Of Riders and Richards
Thank goodness Rider Pride made it.
In fact, you could make an argument that everytime the Saskatchewan Roughriders qualify for the Grey Cup, it's better for everyone because nobody brings it to the big game like Regina fans. They helped enormously the year the Grey Cup was in Toronto, they were a difference maker last year in Calgary and they'll probably be the life of the party next weekend in Edmonton.
It's the third year out of four that the Riders have made it to the CFL's championship game, with a chance to win their third title in 11 years. This is the most success this franchise has had since the 1960s, and if not for last year's too-many-men-on-the-field screwup, they'd be going for back-to-back Grey Cups.
It's not like Commonwealth Stadium needed the Riders to make for a successful Grey Cup. The game was sold out five months ago.
But Rider Pride will inject enthusiasm into the weekend. Bet on it.
. . . .and there's all kinds of speculation and chatter locally, not about the demise of the Argonauts but about the future of P.E.I.'s Brad Richards, in town tonight with the Dallas Stars.
Richards, 30, is set to be an unrestricted free agent in July after making $7.8 million this season with the Stars. The Leafs would love to have him, either then or during this season, with Dallas management facing the dilemma of whether to hang on to him knowing instability at the ownership level may make it impossible for them to lock him up.
For the Leafs, however, these are very different scenarios, and both are problematic.
If Richards goes on the trading block sometime before the winter trading deadline, there is going to be an auction for his services and you can bet Dallas will be looking for young players, prospects and draft picks.
In other words, exactly the commodities the Leafs can't afford to be selling even if Richards would make them a playoff team next spring.
If Richards goes to free agency in July, there will be multiple bidders, and it could become a situation similar to that which surrounded Ilya Kovalchuk last summer. The numbers could get huge and the term long, with some teams undoubtedly set to offer the kind of "back-diving" contract that Kovalchuk signed and Brian Burke has long insisted he wants no part of.
In fact, after testifying against the Kovalchuk deal last summer, Burke would surely open himself up to charges of hypocrisy both inside and outside the industry were he to go down that road with Richards.
The Leafs, with the contracts of J.S. Giguere ($6 million) and Tomas Kaberle ($4.25 million) set to expire after this season, will have room next summer, although new deals for players like Luke Schenn will eat up cash. So there will be room there, and even now, there's $4 million-plus available.
But the costs of trading for Richards now may be prohibitive, and the financial burden of signing him as a free agent next summer could be problematic.
So Leaf fans can dream of Richards. Even if he becomes available by trade or free agency, however, getting him to Toronto will be another issue entirely.