Although he is on the downside of his career, the Brad Richards buyout by the New York Rangers is going to make life just a little more difficult for GM Bryan Murray and the Ottawa Senators.
The 34 year old former Rangers centre will now be on the open market when free agency opens up in early July, adding to the choices for those looking for help at the position.
While Richards might not be a #1 centre, and despite his massive contract it could be argued that he never really was, the fact is that in the right situation he could be a solid #2. That really hurts the Senators asking price for Jason Spezza, because although Spezza is younger and more offensively gifted, if a team can get Richards for money only, they would be better off going in that direction than sacrificing the bounty that the Senators are asking for to get Spezza. Murray is on record stating that he will not allow a team to negotiate a contract extension with Spezza until a trade is done, making it tougher for a trade partner to justify a deal in what could be a 1 year rental, because that is all Spezza has on his current deal, after which he will be free to go where he wants.
Richards is solid on the power play and will still put up 50-60 points on a quality team. He just had no chance of living up to the 9 year, $60M contract he inked with the Rangers as the top free agent in the summer of 2011. He had fallen down the depth chart in New York and the Rangers had to take the opportunity to rid themselves of the cap hit as a compliance buyout.
There will be plenty of interest in Richards, and that will have an adverse effect on the Senators because the more centres on the market, the less the Senators will get for their top asset in play.Richards will be cheaper and teams will have more control over the term of the deal.
Thank goodness for the sake of the Senators that reports are out there that the Kings will not be buying out Mike Richards and he won’t also be put into play, although the chance for him to be a trade target still exists.
Spezza will still be one of the hottest topics of discussion this week leading up to the draft, but with each passing day the return might get less and less as more options become available for suitors.