Here’s my column from The Journal News and LoHud.com, with some new, corrected info on the recapture penalty as it pertains to Brad Richards’ potential retirement if the Rangers don’t buy him out via amnesty next summer. The original numbers were incorrectly figured by capgeek.com, and since corrected, in a buyout/recapture calculator (click here) on the site:
By Rick Carpiniello
If Brad Richards, proud, competitive and caring athlete that he is, bounces back next season, and if he’s not injured one year from now, then the Rangers will possibly have made a good decision.
But is it a gamble worth taking?
I’m going to come right out and say it. I think this is a terrible, reckless call the Rangers made Friday, when they said they will not exercise their second compliance buyout on the 33-year-old Richards, meaning he is staying put until next summer, then bought out.
That is, unless he is injured when the next buyout window arrives, following the 2013-14 season. If he is, the Rangers are up the salary cap creek without a paddle until the next lockout in 2020.
Richards came into the season out of shape because of the lockout and no training camp, and he had, by far, his worst season ever, even if his stats weren’t nearly as horrible as the play he exhibited.
But that is so not the point.
The point is that this is a huge gamble because if Richards is injured at buyout time ’14, he cannot be bought out. That means the remaining six years of his $60 million contract stay on the books, with the hefty cap recapture clause penalties (as much as $5.667 million per year for the final three years, for example) if he retires before the end of the contract. That contract was designed to encourage him to retire, since it pays only $1M per for each of the last three years.
Rangers GM Glen Sather, who made this call, and new coach Alain Vigneault may say that it’s not a gamble, that odds are he won’t be hurt when the next and final round of amnesty buyouts come around. OK. But did you see him play this past season?
I suspect he will bounce back, that he will work his tail off this summer and with a full camp he’ll be better. But what if he’s not much better? What if he’s really incapable of playing top-six minutes or the power play? What if he’s a liability defensively? And on faceoffs? What if his skating legs are done, and that he’s still easily knocked off pucks?
Would the Rangers then send him home so he doesn’t get hurt and ruin their chances of using the buyout in June, 2014?
Here’s where maybe they can reason doing this: Richards gets $9M in salary next season. After that the 2/3 buyout will only be about $18 million spread over 12 years. They don’t need the cap space this coming season – though it might cost them a shot at keeping a Ryane Clowe, or of signing another free agent, including one who is bought out by July 4. But they will need the cap space next summer, when there are attractive free agents and when Henrik Lundqvist has to be re-signed, along with Ryan Callahan, among others.
The other argument is that if Richards is hurt, and it’s a long-term injury, they can get cap relief to replace him. The problem is the injury isn’t long-term, like a separated shoulder or something. Then they’re stuck with the whole contract, plus the cap-recapture penalties if/when he retires.
Finally, there’s this popular idea – mostly from Canadian media members – that Richards will flourish under Vigneault. Well, Richards’ biggest ally was John Tortorella, who gave him a far longer leash than any other Ranger until he finally had to be scratched for the last two games of the playoffs.
The Rangers had an opportunity teed up for them. They chose to not take a swing and get rid of a bad contract.
I think it’s crazy.
Photo by Getty Images.