Keeping Richards is risky, but smartJune 29, 2013, by
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|
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?