It’s with merit that Brad Richards and the New York Rangers have been discussed ad nauseum in the four weeks since the Blueshirts exited the playoffs in Washington. In terms of fixing holes on the current roster, Richards is the one player the Rangers must attempt to sign this summer.
His ability to quarterback the powerplay and serve as an elite #1 Center are two vital qualities missing from the line-up at this point; not to mention the potential spark-plug he could be for Marian Gaborik.
Richards would lessen the pressure on Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov, allowing the latter in particular to drop down in to a third-line role. His presence on the powerplay would be a solid learning tool for Michael Del Zotto and, perhaps most importantly, it would finally give Gaborik an elite playmaker to play with.
At 31, Richards still has multiple ’prime’ seasons ahead of him. He’s rarely missed time, is a dependable PPG producer and, crucially, a tremendous powerplay pivot. Don’t underestimate the impact his relationship with Rangers coach John Tortorella could have on negotiations either; there’s no mystery between the two, Richards knows how Tortorella ticks and Torts knows exactly what he’d be getting in Richards.
Some Ranger fans have preached building from within as a counter-argument to a Richards signing, a strategy that simply will not work given the Blueshirts’ annual drafting positions. You can build from within to an extent, as the Rangers so admirably have of late, but you need that crucial piece to tip things over the edge.
The Rangers rarely get the opportunity to draft the big boys; the sure-fire, slam-dunk, home-run selections that you know will go on to become superstars. We’re not picking a Sidney Crosby or an Alex Ovechkin anytime soon. Richards solves too many problems and makes too much sense to be an afterthought this summer.
It’s understandable that some sections of the fanbase (perhaps rightly, too) have turned away from the fancies of free agency after the Gomez, Drury and Redden signings, but any comparison to Richards must solely be based on a potential contract and not the abilities of the specific player.
Richards is an elite playmaker that excels in areas the Rangers most need help. We all know Gomez, Drury and Redden were far from worth their contracts, but that mustn’t prevent the team making a move when a player of Richards calibre becomes available.
The alternatives? Realistically a trade that would cost assets the team either isn’t willing to move or would be worse off for doing so. Richards costs cap space, that’s all, and with the cap ceiling believed to be rising to as much as $63.5m this summer the Rangers should have space to accommodate his demands while re-signing all their key pieces.
Larry Brooks recently wrote an article on the Rangers and Richards. In it he determined that the Rangers should trade their latter second-round pick in the upcoming entry draft (57th overall) to the Stars for Richards rights so as to get a vital head-start on the competition ahead of July 1st.
We’d suggest Sather offer Nieuwendyk the 57th-overall selection for the rights to Richards, for the right to get a head start on 2011-12, for the right to avoid the rush-hour frenzy of July 1. For the right reason.
It’s hard to fault his logic, isn’t it?