Following up this morning’s post about realistic suitors for Brad Richards, this afternoon’s post focuses on the negotiation tactics of the Rangers when dealing with Richards. From reading the first post, there is maybe one additional suitor for Richards, and that is the Toronto Maple Leafs. That competition with the Leafs got stiffer as Brooks Laich re-upped with Washington this morning. If Richards wants another shot at a Cup, he will not go to Toronto*, plain and simple. So, realistically, it’s just the Rangers bidding on Richards. That, of course, gives the Rangers tremendous leverage. But there is a trap that the Rangers can’t fall into, and that is negotiating against themselves.
*-Not a shot at the Leafs or anything like that, just the organization has no real direction right now.
The first day of free agency in hockey generally has a good number of UFAs signing contracts. Unlike in baseball, the key free agents often find homes on day one. The rare exception was Ilya Kovalchuk last year, but there were extrenuating circumstances there. So, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Richards sign on the first day, which gives the Rangers roughly 12 hours of negotiating time with Richards. The thing is, it is unlikely that Richards will receive any realistic offers from competitors.
Thus, the Rangers are negotiating against themselves, which given the previous track record regarding high profile UFAs, is a cause for concern. The Rangers simply cannot get caught in the trap of raising their offer when either a) a counter offer has not been made, or b) an answer has not been given. This is a problem that the Yankees dealt with when locking up Derek Jeter. Of course, this is a different situation, but the same principle applies. They have to be able to read the situation and gauge the fact that there are very few, if any, other suitors for Richards.
Richards has set his “demands” high, at eight years and $50 million ($6.25 million cap hit). I doubt he gets that. But, such is life in the world of negotiating, that is just his opening number. I’d assume the Rangers would come in around five or six years at that cap hit ($31.25 million – $37.75 million) with their opening bid at noon on Friday. Again, this is just the opening round of negotiations.
I expect both sides to give a little, with Richards finally landing here on a six year, $40 million deal ($6.67 million per season). Richards will be signed until he’s 37, and at a manageable cap hit. It’s a win-win for both sides with that type of deal. But, the danger is the waiting game that Richards can play. Looking through the remaining teams and their roster size/cap space, there are very few teams that can even make a realistic pitch for Richards. Maybe Colorado as a “mystery” team, but does that really mesh with Richards desire to win?
The Rangers are the only team that can offer Richards the three things he is seeking: significant playing time as the top center, money, and a chance at winning during that contract. Other teams have one or two of these, but I simply cannot find a team that has all three. In the end, the Rangers and Brad Richards are a perfect fit for each other. Both sides know it. But given some recent signings, we can’t help but fear that Glen Sather falls into the trap of negotiating against himself for Richards’ services.