Brad Richards signed a contract last offseason that represents the epitome of what NHL owners hope to remove from the game in this year’s collective bargaining negotiations. The impending NHL lockout centers on the inflated contracts of the biggest names in hockey. Brad Richards signed a front-loaded deal that pays $42 million over his first first two years with the New York Rangers, but only one million dollars in each of his final three years. Brad Richards’ contract also carries a beefy $6.67 million cap hit. After one of the worst season of his career, did the New York Rangers overpay for Brad Richards?
Brad Richards recorded only 66 points in his first season with the New York Rangers. The 11-year veteran hadn’t recorded fewer points in a complete season since his second year in the NHL. Brad Richards posted a steady 25 goals, but his assists numbers were well below his career average. 2011-12 was a fairly disappointing season for Brad Richards, despite the incredible success of the New York Rangers in the regular season.
Richards was brought in to lend stability and playmaking ability to the top line of the New York Rangers. However, after a mediocre season offensively, Brad Richards and the New York Rangers entered the playoffs with the fewest goals of any playoff team outside the Southeast Division. Even as the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Rangers offense represented a vulnerability that would ultimately lead to their demise in the Conference Finals against the New Jersey Devils.
For the money, Brad Richards represents limited value. His age and concussion history make him a liability to produce throughout the life of his contract. If he fails to improve on his scoring numbers, the 32-year-old Brad Richards could be another Blueshirt bust.
The acquisition of Rick Nash could give the New York Rangers the best top line in all of hockey, which makes this season extremely important for Brad Richards. Richards has had a full season to adjust to the Rangers’ system, as implemented by a coach he already won a Stanley Cup with in Tampa Bay. Surrounded by some of the league’s best goal scorers, Brad Richards must facilitate more scoring. 66 points is not enough production from the pricey center. The New York Rangers offense cannot be a weakness any longer – not with Brad Richards playing alongside players of the caliber of Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik.
If Richards fails to produce offensive numbers comparable to the NHL’s best centers in 2012-13, there is little doubt that the Rangers overpaid an aging center – particularly when considering the 42-million dollars the Rangers will lay out over his first two seasons.