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Keeping Richards is risky, but smart

He's in New York for at least one more year (USATSI).

He’s in New York for at least one more year (USATSI).

Rangerland is divided on Brad Richards. Half wanted the Rangers to use their second compliance buyout on the struggling center, while the other half wanted to see what one more year would look like. There were pros and cons of both decisions, but this humble (humble loosely defined) blogger believes Slats made the right call. Justin and I are the only two here that wanted another year of Richards, and we got our wish.

Everyone knows the riskiness of this move. If Richards gets hurt at the end of the season, and remains hurt during next year’s compliance buyout period, then the Rangers are stuck with his contract for the six subsequent seasons at a $6.6 million cap hit. If he retires before the end of the contract, then the Rangers get nailed with the new cap recapture clause, where the Rangers would be penalized with the following cap hits should he retire before his contract expires

Retirement Yr (Age) Cap Hit Thru
2015 (35) $2.966m 2020
2016 (36) $4.16m 2020
2017 (37) $5.66m 2020
2018 (38) $5.66m 2020
2019 (39) $5.66m 2020

There are a few ways to look at this. The first being that the Rangers may have to pay X dollars in cap hits until the 2020 season without Richards on the club. The other is to look at it as a discount from the $6.6 million guaranteed to be on the books until 2020. At the worst, the Rangers save $1 million from his $6.6 million, and could save a little less than $4 million. It’s a glass-half-full approach, but it makes it easier to swallow.

Getting to his on-ice product, there are several reasons to believe why Richards will have a bounce back season next year. In addition to his puck possession metrics, Richards will be playing in a less demanding system, which will require less skating and pressure. This helps compensate for what appeared to be a lost step for Richards this past season.

Despite this lost step, Richards still managed to put up a 60-point season (based on an 82-game year) last season. There aren’t many free agents that can put up those numbers for less than Richards’ $6.6 million. The free agent market is thin, and while the buyouts –and lower cap– will likely drive down prices, none of them are any more of a sure-thing to hit 60 points than Richards is. Okay, maybe Vincent Lecvalier, but that’s it.

But perhaps the biggest advantage is that there is no lockout this season. Richards did not go overseas to play and stay in game shape, which likely contributed (correlation, not causation, so this is based on my own personal assumption) to his perceived lost step in his stride. With a full offseason to train, a full camp, and a full preseason, Richards won’t enter the season out of shape, as he appeared to be in January.

The Rangers are in win-now mode. They have two elite players in their prime, and they have a lot of solid pieces in place. Richards may not be the top-line center he once was, but he adds much-needed depth to the Rangers down the middle. Stepan-Richards-Brassard-Boyle down the middle looks a lot better than Stepan-Brassard-Boyle-Rookie/UFA.

It’s definitely a risk, but all teams in their window to win take risks. This risk taking strategy is no different, but it could have implications seven years down the road. Is that any different from trading a pick for a player, and having that pick develop into something useful? Is that any different than Slats taking that $6.6 million and spending it elsewhere?

27 Responses to “Keeping Richards is risky, but smart”

  1. Starter says:

    Good write-up. Richards is embarrassed with his performance this past season especially in the playoffs; he didn’t train at all last year. He’s the type of athlete that will put all of the negativity surrounding this year into his training this off-season. I predict a huge year for Richards right out of the gate. We have the option to buy him out next summer just in case. Regardless, thumbs up to a healthy and productive year for BR and our Blueshirts.

    • Walt says:

      This is the perfect example of why you don’t hand out contracts of this size, and time frame. The man didn’t work out in the off season, because he isn’t hungry anymore!

      I hope he does bounce back and has a good season, we all win, but if he gets hurt, we all get hurt. We being the Rangers, and their fan base.

      I am against this move, but there could very well be plenty of up side. Having the younger kids get another year to develope without pressure, and seeing what Lindberg can do at the AHL level, all could end well. STAY HEALTHY BRAD!

  2. Sally says:

    I also think that the confidence that The Rangers have shown in Richards will also play a part in a bounce back year. I think he will do his best not to let them down.

  3. The Suit says:

    You hear that? That’s the sound of inevitability.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Smith.

      • Centerman21 says:

        Teams can and will have ways around those Cap Recapture Penalties. I really think a player would have to really hate the team he played for or it’s management to actually file for retirement. I think some or all of the players with these contracts will simply just not show to camp. Either way they don’t get paid just the same. Some GM’s may make the player dissapear before getting hit with penalties. Lol

    • Centerman21 says:

      It’s the smell. I feel saturated by it!

  4. Spozo says:

    The 800 pound gorilla in the room is the injury risk.

    Bottom line: if he stays healthy this is a good decision. What would they have done with the extra cap space if they bought him out? Ay of the “big”free agents (it’s saying a lot when David Clarkson is one of the top free agents available) will not only require a bidding war with other teams but also 5 year contracts. Richards is on a single year contract and then he go away after the season.

    If he gets hurt, then the Rangers are screwed.

    This decision came down to how thin the team becomes down the middle and what was available on the free agent market. Management then figured the injury risk was worth it based on those factors.

    • Justin says:

      That’s pretty spot on, Spozo. I think this was more or less the line of thinking. It makes sense, considering the additional good will of not cutting bait with a guy they just signed, as well as positioning themselves to take advantage of a bounce back season (as Dave has been doing a pretty good job of postulating) while allowing an out on the contract in the offseason. I think it’s a risk worth taking, especially considering the alternatives.

      • The Suit says:

        how’s that good will gonna look when we buy him out next season after a bounce back year?

  5. TxRanger says:

    Ah, this could all end up very badly.

