Some people actually believe the Rangers don’t need Brad Richards – well, that’s almost as absurd as those few (and oh so rare) Rangers fans that believe the Rangers should trade Lundqvist, anyway I digress…Larry Brooks did indeed provide a good point this weekend; noting that the Rangers should proactively deal with the Stars for Mr Richards ahead of July 1st. The Rangers can avoid an auction/bidding war by getting Richards under lock and key before the free agent frenzy.
Richards is the perfect free agent for the Rangers. Ideally you don’t remedy your biggest needs in free agency because free agents are usually one of those three things; aging, not wanted (for whatever reason) by their most recent club or overly expensive – supply and demand. Richards ticks perhaps one of these boxes as he’s not the youngest. However this time it IS different. As Brooks points out; Richards’ relationship with Tortorella is a big reason for recruiting the skilled pivot. This isn’t recruiting your usual star with an ego it’s recruiting a player that is totally onboard with the coach and has a history with the coach – a successful one. Richards remedies so many of the Rangers current flaws in one signing. He’s a solid face off guy, he’s a playmaking elite center, adds a huge injection of skill, he improves the powerplay wherever you put him, he knows how to win and he should be able to get Gaborik back on track. It’s simply his age that may be an issue and depending on the length of deal he wants that also may not be an issue (another reason to get him in early and scope his demands out).
So now we’ve rehashed the point that Brad Richards is an elite player that the Rangers sorely need, what should the Rangers give up to get him early? First of all assume Glen Sather is working the phones. He knows what the Rangers need and we’ve already seen this off season already that he is in pro active mode (see: prospect signings a plenty). The Rangers boss is also a master at the art of the trade. Personally I don’t think Sather will want to move a draft pick in the top 2 rounds. Given the depth the Rangers have in their prospect pool Sather would be better off dealing from this depth and giving Dallas something more tangible for their biggest star. Sather (and the coaching staff) will know what prospects have a legitimate future with the Rangers but those that don’t, don’t necessarily have bleak NHL futures.
(Still) Ownerless Dallas surely must know they are losing Richards in July. Getting a package of a middle round pick and a prospect or two like Dale Weise and Chad Kolarik offers Dallas plenty to work with. With decent ice time Kolarik could become another Teddy Purcell type that is simply a late bloomer; Dale Weise could very well be a bottom six forward in the right NHL situation and a 5th round pick (for example) can just as well become an NHL producer as a higher rounded pick – as Dallas can attest to with Jamie Benn. Getting players back from the Rangers gives something more concrete for Joe Nieuwendyk to justify moving Richards. It also means it wasn’t all for nothing, holding onto him at the deadline. A move like this could be win-win for both teams, as much as is reasonably possible. While Philly gave Nashville a high pick for Hartnell and Timonen a few years back, it was not as blatant that the two were leaving Music City as it is Richards is leaving Dallas – the situations cannot really be compared. Brooks is right, Sather should make his move and we know what he should be willing to give up.