Rangers buy out center Brad Richards

hi-res-11dd29ddc40fc9bd4bf9e4ae45a30e4d_crop_northNew York Rangers forward Brad Richards will hit free agency on July 1.

The 34-year-old center will receive two-thirds of the remaining money on his contract, which will be paid out over the next 12 years. He will also receive $8 million in signing bonuses over the next three years, bringing the total buyout to roughly $20.6 million.

“I am a big fan of Brad┬áRichards,” Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. “A veteran player from Day One that was a real good extension of the coaching staff in the dressing room. He should walk away from this season very pleased with how he played and how he contributed to our team.”

Richards signed a nine-year, $60 million contract with the Rangers as a free agent in 2011. In 82 games this season, Richards had 20 goals and 31 assists. He also took on more of a leadership position with the team after the team traded away captain Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Martin St. Louis. The move was a big reason for the Rangers’ deep playoff run that took them to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 1994.

However, Richards was demoted to the fourth line during the Finals matchup against the LA Kings. This was likely a big reason why the Rangers decided to use their buyout on Richards, who was costing the team a cap hit of $6.67 million annually. The team only has 12 players under contract for next season, with guys like Derek Brassard, Chris Kreider and Brian Boyle all due for new contracts.

With Richards becoming a free agent, he may end up being highly targeted by teams that miss out on either Ryan Kesler or Jason Spezza via trade. While his production slipped during the playoffs, he was still a valuable contributor during the regular season and provides a veteran presence in the locker room.

Teams like the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues, who are all rumored to be in the running for Spezza and Kesler, could make a bid for Richards if they decide that either of the former players will cost too much in trade value. The Washington Capitals are an interesting consideration, especially since they could use some depth at the center position and Richards could fit right in on the second line. His veteran presence would be a big help for the team, too. The Nashville Predators, who are also rumored to be in on Spezza, could instead choose to make a bid for Richards.

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