Last summer, the New York Rangers won the big prize when they agreed to a nine-year deal with the veteran Brad Richards. In what very well could have been his final contract, Richards settled on the Rangers and made his home pretty quickly down on Broadway.
For a guy who has touched the 90-point mark twice in his career, Richards’ 66 points last season may have come as something of a disappointment. There were stretches where he wasn’t as effective, but overall it was a very nice year for him.
With any professional athlete, you can probably expect at least some sort of adjustment period when they move into the new digs, especially when those digs are the largest city in the United States. Coming into the new season, Richards is comfortable in his surroundings now and has a brand new weapon right next to him.
The Rangers went out and acquired Rick Nash this summer, once again reeling in the big fish. Nash is expected to be the final piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle for the Blueshirts, and should end up being a tremendous addition on the top line for the Rangers, right next to Richards and Marian Gaborik.
Richards is one of the more talented centers in the league when it comes to dishing the puck. We saw Gaborik return to All Star form last year and his playmaking skills should suit Nash very well on his other side. For a guy who has hit 91 points twice in his career, is another 90-point season in order? Or could we expect higher?
The trio likely won’t start the year off with a bang. The lockout will slow things all over the league to start, Nash will have to adjust to New York and the three will have to adjust to each other. But playing between Nash and Gaborik very well could lead Richards to have another season of at least 60 assists, which he’s done twice in his career as well.
If there’s going to be a season, we won’t see the regular full 82 games. So unless Richards does something absolutely incredible, he probably won’t reach 90 points this year. But he should have a nice boost in his point-per-game numbers and should collect a large chunk of apples this year.
The lockout makes it virtually impossible to project because we don’t know how many games will be played. But regardless of what point totals end up looking like, Richards should be among the league leaders. Assuming nothing weird happens and the three are together in 2013-2014, then maybe we can talk about this “career year” business.