A preliminary look at a possible Brad Richards buy-out

Great teammate, too many years.

Great teammate, too many years.

There is nothing more dangerous in sports than a superstar in his early 30’s coming up for free agency.  At age 31 or 32, he still shows all the skills that made him a star in his prime and makes GM’s salivate at the thought of that “one final piece”.   But we know those skills are fading.  If we are really honest with ourselves, we know the fall will come within the first three  or four years of that mega-deal.  The Yankees are currently paying for it with Alex Rodriguez, and are considering it with Robinson Cano.  The Rangers, of course, took the plunge in July 2011, to the tune of nine years, $60 million for Brad Richards

Given, the Rangers front loaded the life out of this deal with $33 million being paid in the first three years, with modest $1 million annual salaries in years 7-9.  This example of cap gymnastics (now a thing of the past with the new CBA) gives the Rangers a $6.66 million annual cap hit.  Not exactly chump change, but not a roster-breaker either.

Now, with Richards current play uneven at best and starting to decline at worst, it begs the question of whether the Rangers should at least consider using their remaining amnesty (compliance) buy-out over the next two summers to clear a potential albatross of the books before it becomes deadweight somewhere around 2016.  Now, for the record, I am neither advocating for this strategy or claiming Richards is starting to seriously decline.  However, given his recent run of form, I think a preliminary investigation into the matter is worthwhile.

In case anyone missed it, the Rangers used one of their two amnesty buy-outs this summer on Wade Redden.  This gives them one more to use either this coming offseason or next.  Now, thanks to generally smart contracting practices (or fleecing other GM’s), the Rangers don’t really have anyone else on the books that would be a candidate for this second buy-out, other than Richards.

From my preliminary investigation into the buy-out structure*, it seems that compliance buy-outs are paid at two-thirds of the players remaining salary, paid out over the remaining life of the contract.  Key difference between compliance and normal buy-outs is that length of time to pay.  In a traditional buy-out, it would be paid over double the life of the contract.

Anyway, that would put the total buy-out figure at $27 ($18 million representing 2/3) million payable at $3 million per season until 2019-2020, assuming it was done after next season.  None of which would count against the cap.  Since I care much more about cap management than I do about James Dolan’s personal balance sheet, those terms seem reasonable.

The rationale behind the buy-out is pretty obvious.  For cap purposes, you essentially get Brad Richards at three years, $33 million, amortized over nine years for salary cap calculation.  You get his age 31-33 seasons and none of his decline.  Granted you are paying $18 million out of pocket not to deal with that decline, but I digress.  Additionally, you won’t have to deal with those last few, guaranteed to be painful years watching Richards limp into retirement.  Not to mention, under the new CBA, his salary will count against the cap regardless of whether he retires early if he is not bought out.

The downside is, you’re paying a presumably still productive Richards to go play elsewhere, since you cannot re-sign a player you bought out for a full year afterwards. It also wouldn’t look great to buy him out so soon after signing him.  Additionally, it begs the question as to whether the Rangers could replace his production on the ice.  Has Derek Stepan taken that step (no pun intended) into the number one center role?  Has J.T. Miller slotted in behind him on the depth chart?  The free agent pickings in the 2014 offseason at pivot are a little slim after Evgeni Malkin and Patrice Bergeron, who will both more than likely be retained by their current clubs.

It’s obviously way too early to be able to accurately forecast if this will be a realistic option for the Rangers over the next two offseasons, but it is a possibility I will certainly be keeping an eye on since the Rangers will start experiencing a salary crunch right around the same time with their current/future RFA’s.  Stay tuned.

 

*As far as I can tell, the new CBA is not yet available online. The terms above are taken from Article 50 of the outgoing CBA.  I haven’t found anything to suggest the structure hasn’t been carried over to the new document.

22 Responses to “A preliminary look at a possible Brad Richards buy-out”

  1. Kevin says:

    Anyone that thinks it could happen after this season is crazy. But if Richards struggles again nest year and with the Rangers in a cap bind, it’s at least a possibility

  2. Dave says:

    This won’t happen for the 2013-2014 season, and I doubt it would happen for the 2014-2015 season either. There would have to be some serious regression for the Rangers to need to buy him out.

    • Walt says:

      Dave
      What do you call his play so far this season?

      I wouldn’t call it regression, instead I’d call it depression!!!

  3. Chuck A says:

    Richie, read! React! Respond!!

  4. Dave says:

    Also, CBA hasn’t been drafted/signed yet, so it’s not available.

  5. Evan says:

    I am very unhappy with Richards, but I am taking a wait and see approach. He was very, very good at the end of last year with Gaborik and then I think he was overworked in the playoffs. I think sather can manage the cap this summer and get our RFAs signed without any major buy outs.

    I personally think Richards is just unfocused. The NHL is one of the few sports where players can be effective into their late 30s. I mean look at alfreddson last night. Guy is 40 years old and assisted on a SHORT HANDED GOAL. If the guy can play the PK at that age, i dont understand how richards can be regressing at 32 to this level. Either Richards is hurt or maybe the NYC lifestyle is taking its toll on him.

    I also believe Getzlaf is a free agent this summer, so that is another center option to consider. However buying him out after 2 years is extreme and wouldnt look good. Furthermore, you can bet your ass richards’ first move would be to go to the devils, penguins or flyers for pennies on the dollar and come back to haunts us haha.

