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Posted by Ryan Porth Labels: 2011 Free Agent Frenzy, 2011 Off-season, Brad Richards, New York Rangers
The best player available in free agency slept on his decision overnight and chose the team that’s been the favorite all along. Brad Richards is headed to the New York Rangers, reportedly on a nine-year, $60 million contract. The other options coming into today were Los Angeles, Toronto and Calgary.
The contract Richards has signed was around what was expected. It’s a $6.67 annual cap hit for the Rangers. The 31-year-old reportedly left money on the table to sign with the Rangers and join his old bench boss John Tortorella. (Calgary offered a nine-year, $65M deal.) It’s also being reported that $50 million will be headed his way in the first five seasons.
This is a good fit for the Rangers. Richards is the top-line center that the team hasn’t had for the last handful of years. Marian Gaborik hasn’t had a true number one center to play alongside in his two years with the Blueshirts.
In 2010-11, Richards had 49 assists and 77 points in 72 games for the Dallas Stars. The year prior, he had 67 assists and 91 points in 80 games. In the mean time, the Rangers have rotated centers on the top line, everyone from Brandon Dubinsky to Erik Christensen. Now Tortorella doesn’t have to worry about that.
According to CapGeek.com, the Rangers have $16.16 million of cap space. That doesn’t include the upcoming contracts for restricted free agents like Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan and others. Dubinsky has been in trade rumors in the last few days, but he and Richards make for a solid one-two punch down the middle for the Blueshirts.
How much better does Richards make the Rangers, though? They now have a respectable top line, a solid defense core and a world-class goaltender. Is that enough to keep up with the powers in the Atlantic Division, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia? I’m not so sure.
If Richards had gone to Los Angeles, they’d be instant favorites in the Western Conference. Richards going to New York doesn’t have the same effect. GM Glen Sather has some more work to do to get the Blueshirts to that level.
It will be interesting to see how the dominoes fall in the next few days. Now that the Kings, Flames and Maple Leafs have missed out on the best player free agency had to offer, they will probably start looking elsewhere. Look for guys like Tim Connolly and Simon Gagne to be signed soon.
As for the Rangers, they reeled in yet another big free agent. For their sake, let’s hope this one works out better than some of the big signings they’ve made in the past.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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