Friday, July 1, 2011

No Decision For Richards Tonight; Rangers, Flames Said To Be Favorites

The Brad Richards sweepstakes will carry over until the second day of free agency and Richards attempts to make a final decision on where he wants to spend the rest of his career.  After spending the day talking to numerous teams, both in person and via conference call, Richards is said to be mulling it over for the night and likely to decide tomorrow.  

The only offer that has been reported out with figures is the suggest 9-year, $64 million dollar deal of the Calgary Flames.  Beyond pure money the relationship with Jay Feaster is a factor in Richards interest in Calgary as is Jarome Iginla who personally lobbied Richards to come join him today.  The Rangers offer was not disclosed, but various reports say that the money is certainly lower than what Calgary is offering.
All accounts suggest that the Rangers are still the favorites for his services, but the Calgary Flames are a close second at this point with Los Angeles and Toronto still in the mix.

I suspect NYR favorite to win out, but I would guess CGY is ahead of TOR or LA or other suitors at this point. Will find out soon enough.
Folks...indications suggest the Rangers are still the frontrunner, but make no mistake about it, the Calgary Flames are in the hunt.
Rangers appear to be in good position here with Richards though not sure of numbers.
The fact that New York is reportedly not the highest bid and still considered the favorite does speak, at least on some level, of a desire to come here.   Whether he will ultimately come to the Rangers or play elsewhere in unknown at this point, but the answers should come soon.

Rangers Re-Sign Ruslan Fedotenko

According to Bob McKenzie of TSN the New York Rangers have re-signed veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko to a one year, $1.4 million dollar contract.  Fedotenko, age 32, recorded ten goals and 15 assists for 25 points in 66 games played with the Rangers last season.  Fedotenko had great chemistry with Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust and is one of John Tortorella's favorites in the room so the team looking to bring him back was no surprise.  The fact that it is a one year deal makes this a good move for New York as they will have replacements for Fedotenko coming through the system.

Rumor: Flames Dive Into Richards Sweepstakes With Massive Offer

With the combination of large dollar amount and long contracts being handed out the free agents are flying off the board very quickly on Day 1 of NHL free agency, but Brad Richards is still on the board and getting plenty of attention.  Richards held a series of in person meetings with teams and conference calls with others.
Little has come out in terms of what the teams are offering except for Jesse Spector reporting on what the Calgary Flames have offered:
Source: Flames offer Richards nine years, $64 million. Other source: "He won't go there."
Those are crazy figures and the Rangers should not approach anywhere near those numbers to try and acquire Richards.  For the Flames it is a desperation attempt to add talent to a team that has failed to make anything in the draft in recent years.  It is highly unlikely Richards would sign in Calgary as their chance to win is remote, especially with an aging team that has little reinforcements on the way.

Rangers Sign Mike Rupp To Three Year Deal

LlThe New York Rangers made their first signing of free agency 2011 and no it is not Brad Richards.

According to Nick Kyreos of Sportsnet the Rangers have come to terms with Mike Rupp on a three year, $4.5 million dollar deal.

The signing of Rupp continues the tradition of signing enforcer type players on July 1 though Rupp does bring more to the table. The move likely spells the end for Ruslan Fedotenko in New York.

Jaromir Jagr Signs With Philadelphia Flyers

After weeks of speculation on the destination and days of waiting since he was supposed to make a decision, Jaromir Jagr has agreed to terms with the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Flyers were not among those teams publicly named in the chase for the 39-year-old right wing, but according to their official twitter they have signed him for next season.
Per #Flyers GM Paul Holmgren: The Philadelphia Flyers have agreed to a contract with free agent RW Jaromir Jagr.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings both pulled their offers for the right wing before free agency commenced at noon.  For those who thought it was not about the money for Jagr, Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet is reporting that the Flyers exceeded the $2 million that the Penguins were offering. 

Update: The numbers are in and according to Darren Dreger of TSN, Jagr is going to make $3.3 million next season in Philly further proving it was about the money.

As if the Flyers rivalries with Pittsburgh and New York needed any more fuel, this will bring it.

Rangers Not Sending Delegation To Meet Directly With Richards Today

The Brad Richards sweepstakes is in full swing just ahead of the opening of free agency this afternoon.  According to Darren Dreger teams are lining up to make presentations and offers for the 31-year-old center.
LA will go hard after Richards. Teams lining up to meet and make presentations today. Teams owners involved. Will be a feeding frenzy.
One team that is not there for an in person meeting/presentation for Brad Richards is the New York Rangers.  That might surprise some, but Larry Brooks reports that the Rangers are not there because Richards knows coach John Tortorella and what he would be signing up for.
Rangers are not sending delegation to meet with Richards. He knows Tortorella well enough by now.
While it is certainly the case that Richards knows Tortorella it is still somewhat strange to not at least send a delegation to make a pitch when he is clearly the best player on the market and you have significant interest in him.  Certainly is not because the entire New York organization is staying back here to work on making lots of other moves today.

Rumor: Rangers To Avoid Bidding War For Richards?