    The only other reason i could see him being bought out after year 3 is because we need to ensure we resign henrik since we have no goalie prospect and then guys like cally, staal, girardi, MCD, MDZ, stepan, haggy all due for raises. I know gaboriks money is coming off the books that year also, but we are clearly going to need to retain some offensive talent or sign new guys.

    Either way, the rangers are getting points nearly every game, but it is amazing to me how we look nearly the same as last year. I know nash missed the last 2 games, but how can we be so bad offensively again. Ive had discussions with people saying henrik isnt sharp this year and he is letting up goals that deflate us. While i agree he is not vezina henrik, it must be tough to play for 8-9 years knowing that if you give up more than 1 or 2 goals your team loses. How about we give the guy some help TORTS?

  6. Justin says:

    I agree completely it would never happen after this season. I actually think there is very little chance it’s even considered seriously in the front office at any time.

    I’m just curious to see, if his play continues to decline, whether he would force management to consider it to free up cap space for the next generation, while getting rid of those ugly final years.

  7. TxRanger says:

    you guys are crazy to even bring this up. this guy was so big for us last year and in the playoffs. he’s just in a slump.

    • Justin says:

      I understand your point, but this is more a big picture discussion. It’s not a direct indictment of Richards play at this moment, simply that a 9 year contract signed at 31 is bound to become a problem.

      The Rangers are also in a unique position to essentially take a mulligan on the deal while getting the most productive years of the contract ahead of their big RFA issues in the next 2 seasons.

    • Dave says:

      There are a lot of people, specifically on Twitter, that are calling for this. Justin broke it down nicely.

  8. Bill says:

    Mr. Slather make the deal for Ryan and buyout Richards! Ryan wants 5 million a year we sign him to the best deal we can and we have a 22 year old two way center with a lot of upside for around 2 million dollars less then a 30 year old on the downside!

  9. Ray says:

    no opinion here, but an interesting post.
    Thanks Justin.

  10. SalMerc says:

    Stop – No body is buying out Richards. Good for conversation, but bad for business. He stays, he just needs a kick in the pants

    • Walt says:

      SalMerc

      He needed a kick in the seat of his pants last year, before he played a decent season. How many times do we send him a wake up call?

      If Sather can get ROR, or Igor Malkin next year, sorry my friend, I’d send Richards to the pavement. Watching him is painful, he appears to have lost a step, and I don’t believe it will get any better down the road!!!!

      • SalMerc says:

        My meaning was we will not get fair value for him. We overpayed and no one else will. Our choices are slim. His contract is worse that Gomez’.

  11. TxRanger says:

    If anybody should be being discussed for potential buy-outs or getting wavied it should be Boyle. He’s the new Dubi, does some things right, but overall we’re better off without him.

  12. rickyrants13 says:

    Let Me be the first to say it then. If Richards doesnt pick up his game and help this club win the cup. The only way he isnt brought out is if the Money is used to buy out Gabby. But since Gabby doesnt have that much time on his contract left My bet is that Richards is gone if he doesnt improve. He is simply making way too much money and is the only one that can be moved. In order to make a trade or bring in a Free agent. If this team doesnt go all the way this year. There is no way the Rangers go into next year without making major changes. They still need to shore up the PP. They need a puck carrying forward or two. And they really need McIlrath to make the jump.

    • Evan says:

      TxRanger: You can in no way, shape or form compare Boyle to the travesty that was Dubi. Dubi was getting paid 2nd line numbers to make the plays of a semi-decent 3rd liner. 4.2 million a year for 4 years for dubi to produce nothing.

      I believe Boyle’s cap hit is 1.7 for one year after this. That is low risk, high reward if he can play like he did towards the end of last year and into the playoffs before Neil gave him that concussion. Lets not forget, Boyle was never the same the rest of the playoffs after that concussion. He himself said that it was like trying to jump onto a freight train when he rejoined the team. Give the guy some time to find his groove again.

  13. Steffen says:

    Nice thinking and Perhaps, a stupid question, but: is it possible to buy somebody out and then resign the same person on a new contract? That would give the Rangers a affordable (at least against the cap) center, who is not playing for the money, so that may free his mind…

    On a sidenote, why does it seem that many players seem to ‘underperform’ in NY, especially skilled players. Might it have something to do with the media? In the sense that every mistake is scrutinized?
    Or does the ice play a role too? After all, you train as you fight (at least in the military), so if they practice at their facility where the ice is very different from the garden, I might be able to understand that it is harder to execute what they practice?
    Furthermore on bad ice it is way harder to do one-touch passes and stuff. Any thoughts on this too?

  14. Bill says:

    You have to wait a year before you can resign the player if you buy him out. Richards never was a very fast player and as the game gets younger and faster he will fall further behind. However the playoffs are different and he is proven performer, So it makes for a very difficult decision.

  15. Rob says:

    Steffen you touched on something I’ve been saying for decades. Whats the point of trying to spend all this money on high skilled offensive players when the ice is such doo doo, especially when it’s needed most during playoff time with the circus, heat and all.

  16. sean says:

    You come to the Rangers…you start to stink. You leave the Rangers…you become awesome or at least better. Its almost a curse. Too many examples to list here.