Picture this: you are 31 and have been playing professional hockey for 10 years for two clubs. You have won a Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, and have little to prove because your body of work speaks for itself. As a leader and top player on any team at this point in your career the first thing you want is stability. Is that too much to ask for?
For Brad Richards and his relationship with the Dallas Stars, it was.
All Richards wanted was to know who his owners were going to be; that would have given him the indications whether or not to stay in Dallas for the long haul (a place he liked playing) with a nice new contract or look for a some stability elsewhere. Unfortunately for the Stars, those ownership issues will not be resolved in time to keep the top-line center from heading elsewhere. Dallas, say goodbye to Richards.
Clearly, at this point in his career it is not about the money. Richards, who racked up 77 points in 72 games this season and went to the All-Star Game, turned down two different contracts with Dallas before the deadline. He will be paid handsomely no matter where he decides to play.
It does seem, though, that he would like to know who his boss is before deciding to show up to work. I can’t imagine anybody feeling any different than Richards when it comes to their own jobs. As if you would sign on to work at a company with no knowledge of who your boss is, their personality, or what their expectations are going to be? I didn’t think so.
So now here is Richards, loads of talent, plenty left in the tank, and looking for a place to finish his career. The media will go back and forth between the teams that are vying for Richards all summer long, but I have a sneaky suspicion he will be on a boat in Tampa Bay, a golf course, or relaxing on Prince Edward Island. Regardless, hockey won’t be the first thing on his mind and neither will be tipping off the media. For now, just enjoy the summer like he will, and when he makes his decision you will know along with everyone else.
Once free agency begins on July 1, Richards will be on the top of any teams' list that can afford him. Speculation has already swirled about destinations -- New York, Detroit, Toronto, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, LA are all rumored to be in the mix. Wow, what is must feel like to be loved, wanted, and paid like Richards will be.
Ultimately, from this writer's perspective, Brad Richards wants to be comfortable, among friends, and play his game without a heavy burden on his shoulders and high expectations from a rabid fan base (sorry New York). A younger Richards might have wanted that kind of environment, but not at this point in his career.
The best place for him to go and have all those qualities in a team would be Tampa Bay. They already love him, and are clearly just one piece away from making the Stanley Cup final. Not to mention, having bosses like Jeff Vinik, Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher isn’t such a bad thing. With any luck he would be able to finish out his career in a town he loves and with his friend, Vincent Lecavalier, at his side.
What else could you ask for?
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