Effective Friday, June 20, 2014, the New York Rangers organization made it official, in regards to the fate of Brad Richards. His playing time as a Ranger had come to an end, as his remaining six years on his contract signed in 2011 were bought out. A lot of fans knew this day would come; however, it was just a matter of when. After three seasons on Broadway, the Rangers said adieu to another player that did not pan out, especially in the post season.
Three years ago, Brad Richards came to the Rangers as a free agent from the Dallas Stars. After four years, the veteran forward was a unrestricted free agent. His last two years in the “lone star” state saw his offensive production at a point per game. In the 2009-2010 season, he amassed 91 points with 24 goals, through 80 games played. During the 2010-2011 season, he played in 72 games, accumulating 77 points with 28 goals. It appeared he was the sought after free agent the Rangers were seeking. He was signed in the summer of 2011 to a nine year, 60 million dollar contract.
During his tenure on the Madison Square Garden ice, his offensive numbers were not on par with his previous play in Dallas. His best season as a Ranger was during the 2011-2012 season. He earned 66 points with 25 goals, in 82 games played. He also played for the Blueshirts against the Philadelphia Flyers during the Winter Classic, at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia, PA. In that game, he helped the Rangers come from a 2-0 deficit and got the game winning goal.
Also, he saw a return to the Stanley Cup playoffs with the team, as they earned the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Even though the team lost to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Championship, Richards will be forever remembered for his dramatic goal against the Washington Capitals in game five of the 2012 playoffs:
All of this was accomplished in his first year in New York. Unfortunately, his offensive production declined and drew the ire of the Rangers faithful. After the player lockout to start the 2012-2013, Brad Richards numbers dipped. In 46 games played, he amassed 34 points with 11 goals. Even though the Rangers did make the playoffs, they were soon ousted by the Boston Bruins in five games. In that disappointing series, Richards found former head coach John Tortarella’s doghouse, as he made the veteran forward a healthy scratch for the last two games. Rightfully so as Richards had only one point for the entire playoffs. After being humiliated by his former coach, the 2013-2014 was a year of vindication for Brad Richards.
With John Tortarella gone and a new voice in the locker room in the form of Alain Vigneault, Richards saw a mild rebirth. Before the start of the season, Richards rededicated himself by working out in the offseason and leading by example. He reinforced his voice as the alternate captain, taking up the mantle of team captain as Ryan Callahan was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Also, his best friend, Marty St. Louis, was brought in to help inject some Stanley Cup magic. The two were reunited for another Stanley Cup run, which they first saw in 2004.
Despite the reunion and Cinderella run of the Rangers in this year’s playoffs, Richards could not escape the question: will the New York Rangers buy him out? The answer was yes. Even though his offensive numbers did pick up, 51 points in 82 games played this season, it was not enough for the organization to keep him. Also, his salary cap hit of 6.67 million dollars over the next years was going to be too much to bear. His performance did not match what he was earning.
On the New York Rangers’ official twitter account, this was seen:
“Tough last few days … I loved being a Ranger and living in New York and playing at MSG in front of great fans.” – Brad Richards #NYR
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
Now, there is a void in the Rangers lineup. It will certainly be filled with somebody, whether through free agency or a home grown talent. However, it will be difficult for the Rangers to replace a veteran presence. The former Conn Smythe winner in 2004, he will be free to go where he chooses. But, his absence will be felt with Rangers fans and players alike. However, those who have followed the team know the Rangers are resilient when facing adversity. No matter the odds, whether on the ice or off, the Rangers have shown the will to win. Brad Richards will be missed as a New York Ranger.
And, fans will be awaiting his return to the Madison Square Garden ice, whenever that will be. I know I will.
Author update: On Tuesday, Forward Brad Richards signed a one year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks worth two million dollars.