Will Burke Go For Richards? Do We Want Him To?

Source: yardbarker.com

On the heels of today’s announcement per TSN, the Brad Richards speculation will undoubtedly continue to grow, now that the Stars are apparently officially out of the running for his services. Given that the Leafs will have one of the largest cap margins with which to play come free agency, and the fact that they are desperately in need of a true top-line center, it would seem a near certainty that Burke would make a play for the only true number one center on the market this summer.

That said, consider a few things. First of all, Richards is 31 years old right now, and has had injury problems in the past. There’s no reason to assume that such injuries wouldn’t happen in the future, especially as he continues to age. A fact of life, especially in today’s NHL which continues to get younger and faster every year, is that players slow down, become more susceptible to injury and generally less productive as they age (unless of course, you’re Teemu Selanne).

Second, consider what the price for Richards will be. With the Rangers and Richards’ former head coach John Tortorella probably considered the front runners for his services, the potential contract offers that Richards has to choose from will almost certainly top out above the $7.5-8 million per year range. The fact that he’s the only true star on the market this summer will only serve to drive the price up even further, and his age will most likely dictate that the team that offers him the best combination of money and long term stability (meaning a 4-5 year deal, at least) will close the deal. He will probably never have as good of an opportunity to basically choose where and for how much he wants to finish his career, and there’s no reason for him to sign any sort of short term deal.

Next, let’s look at how Richards earned his current 5 year deal worth $7.8 million in the 2005-06 season, when he put up a career high 91 points in the only season in which he played all 82 games, at the age of 25. With $8 million looking to be the very least he’ll get this summer, consider the fact that there are only 10 other players in the league making more than $8 million a season. Aside from Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Duncan Keith, Evgeni Malkin, Roberto Luongo and maybe Jason Spezza, you can just about guarantee that the teams which own the other five contracts on this list all wish they could get a mulligan on the deal.

You’d never get the Blackhawks to admit that they’d redo the Marian Hossa deal ($7.9 million), since they won Cup in 2010, but if Hossa wasn’t costing them so much money, they might not have had to dismantle the team that won that Cup. Tampa Bay’s massive deal with Vincent Lecavalier is going to make it tremendously difficult for them to sign Steve Stamkos while still keeping a roster with any sort of depth on it. Chris Drury’s cap hit drops to five million this season, but for a player that scored just 37 points in the last two years, that’s still quite a premium. Dany Heatley was the benefit of a unique situation that enabled him to get exactly what he wanted out of San Jose, while the Montreal Canadiens absolutely regret signing Scott Gomez to his mega deal trading for Gomez and his massive contract.

Even more interestingly, all of the above players have signed these contracts at points much earlier in their careers than Richards currently is. There’s no question Richards is a very talented player, and would absolutely make the Leafs a better team, but would he be the piece that makes them a Cup contender this season? I don’t think so. The prospect of him being the highest paid player on the team for the next 5-6 years doesn’t exactly put me at ease.

All told, Richards is completely in the driver’s seat when it comes to this summer’s free agent negotiations. If more than one or two teams get involved, which is inevitable, the price will be driven so high that, in the end, the team that does end up getting him will have either overpaid or locked themselves into a long-term deal that they will be unable to shed in the future. If I had my say, that team would not be the Leafs.

Topics: Alexander Ovechkin, Brad Richards, Brian Burke, Chris Drury, Dallas Stars, Dany Heatley, Duncan Keith, Evgeni Malkin, Jason Spezza, Marian Hossa, New York Rangers, Roberto Luongo, Scott Gomez, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Teemu Selanne, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vincent Lecavalier

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  • I_am_I

    RE: “while the Montreal Canadiens absolutely regret signing Scott Gomez to his mega deal”

    Gomez was signed by Slats in New York. Montreal traded for that albatross.

    • Myles Robinson

      My mistake – appreciate the edit – just didn’t make the mental connection at the time. Thanks though

  • hockeyexpert

    look you dont know anything about hockey you n00b… first off the leafs have ZERO chance of signing brad richards… why would he wanna go to non–playoff team, which has no chance of competting for a championship? the lighting even with signing vinny have SOO MUCH CAP SPACE. richards won a cup with them.. theyre the real front runner. the guy wants to win not lose… secondly gomez was signed by THE RANAGERS. you write articles yet you dont research facts? whats up with that? Spezza should also not be in the list of players… your lack of hockey sense and knowledge is absurd. Your not a real hockey fan, your a reporter who reports on any news…The leafs have zero chance, Burke is a averege GM, who mortaged the future of the leafs with the kessel trade. Trading kaberele was a mistake. Hes a good puck moving defenceman that was willing to sign cheap with you and you trade him?….In the future researh your work. Thanks- Hockey GURu

    • Myles Robinson

      I agree, the lightning do have a ton of cap space – they also have 11 players under contract right now, watch how fast that cap space disappears. Spezza was in the list of players based on his salary – if you read the article, I was looking at players that have salaries similar to what Richards will command. In case you didn’t catch on by the end of the article, I don’t want Richards to sign with the Leafs, but the fact that the Leafs’ biggest need is a top-line center and he’s the only one available via free agency means it’s my job to discuss the possibility. I do appreciate the pointing out of my error on Gomez. Stupid mistake on my part, but that doesn’t change that there’s no getting around the fact that he’s ridiculously overpaid, regardless of who signed him.

      As far as Kessel and Kaberle goes, I don’t know how you can say in the same paragraph that trading for Kessel was “mortgaging the future”, while trading Kaberle for a first (and now a 2nd as well, since Boston made the Finals) and Joe Colborne was a mistake. Kaberle was a great player for many years with the Leafs, but his best days are behind him, and it’s time for the team to go in a new direction. On Kessel, I would argue that we haven’t seen the best he has to offer, and while many thought he could walk in to Toronto and be the superstar, he’s not that type of player. I’ll admit he needs support and a linemate that can get him the puck consistently, but trading two draft picks for a very young player that will without question be a 30 goal scorer for years, and should hit 40 with the proper support isn’t mortgaging the future. Regardless, the Kessel trade will always have people on both sides of the debate.

      Thanks for reading.

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