The Rangers bought out Brad Richards on Friday, ending his tenure in New York. Richards departs on a sour note. Although he played a big role getting the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final, he was one of the key reasons they failed to dismount the Kings. He went from respected de facto captain, to fan loathed scapegoat in ten days. It was a remarkable fall.
Richards’ low point in New York probably came last season when John Tortorella demoted him to the fourth line and eventually made him a healthy scratch. A close second was his inability to do anything on the Rangers power play this past post-season. Richards led all Rangers in power play ice time with 116 minutes, yet he produced a paltry 5 points. It was one of the central reasons the Rangers season ended without a Cup.
It wasn’t all bad though. In Richards first season with the Rangers he played a huge role in getting the team to the Conference Final. His contract was signed at a time when Derek Stepan couldn’t be reliably given number one center minutes, he filled a serious need. Richards legitimized the Rangers down the middle and was second on the team in scoring, behind only Marian Gaborik.
There were big goals too. This one against the Capitals will always be my personal favorite:
Richards’ struggled in his second year with the Rangers. He emerged from the lockout a step behind and probably out of shape. As a veteran, it was inexcusable. When Alain Vigneault was hired last summer, Richards was given a clean slate. He came into camp in good physical form after spending the summer working out with soon to be reunited teammate Martin St. Louis. Richards had his swagger back. But despite his renewed confidence, he produced like a fringe top six center and his underlying numbers were very similar to his last year under Tortorella.
He fit on the Rangers though. Derrick Brassard emerged as a legitimate second line center and Richards was slotted in a third line role. It was a luxury for the Rangers, but one everyone knew would only last one season.
Richards is owed $12.6M through the 2025-2026 season, which means the Rangers will have stopped paying him before the Mets stop paying Bobby Bonilla. I would expect Richards to go somewhere familiar next season. The Lightning make a lot of sense, particularly since Richards is an admitted creature of habit who loves his routine. For the right price, he is still an effective NHL player.
A reunion next summer with the Rangers wouldn’t shock me though. Richards and the organization broke up on amicable terms. He loved being a Ranger and carried a significant amount of weight in the locker room. He may sign a multiple year contract in free agency this summer, which would put an end to this little theory. But I wouldn’t be shocked at all to see Richards back in New York before his career is up.