When the Rangers signed Brad Richards to a contract that was widely considered a gift to the Rangers, of course there were some people who thought it was a bad decision; for instance, my friend Kevin DeLury of The NYR Blog, or the entire Islanders fanbase. But let’s make something clear. Calling the Richards signing similar to the Gomez and Drury signings simply because they all got large contracts makes as much sense as calling Zdeno Chara and Marek Malik similar defenseman simply because they both are big. Let’s look at how the Richards signing compares to the previous acquisitions of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury:
First, lets look at how the Richards cap hit compares to the Gomez and Drury cap hits when they signed with the Rangers.
Brad Richards: $6.67M per year
Scott Gomez: $7,357,143 per year
Chris Drury: $7.05M per year
At a basic level Richards’ annual cap hit is the smallest of the three, but that doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. Let’s compare their contracts to the salary cap maximum limit at the time of each signing.
Brad Richards: $6.67M out of $64.3M (10.37%)
Scott Gomez: $7,357,143 out of $50.3M (14.63%)
Chris Drury: $7.05M out of $50.3M (14.02%)
Brad Richards counts for %4.26 less of the salary cap than Scott Gomez did and 3.65% less than Drury did. To help understand the difference that is, the contract that Drury signed in 2007 would be the equivalent of signing for $9.01M per year this season. For Gomez, it would be $9.41M.
The one potential downside to the Richards contract is its length, which is much longer than the Gomez and Drury deals. However, it’s way too soon to even begin to worry about that. For one, it would be ignorant to assume that Richards will be a player we don’t want 6-7 years from now. Richards is a playmaker who relies on his instincts, so it’s very easy to see how he could be a quality player even in his late thirties. Drury was inevitably going to break down with his reckless style, and Gomez relied heavily on speed, which he’s lost as he’s gotten older. Also, if the NHL continues to grow then in 6-9 years the salary cap will likely be even larger, making Richards’ cap hit more and more manageable, if not convenient.
Even if Richards equals the production of Scott Gomez and/or Chris Drury his contract would be better, but there’s no reason to expect that Richards won’t be a significant improvement over those two. I’m not even going to waste my time comparing him to Chris Drury. Even in his best year, which was largely a fluke, Drury still was unable to surpass a PPG. Instead, let’s look how Scott Gomez and Brad Richards match up. Let’s extrapolate their stats since the lockout (2005-2006) to an 82 game season and see how they match up.
Scott Gomez: 16.9 Goals, 64.4 Points, 50.2 PIM, 5.4 PP Goals, 7.07 S%, 31.6% Shootout
Brad Richards: 25.0 Goals, 80.7 Points, 21.0 PIM, 9.7 PP Goals, 8.85 S%, 43.9% Shootout
Richards is clearly a significantly better player based on those stats, but they look even closer than they should thanks to one fluke year from Gomez. Gomez has only surpassed 16.9 goals and a 7.07 S% once in the 6 seasons since the lockout,
and has surpassed 64.4 points and 5.4 PP Goals twice. Richards’ stats are more or less consistent from year to year.
Brad Richards is a significantly better hockey player than Scott Gomez and Chris Drury were at the time of the signing, and yet will take up much less cap space than either of them did. In a market where Brad Richards was far and away the best player and essentially had all of the bargaining power, the Rangers managed to get him at a cap friendly price. Scott Gomez and Chris Drury were not failures because they were signed as free agents in New York. They failed because Glen Sather paid them more than they were worth. Brad Richards is a legitimate first line center in the NHL and the Rangers paid him like one; no more or less. Crosby, Stamkos, Henrik Sedin, Eric Staal, and Joe Thornton are just about the only centers in the NHL who are clearly superior to Brad Richards.
Was giving him 9 years a risk? Sure it was, but unless a guy like Sidney Crosby falls into your lap there’s no risk-free way of acquiring a legitimate first line center, or top flight talent at any position for that matter. Simply put, if you want to win the Stanley Cup, you have to take risks. There’s no safe way of doing it. Almost every team not named the Red Wings that has won the Stanley Cup in the last 10 years did so by taking a couple of significant risks. For the Bruins this year it was signing Zdeno Chara to a 7 year, $45.5M contract and trading away top prospects and picks for Tomas Kaberle. For the Blackhawks two years ago it was signing Marian Hossa to a 12-year deal. For our own Rangers in 1994 it was trading away Weight, Amonte, Gartner, and Marchant. There is absolutely no safe route to winning the Stanley Cup. It’s all about taking the right risks. Throwing money at Scott Gomez and Chris Drury and expecting more out of them than was realistic was not a smart risk. With arguably the best goalie in the NHL in net, two of the best players in the NHL on the first line, Dubinsky, Callahan, Staal, and Girardi all entering their primes, and a great, young supporting cast already proving itself in the NHL , this was the right time to make a bold move, and it was the right player as well.