Finding Realistic Suitors For Brad Richards

This post will be the first of two posts regarding Brad Richards.  This post will focus on who the realistic suitors are for Richards.  This afternoon’s post will focus on the Rangers negotiation tactics, and a potential trap that must be avoided.

With the draft over, it is time to switch our attention to July 1, and the opening of free agency. Almost every journalist, blogger, and hockey “insider” in America and Canada has linked the Rangers to Brad Richards, and for good reason. The Rangers need a true #1 center, and Richards is the only available guy on the market. Where everyone seems to disagree is who the actual competition for the Rangers is in their pursuit of Richards. There are a lot of teams that could use Brad Richards, and a lot of teams that can afford Brad Richards. However, the number of teams that can use him, afford him, and would be a likely destination for him is a very, very small list.

Let’s go through each team rumored to be linked to Richards, and if they are actually a viable option.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are rumored to be the second place team in the race for Richards. They have $18.75 million in cap space with 17 players signed, which gives them ample room to sign Richards and get RFAs Clarke MacArthur, Tyler Bozak, Luke Schenn, Luca Caputi, and others under contract. The Leafs need skill and veteran leadership for all their young players, and Richards would fit that mold. However, and I mean this in the nicest way possible Toronto, the Leafs are currently one of the most poorly run franchises. In fact, the current regime reminds me a lot of the Rangers from 1997-2004, a team with no real direction. That will definitely be a factor in Richards decision.

Competition level for the Rangers: The Leafs are a legitimate destination for Richards.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning are rumored to be a candidate for Ricahrds services because of his history with the team and his close friendship with Vincent Lecavalier. However, with just 13 players (and no goalies) signed for next year and $23 million in cap space to work with, it doesn’t appear that the Lightning will have the resources to land Richards. They need to get Steven Stamkos locked up, which will tie up about 25% of that remaining cap space. With Stamkos and Lecavlier, the Bolts are set for a long time at the center position. Paying upwards of $7 million per season for Richards as a second or third line center (assuming Stamkos gets the top role) is wasted money.

Competition level for the Rangers: The Bolts are not a likely destination due to cap restraints and current roster make up.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers got tossed into the discussion recently when they traded both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in a shorter time span than the average Paris Hilton “video”. However, this is one of those baseless “they cleared cap space so they can go after Richards” rumors. They don’t have the cap space, period. With just $7.5 million in cap space available, and a need to get Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Ville Leino under contract, every remaining dime of cap space will be spent. Now, if Kris Versteeg and Matt Carle get traded, then the conversation takes a whole other turn.

Competition level for the Rangers: The Flyers are not in the running for Brad Richards, barring future trades.

Los Angeles Kings

This one I just don’t get.  The Kings have Anze Kopitar, and just traded their best prospect (Brayden Schenn) for Mike Richards.  Sure, they have some cap space, but their biggest priority is to get Drew Doughty under contract.  This one is just plain ludicrous.

Competition level for the Rangers: None.

There are a few dark horses in the running for Richards (the ‘Yotes come to mind if they ever figure out their location issues; as do the Preds, if they raise their internal cap ceiling).  But the way I see it, the Rangers are the only real suitor for Richards.  They need have a need, the cap space, and the roster make up for everything to fit together for a deal.  The hidden factor here is the relationship between Richards and John Tortorella, which is seen as a positive.  The relationship between Richards and Sean Avery is a factor, but not a big one as Avery will be gone for the 2012-2013 season.  When looking at it logically, the Rangers and the Leafs are the only two suitors, and the Leafs are more likely, in my opinion, to pursue Brooks Laich than Brad Richards.

27 Responses to “Finding Realistic Suitors For Brad Richards”

  1. joey says:

    I dont think you can discount LA that quickly, especially if they have the cap space to pull it off, even though they do need to take care of doughty first

    • Brian SCS says:

      I think it has more to do with how Dean Lombardi runs things – I think he tends to be overly cautious and conservative. Look at how he handled the Kovalchuk negotions last season, and he went for Penner last year without making the bolder and smarter move – ponying up for Ales Hemsky.

  2. Brian SCS says:

    I was waiting for this post Dave, your the man. I think another downfall in Toronto is the presence of Kessel and Phaneuf – good players but I would imagine that the Rangers locker-room makeup would be far more attractive.

    And Dean Lombardi over in LA is the type to sit back on the sidelines and let the dust settle before making a splash. BR will be snapped up by then.

    And I still don’t get how Philly is in the running – they still have to sign Leino, Simmonds, and Voracek with less than $7mil available. They just got out of Cap hell, doubtful they will put themselves back in it.

    I’m trying not to get too optimistic about bringing in Brad Richards but your analysis is dead on and at this point I just can’t see any of these aforementioned teams being players without major changes before Friday.

  3. Zen says:

    I don’t think any of the teams listed are of concern to the Rangers. What I worry about is the Rangers and BR hitting a snag in negotiations and some mystery playoff contending team coming out of nowhere and snagging him to put them over the top. The increase in cap ceiling might have made that possible.

    • Brian SCS says:

      Yeah, I think this is the concern – teams under the radar that are now forced to spend more than previously budgeted with the $5mil cap increase. GM X can say – “Well if we have to spend the money anyway might as well spend on the best available guy.”

      I think in the end it will come down to where Brad Richards wants to be from a personal and hockey stand-point.

    • Dave says:

      I have a post coming about that in the afternoon.

