Brad Richards, assuming he even gets to free agency, stands to be far and away the best free agent now that – as of today – Alex Semin is off the market. With that said Richards can probably ask for whatever he wants and chances are there will be a team willing and desperate enough to give it to him. This is where the Rangers cannot be too seduced by his talent, pedigree and their need for a top line center.
While the Rangers are relatively ‘green’ down the middle and struggle at face offs they have a ton of upside at the position whether you look on the current roster or at their prospect depth. The Rangers should go after Richards but as soon as his asking price threatens the ability of the Rangers to field a balanced roster they should walk away. The Blueshirts have excellent youth learning on the job with Stepan, Anisimov and Boyle in NY. They have prospects such as Carl Hagelin, Roman Horak (and when healthy) Ethan Werek thriving in junior or college so it’s not like there is nothing to build on. This season the Rangers have prospered due to their mentality and never say die attitude and the coaching staff’s trust in the young talent on the roster to be able to produce to a successful level. For the sake of acquiring a brand name such as Richards, the Rangers should not stray from their path. The sexy choice isn’t always the right choice, as Rangers fans can recall all too well.
Now, all this being said, If Richards can be had for a sensible price (again, this is assuming he gets to free agency – no guarantee) the Rangers with Stepan, Boyle and Anisimov behind him down the middle, become a very deep team offensively. When you consider the presence of Gaborik, Dubinsky, Callahan and Wolski – not to mention some of the kids – on the wings it could be a very exciting Rangers team next season. Let’s just not get too ahead of ourselves at this stage. After all, with Semin the latest example, one by one the best free agents are being taken off the market, meaning Richards and company could very well cash in big time this summer.