Discussion of what the Rangers are and are not willing to do in order to land Brad Richards is all over the place in the last couple weeks.  As free agency is set to open in just a few hours, Larry Brooks of the New York Post is reporting that the Rangers will avoid a bidding war for the top free agent on the market. 
If Richards is going to make his choice purely on dollars, then the Rangers are extremely unlikely to become involved in a bidding war, let alone win one.

If that's not enough, however, it is unimaginable that the Garden will throw more (and more and more) at No. 91 to entice him to play Broadway.

If it's truly going to take an eight- or nine-year front-loaded deal worth between $55-60 million to sign Richards -- Buffalo is believed preparing an offer even larger in scope -- and if Richards is going to need a match to become a Ranger, Sather will hold on to his cash for a later day and another option.
Brooks believes that the Rangers will go as high as six-years at $7 million per season in their attempt to bring Richards into the fold.  It is hard for me to believe that if the Rangers covet Richards that much that they will be able to avoid the bidding war to win him.  Even at 6/42 the chase for Richards has become quite steep, but with the way money and years are flying around right now you have to imagine that he will get 8+ years on his new deal and the Rangers have to walk away from that for the good of the organization.  Losing out on Richards is better long term than buying in at the wrong price.

Rangers Hold Winning Ticket In Richards Lottery?

Arthur Staple at Newsday thinks the Rangers are holding the winning ticket in the Brad Richards lottery.  Staple believes the lack of actual serious bidders, the ability to front-load the contract and the market are the three main reasons the Rangers will be the winners. 

Staple could be exactly right that those three factors will eventually lead the Rangers to securing the prize of the 2011 free agent class, but each of those factors can work against them as well.  Sometimes it is not the number of bidders that matter, but which teams are involved and with both New York and Toronto definitely involved the competitive nature of Sather and Burke will likely come into play.  If Richards is serious about wanting to win, then he will need other teams like Buffalo or Tampa or even Philadelphia to be involved as Toronto, even after improving late last season is not seen as a viable winner at the moment.

In terms of the idea of front-loading the contract, that normally would help the Rangers, but as the Ehrhoff deal showed, Terry Pegula is not afraid to flash his money around and do so upfront.  If Pegula is willing to pay Ehrhoff $18 million over the next two seasons, how high might he go for Richards?  Could the money for Richards get as high as $20-25 million over the next two years? 

For his final point Staple referenced the hockey market as a key for New York…

Market. Buffalo may be able to entice Ehrhoff, but Richards likely won't be swayed to go north like that. Toronto has a rabid market, of course -- perhaps too rabid. Richards is low-key, much like Marian Gaborik, and New York, despite the reputation for toughness, isn't exactly a place where a hockey player steals all the headlines, in good times or bad.

Toronto is a hockey crazed town, but if winning was the main priority, they were likely out after the first reason and no longer matter.  A place like Buffalo has the hockey market just as much as New York does and he could do it there without the scrutiny of the big contract with the Rangers. 

These three factors could be the keys to the Rangers landing Richards and at least in the short term feeling like they won the lottery, but each of them can work just as well for another team, thus leaving us back where we started in not knowing what Richards will do.

As Free Agency Opens Is It Brad Richards or Bust For New York Rangers?

The 2011 NHL Free Agent market opens today at noon with all eyes on Brad Richards and where he will go.  The fact that the New York Rangers covet the 31-year-old top line center is the worst kept secret in the business.  From everything that has been said and/or reported the Rangers top priority is Richards and if they miss on him there is no real backup plan. 
The Rangers are in a position they have not been in during the past few years in that they have both the money to spend and the players to surround the big name piece in hopes of contending for a championship.  The problem for New York is that this year’s already thin free agent class keeps thinning and leaves Richards with more and more leverage to use against them.  Richards knows he is far and away the best forward on the market and that, along with the ridiculous contracts of the past few days allows him to ask for not only large dollars but obscene length to his deal.
The biggest question today for Glen Sather and the New York Rangers might not be about what they are prepared to offer Brad Richards at all.  What is actually left to be answered is: At what point they are willing to stop going higher in dollars or longer in years in the chase to win him?
The Rangers have gotten back to the place of hope for the future and a solid core by not being obsessed with the chase for the biggest names anymore, but can Sather and company avoid the temptation now that they think this unit could be on the verge if they add an “elite” piece?  Can Sather decide on a number and length Richards is worth to this organization and stick to that plan or does he risk the plan of rebuilding set in motion years ago by chasing the big fish that left the Rangers with such a dearth of their own talent?
For many the failure to secure Richards will be seen as a failure for the New York Rangers, but the biggest failure could come if they allow the craziness of this current market to drive them into a ridiculous contract there is no light at the end of tunnel to.  When you see players like Christian Ehrhoff getting 10-years you have to wonder where the Richards demands could stop.
There are only likely a few serious contenders for Richards in the market with Toronto, Tampa and likely Buffalo being amongst them.  The Rangers can certainly use the skill Richards brings to the table, but the organization must decide what the only plan they have is worth both now and down the road.  For now the plan appears to be Richards or bust and no one knows how that one will turn out.