing the talented player this summer. This organization has slowly moved away from the buying of talent to fill holes and towards developing youth to fill the roster. Overpaying Richards would be a step back in that movement, even if it is an upgrade in talent.