  6. Old Fogey says:

    Richards will train his ass off to return as close as possible to the player he was prior to the short season.

    It’s almost certain he will be bought out next summer so, in reality, he needs to have a great season to increase his value to whomever he’ll be playing for next.

    And if he can help the Rangers get to the finals, how much more proof will he need that he is still a valuable commodity?

  7. Bayman says:

    Not playing during the lockout can help explain why Richards underperformed during the first part of the season…but what about the post-season? Shouldn’t he have been in shape by then? In fact, shouldn’t he have been in a better position than most by, in effect, being in mid-season form vs. those who had played an entire season?

  8. Bloomer says:

    Keeping Richards gives the Rangers the best depth up the middle then any other team in the league. My concern is what happens next year? Cally and Dan G will be free agents as well as Lundquist. This new CBA that the owners so badly wanted is blowing up in their face. Teams are already spending huge dollars buying out players and that money is simply being thrown away. Fools and their money do part rather quickly.

  9. Blackadder says:

    Forget about a Cup in our lifetime Ranger fans. I don’t care how much a “rebound” season Richards has. He is over, toast, finished. Just ask yourself, could you see him playing on Boston, Chicago, LA, etc? I don’t think so. Huge waste of money, resources and space. This fits a pattern that is disturbing and very depressing. I am tired of wasting another year on a project that will ultimately fail. I went to a number of games at the Garden this year and in every one Richards was not just bad, he was horrible. Putting him on the power play was so stupid that it defied any explanation other than the tunnel vision of a coach who is now history. Keeping Richards just insures another nothing season with NO hope. Sorry this is so negative, but I have had it as far as the Rangers are concerned.

    • Justin says:

      The fact that you aren’t taking into account the available market alternatives and costs, along with a knee-jerk conclusion that it is impossible for him to improve next season (not to mention never seeing a cup in our lifetimes bc of this one decision) “insures” that no one will take your comment seriously.

  10. supermaz says:

    I am now completely convinced Sather is a moron and this franchise has not a clue.
    The repurcussions of this move are too numerous to mention.
    The players we may lose, the players we may miss out on, and the players we may need to trade make this move utterly ridiculous.

  11. Chuck A says:

    Dave,
    What keeps BR from simply retiring after next year and pocketing the remainder of his contract?

  12. cv19 says:

    Have you apologizers lost your minds?! 6.5M/per and he didn’t train properly for last season!!! Not the type of guy I want on my team. Always liked Richie, not anymore.
    Game has passed him by. Hopefully we’ll see the quick maturation of Miller and he will become our third line center this year.

  13. AD says:

    Sather’s first two decisions post the playoffs exit will impact this team for years to come.

    Replacing Tortorella with AV is nice, on paper, but it most likely will give the appearance of doing something and accomplishing little. This team was constructed for Tortorella. Reconstructing it for AV will be a multi-year process and guys like Lundqvist, Callahan and Girardi are likely to have lost a step in their game in the process. It was best to give Tortorella another full season rather than chop him after a strike shortened season.

    Not buying out Richards is classic Sather — rely on older players on the downside of their career, rather than advance the development of younger players. Stepan, Richards, Brassard & JT Miller cannot all be on the roster at the same time, let alone add Boyle to the equation.

    My guess is Mr. Dolan is a little cash-strapped and stung by the last buyout (Redden) of a player brought in by Sather. As a result of retaining Richards, and pro-forma the resigning of our RFAs, there will be little to no cap space available to upgrade this team.

    Sadly, this Rangers team is destined for #7 through #12 type playoff ranking the next several seasons. Tortorella under-promised and over-delivered with this team. Ranger fans will be woefully disappointed the next few seasons.

    • cv19 says:

      I so disagree with you AD.

      This is not a team built for Tortorella. That’s why they didn’t achieve. It’s got more skill than brawn/grit and that’s why it’s more suited to an AV type coach. Do you really believe Cally and G have lost a step? Jesus!

      Stepan, Richards, Brassard, Miller and Boyle will all be on the roster next year. Why not? What am I not getting that you are privy to?

      Dolan, cash strapped? You’re making me feel stupid. Why am I so in the dark? Cap-wise they’re fine. Disagree with you on all your points.

      • AD says:

        Hey CV, thanks for the reply comments. I’ll go in order of your points made.

        If this isn’t a team built for Tortorella, who has it been built for? It seemed Sather & Torts have been on the same page in recent years as to what type of players were needed. I think Tortorella over-achieved with the unit assembled & this past season is the result of players not being prepared in a strike shortened season.

        As for Cally and Girardi losing a step in their game, if you re-read my post, I stated that could very well occur over a multi-year process of rebuilding under AV. Not today.

        The reason why Stepan, Brassard, Richards, Miller and Boyle will not all be on the roster next season is because that = 5 centerman for 4 spots, and no coach will sit young player (Miller) in the box, or sit a $1.8mm cap hit (Boyle) in the box.

        If one follows financial markets, Cablevision is clearly struggling, hence the cash strap comment.

  14. howiehockey says:

    Smart, what are you guys inhaling…besides the risk…we are losing out in the pursuit of a lot of very good players who are in play.
    Even if BR scores 40 goals it’s DUMB.DUMB,DUMB!!!!

  15. HARLEMBLUES says:

    The guy got smashed this past season.Cut the cord already.He’s done. A bad signing just got worse.

  16. Erixon20 says:

    BR gives us nice depth down the middle for next season, I agree. But the purpose of buying him out now would be to get out of the horrible contract Sather signed him to. And then Vinny becomes available – who I’d rather have anyway by a mile. To me, this is more about the contract than the player, and the Lightning are the smart ones here, cutting ties with a bad contract.