  4. Matt J says:

    Richards said winning was a big factor. He can do that here. I’m sure his boy Aves has already said something to the him being that they’re mad tight. Although i’d hate to have an Avery-Aaron Voros thing again where they would always go out on the town and tweet about the midnight escapades. In that case I hope Richards is married.

    • Dave says:

      Avery being friends with Richards has minimal effect, he’s gone after this season anyway.

      • Matt J says:

        That’s not saying Avery didn’t talk him into it already.

        • Dave says:

          I’m not saying that, I was just commenting on the tweeting late at night thing.

          I think Avery sold him on NY while they were in Jamaica together.

          • The Suit says:

            Ricards has been hanging with Avery in NYC for years. He knows what comes with being a star in NY, the pro’s, the con’s all of it.

            The question is, and I’ve been saying it for months, will he come here for less money than others can offer him?

            Only he knows that answer.

  5. Buttabella says:

    I fear and am thinking watch out for the wings.

  6. Fotiu is God says:

    Three things, Dave:
    I tend to agree with your well-thought line, and, reflexively Brian’s.

    Nonetheless, it appears Philly’s still shedding payroll (Powe to the Wild yesterday). Perhaps that’s simply to secure cap-space for Leino and Simmonds, echoing your observation.

    At the same time though, Paul Holmgren seems terribly motivated as much to move boldly as to totally remake his club. (And, intrinsically, their culture.)

    Two, in the playoffs didn’t Stamkos lineup as much as a winger as he centered? The Bolts, should they have cap-space, might be the dark horse in the Richards sweepstakes.

    Besides his familiarity with TB, GM Stevie Y’s begun to shape a strong identity, if not a dynamic core from the bench coach out.

    Now put yourself in Richards’ own wheelhouse, set to play Adam Oates to the abovementioned Stamkos’ Brett Hull: dishing to the young sniper for years to come. By inference, Richards could extend his career into his late late 30s (as Oates did with the red and white).

    Now, think Richards gets more excited by that prospect than rejuvenating Marion Gaborik?

    Much as Richards greatly upgrades our center ice and our PP, he’s damaged goods (been concussed) and, moreover, is already over 30. He is one hit away from becoming The Western Conference analog to Marc Savard.

    We’ve been here before: Holik. Gomez. Drury. Never again.

    Let Brian Burke or Holmgren overpay on this one.

    Owing to the fact Richards is a Canadian Maritime boy, Burke and The Maple Leaf trust might just have the trump card: nationalism; the sweater Sittler and Henderson wore; and ultimately the prestige borne of going from the center of the football universe, Dallas, for that of the hockey universe, Tranna.

    Let Slats target a younger pivot from The Western Conference via trade.

    • Dave says:

      I understand where you’ve coming from, but the fact is that the Rangers need an upgrade. If they can get a young pivot without dealing roster assets, then go for it. But those players come with a cost, and Richards-AA-Step-Boyle is a lot deeper than, say Stastny (hypothetical)-Step-Boyle-someone (Konopka?).

      There comes a time when you need to go for it…Richards is one step in that direction, and costs the Rangers “just” money, instead of money AND assets.

      • Brian SCS says:

        I don’t like to say “just money” but all things considered I think Dave is “on the money” in this regard. When you consider that getting a 2nd tier center such as a Stastny will likely cost a 1st round pick, an Anisimov calibre player and prospect like Kreider the premium that one has to pay when signing a top notch UFA is relatively small in comparison.

        Imagine how different the Knicks would look if they simply waited until free agency before signing Carmello Anthony? They would potentially have Carmello at the same cost yet still have 3 or so valuable assets to either flesh out the roster with or use as trade chips.

      • The Suit says:

        Dave, you’re so money and you don’t even know it!

    • Brian SCS says:

      I totally understand the wariness that comes with big free agent signings – especially with Slats’ track record. The dilemma is such that players of Brad Richards calibre just aren’t available often and the current trend is for teams to lock up their players before hitting free agency. Good centers such as Thornton, Marleau, Plekanec, Bergeron, Kesler, Carter etc. were all locked up early because teams realize that it’s just so difficult to replace these guys. Laich was just locked up today, for 6 years at over $4mil – thats a lot for him but it didn’t stop the Caps who already have plenty of payroll up front. The increased cap is now going to make it even less likely that big time players make it to the open market. And I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that big UFA class of 2012 that has received so much attention to be much smaller when the time comes.

      And as far as concussions go, the key in my opinion is that with the Stars missing the playoffs, it allowed Richards to receive the necessary rest. The over-arching concern with sport-related concussions is that successive ones in short order compound each other. That is exactly why Crosby was shut down – because if he had a 2nd concussion so soon after the first one it is exponentially worse than having one say a year from now. One concussion, if in fact that was the only one, shouldn’t make Brad Richards signing prohibitive. I can’t see how he is considered “damaged goods”.

  7. I Want Another Cup Parade says:

    Good analysis. The Rangers planned their entire offseason over bringing this guy in. No moves at the draft or anything. Richards or bust at this point.

  8. JT says:

    Now that Brooks Laich has apparently signed an extension with the Caps, how do you see that affecting the Leaf’s determination with Brad Richards? I imagine he would take some kind of discount to play for an up-and-coming team like the Rangers, but maybe at this point he’s just in it for the Benjamins.

  9. IsaiahD says:

    What about the Sabres? Couldn’t they become a player, as well?