Richards Chooses Rangers
LONDON--Maybe the Maple Leafs' mistake was sending anyone to court Brad Richards at all.
The free agent centre chose the New York Rangers and their nine-year, $58.5 million contract today despite the fact the Rangers were the one team that didn't send anyone to visit with Richards and did it all by phone.
There's goes the silly notion that having Brian Burke in Afghanistan, not Toronto, was a costly decision for the Toronto organization. The Leafs made an offer despite believing all along that Richards wanted little or nothing to do with playing in Toronto's hot hockey atmosphere.
Richards always seemed pointed towards the Big Apple, and if healthy, the 31-year-old pivot could certainly help a team that has an outstanding goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist and a strong blueline corps.
The Rangers were 16th in the NHL in scoring last season. Richards had 77 points last year and 91 the year before for the Dallas Stars.
In Richards, Brandon Dubinsky and youngster Derek Stepan, the Blueshirts now look very solid down the middle. The acquisition of Richards is also a good sign for head coach John Tortorella, who coached Richards in Tampa Bay and was clearly one of the cards New York played in trying to lure the veteran centre.
Early reports suggest $50 million of the Richards' contract will be paid out in the first five years of the deal. The L.A. Kings probably tried the most of any team to get Richards, but the extra travel of playing in the Western Conference likely was not appealing.
The Leafs offered Richards a shorter, more conventional deal worth between $6 million and $7 million per. They will now look at other free agent and trade options to fill their need at centre. Tim Connolly, an unrestricted player, could be their first option.