A huge talking point coming into this past summer was Brad Richards. The prediction was that he would be bought out by New York Rangers management. Luckily for Richards, that wasn’t the case, and that decision by Glen Sather and his team is surely paying dividends for the Blueshirts.
So far this season, he has seven points in seven games on 4 goals and 3 assists. His play so far in 2013-14 is starting to reflect that of his performance in the 2005-06 season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he had 91 points including 68 assists in 82 games played.
After that, his play slowly began to diminish until he hit the 91 point mark again in 2009-10 with the Dallas Stars. In 2011 he made the transition to New York, where he had a fabulous debut season (25 G, 41 A, 66 pts, 82 GP). He was one of the many reasons why the Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference Finals that year.
Then, in the lockout-shortened season of 2012-13, he had 34 points in 46 games, but that wasn’t the same player in the playoffs. In the postseason against the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins, Richards only had one goal in 10 games. This is why many people had the idea that the Rangers would most likely buy him out.
So, why all of a sudden are we seeing a rebirth in Richards? There could be many answers to this question, but one could be is that he’s playing NOT to get bought out by the organization. Obviously he knows he is under close watch, and if he doesn’t perform well under those expectations he will most certainly be gone by the time next season rolls around. With the Rangers being in such cap trouble, Richards is more than likely the number one candidate to assist the organization in rectifying that situation.
If you navigate to capgeek.com, you will see that the Rangers’ cap situation next offseason isn’t pretty. They have eight UFA’s that need to be signed to contracts, which includes the likes of Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and most importantly, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Richards can be looking at their situation and saying to himself, “How will they have the cap room to sign me? I might as well play for a contract with a different team.”
That might sound a little crazy but it may not be too far off. Considering where the Rangers will be at next year, he could be thinking if he plays well enough another team will be able to swoop in and sign him to what will more than likely be his last NHL contract. It’s the equivalent of a player in his option year.
There are many talking points leading into next summer, Richards included. Who’s not to say that he signs with a different organization? Or simply playing not to get bought out by the Rangers? Things will get very interesting towards the end of next year, and it’s going to be great to see how it all pans out for Sather and his team.
Their future just might depend on it.