The amnesty buyout period began at 11 p.m. Wednesday, and runs through July 4.
Players who are bought out under the amnesty exception allowed by the lockout-induced CBA, will be set free no later than the day before free agency, which this season is July 5 instead of the customary July 1. Buyout candidates must be put on waivers and clear waivers 24 hours later.
Which brings us to Brad Richards. From everything I’ve heard, the organizational plan was to buy out Richards because it is the only correct business decision for the franchise, not to mention the shocking decline in his game during the lockout-shortened season and playoffs.
It is the right thing to do, and in fact the only choice the Rangers have.
But then again, that was all before Richards was demoted to the fourth line, then scratched for the final two games of the playoffs; it was before Glen Sather did what is widely considered a U-turn on the fate of Richards’ former ally in John Tortorella; and before Alain Vigneault was hired to install a more offensive system. Sather said that scratching Richards for Games 4 and 5 vs. Boston was an organizational decision, and not just Tortorella’s.
So I don’t know if all bets are off. I kind of doubt it, because the Rangers have here a golden opportunity to get out from under the $6.67M per season cap hit through 2020 by simply buying out Richards for 2/3rds of the remaining $36M on his contract ($24M) spread out over twice the number of remaining seasons (14 years).
The hit would be even worse if Richards retires before the end of his contract — and the contract was designed to encourage him to retire before it expires by paying him only $1M in each of the final three seasons (2017-18, ’18-19 and ’19-20). The cap recapture portion of the new CBA would punish the Rangers even more severely than the $6.67M per.
In other words, if he is not bought out, the franchise could be in absolute cap hell until the next lockout.
The Rangers, with Marian Gaborik gone, have enough cap space to keep Richards for another year. But they could surely use more cap space to re-sign upcoming free agents Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin (on July 5) and Henrik Lundqvist (whose contract is up after next season, but his agent, Don Meehan, will work on a new deal with Sather this week); or to lure new free agents, including those bought out by other teams, on July 5 or thereafter.
People argue that Richards is bound to bounce back, with a full summer to work out, with a new fire in his belly to prove last season was a fluke, and with a new offensive coach. But if the Rangers wait until next summer to exercise the buyout and Richards gets hurt during the season, and is still injured when the next round of amnesty buyouts comes due, he cannot be bought out. Then the Rangers are stuck with that contract.
They can’t possibly take that enormous, reckless gamble, can they?
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