General Managers with a lot of spending money this offseason just got some good news – Brad Richards will be hitting the free agent market.
With management and ownership of the Dallas Stars in a state of flux, the team has decided not to offer star center Brad Richards a contract this offseason with Richards set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Richards posted 28 goals and 49 assists in 77 games with the Stars last season. He tallied 91 total points the season before.
“We have had talks with Brad throughout the year, and he’s not going to sign with us unless we have the ownership situation resolved, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen by the start of free agency,” general manager Joe Nieuwendyk told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
At 31-years-old, Richards is in the prime of his career and already has one Stanley Cup championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 where he also won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP. His resume speaks for itself, but in a year where there is very little offensive talent in the free agent pool, Richards will be highly coveted around the league.
However, after making $7.8 million last season, Richards could be outside the price range of many general managers. However, it’s highly likely that Richards could sign a long-term deal with a team that front-loads his contract to help keep the annual salary cap hit lower. A lot will depend on Richards and whether he wants to play for a contender or if he wants to seek out a big pay day.
Several teams appear to have the cap space to adsorb a big salary like Brad Richards, but many of them are teams currently in the rebuilding process. The Florida Panthers currently have the most cap space with $41 million available and could offer Richards a hefty contract, but Richards would likely have to endure several years of rebuilding and regrouping before Florida becomes a contender. With $27.8 million in cap space, the Colorado Avalanche could be a possible destination. The team has a lot of good, young talent and Richards could really help put the team over the edge. But don’t count out the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings or the Toronto Maple Leafs as contenders for Richards. Both the Leafs and Kings have been itching for a solid forward for several years with rumors swirling that the Kings heavily courted Kovalchuk last season before he signed with New Jersey. The Leafs would love to get Phil Kessel a proper center while the Rangers would love to get the same for Marion Gaborik and Richards would be a huge boost in offense for either team.
All hope is not lost for the Stars, however. The team will likely trade negotiating rights for Richards to another team, although Richards would still need to waive his no-trade clause for that to occur. The team that lands the rights to Richards will be able to solely negotiate with Richards before the free agency period opens. While this is certainly not a new option for teams preparing to lose their star players, teams looking to acquire the negotiating rights run a risk of giving up something for nothing if a player has no intention to sign with that club. This happened last season when Montreal landed the negotiating rights for goalie Dan Ellis from Nashville in exchange for forward Sergie Kostitsyn and future considerations. Ellis rebuked Montreal’s offers and signed with the Lightning at the open of free agency instead. If nothing else, the Stars will likely get draft picks in exchange for Richards’ negotiating rights before the NHL Entry Draft later this month.