Brad Richards, who less than two years ago signed a nine-year, $60 million free agent contract to become a Ranger, will now be an ex-Ranger.
Richards was informed by his long-time ally and coach John Tortorella this morning that he will be a healthy scratch for Game 4 against Boston tonight, after being demoted to the fourth line, and then having his minutes limited to fewer than nine in Game 3.
The next step is then obvious. The Rangers will use their one remaining compliance buyout within the new CBA to end Richards’ relationship with the team this summer. Richards, who rceived $12 million in 2011-12 and most of his $12 million for the lockout 2013 season, will get a $24 million going-away present this summer (spread out over twice the remaining seven years), removing his contract from the books and his salary from the decreasing salary cap.
Richards will then be an unrestricted free agent, able to strike a deal with any of the other 29 teams, but not with the Rangers. And he surely will resurface after a summer of conditioning, and sign somewhere at a much smaller salary.
Richards told reporters after this morning’s skate that he was “surprised” and “disappointed” about being scratched and that he would work hard to make sure this never happens again. If it does happen again, it will be elsewhere.
With Richards’ exit, that means that two-thirds of the Rangers’ first line from the start of this season will be gone, including Marian Gaborik (and his $7.5 million salary). The remaining first-line player, Rick Nash ($7.8 million) has one goal in 10 playoff games.
There had been speculation that Richards would be given one more year to try to work himself into shape this summer and see if he could resurrect his skating and overall game before being bought out next summer. But that would be too risky—and the Rangers know it—because he could be injured next season and then ineligible for the buyout, which would have to be done next summer or not at all.
Carp, July 1, 2011: “This has “Drury 2.0” written all over it.”