There is much speculation that the New York Rangers will use one of their two compliance buyouts this summer on forward Brad Richards, temporarily leaving him without a home to play next season. Richards will undoubtedly have a new team to play for and aside from the huge bruise his ego will take, he will add value to the club that signs him. Could the Oilers use a player like Brad Richards and would he fit in the club’s plans for next season? Certainly an intriguing thought if nothing else.
The 33-year old was a healthy scratch for the final two games of the Rangers season when they fell to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal. If that’s not a hit to the ego for a player who signed a 9-year deal worth $60 million dollars, then surely being bought out after just two years of service in New York is.
Richards currently costs the Rangers a cap hit of $6.667 annually, but if they buy him out for $24 million over the next 14 years, the former Conn Smythe winner will be free to sign with any club that puts in a bid for him.
Could Edmonton afford to sign him? According to TheHockeyWriters.com, the way the compliance buyout process works is simple. The Rangers buy him out and avoid having his massive contract charged against their salary cap. Any team that is under the salary cap for next season can put in a bid to absorb some, not all of Richards contract. The team with the highest bid would then be awarded the rights to Brad Richards.
When it’s laid out that way then sure, why can’t the Oilers afford Brad Richards. They currently have just under $15 million available in salary cap space according to capgeek.com and that doesn’t include the two possible compliance buyouts the team could use to create further room. Shawn Horcoff has been rumored to be one potential buyout that would free up $5.5 million or Ales Hemsky could be another who is set to make $5 million next season. Buying out either player could allow the Oilers management to re-allocate that money to a player like Richards and put in a bid for $5 million. Will that be enough to get him? It might be.
Perhaps the bigger question is not if the Edmonton Oilers can afford Brad Richards, rather it’s do they need Brad Richards. His slick hands and play making ability would make a great addition to the Oilers top line and throw in the fact that he’s a solid centerman who’s improved his defensive game in the last few years and sure he’s an attractive option if he’s available. All of that to be complimented by his leadership abilities and playoff experience that includes a Stanley Cup championship, Richards could be that leader that this team needs given it’s current state of youth.
But do the Oilers need a Brad Richards when it’s clear what they’ve been lacking up front….toughness. Pure grit and sandpaper is what’s missing from the Oilers forwards and with all due respect to the Murray Harbor native, that isn’t Richards’ game. A top-line, play-making center is what you get from number 19 who sees the ice better than most in the NHL.
Looking at his offensive numbers, they are impressive from a career standpoint; 816 career points in 900 games. The question that is now being asked is whether or not Richards still has enough in his tank to be able to produce at the superstar level that the Rangers thought they were getting when they signed him in July of 2011.
During two years in New York he played in 128 games out of a possible 130 while managing to score 36 goals and adding 64 assists. That’s 100 points in 130 games. Not bad, but again, is it what the Oilers need?
If a player like David Clarkson is available it’s easy to say that MacTavish and his posse should throw $5 million at him and lure him away from New Jersey…..if he’s available.
There will be many big name players available via the buyouts this summer. Players that were at one time or another stars in this league that may have seen their better years pass them by and will fall victim to the new CBA. The opportunities will be there for a team like the Oilers to add those players providing the price is right and it makes sense for their roster. Brad Richards is an appealing name and if he is available he’s at least exploring the idea of adding him to the team. Whether or not he’s needed is another story.