On Friday the New York Rangers bought out the contract of 34-year-old center Brad Richards. The decision will cost the team approximately $20 million, but will be money well-spent as this should be a learning experience for the team’s front office about what happens when you forget the past.
According to multiple sources, the team used their compliance buyout on Richards in a move to free up $6.67 million in cap room for next season. The move comes after only the third season of the veteran’s nine-year contract with the Rangers. Although pricey, the team’s decision to cut their losses was the right one.
Prior to the lockout-cancelled season of 2004-05, the New York Rangers put together an All-Star team. Unfortunately, it was nothing more than Throwback Thursday photo opt which resulted in a bloated payroll mess of big-name under-performers. Players such as Eric Lindros, Pavel Bure, and Alex Kovalev milked the Rangers dry as they played well below expectations and/or didn’t play at all. By the time 2005-06 season began, the team had rid themselves almost entirely of the ill-fated contracts and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 1996-97.
The Rangers made the playoffs in all but one season since the lockout-cancelled season, but have still been plagued by bad contracts. In 2009-10, the Rangers missed the playoffs. The Rangers wasted payroll on under-performers such as Chris Drury, Wade Redden, and made a trade for Olli Jokinen. The Rangers would dump these players en route to a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011-12.
The Rangers signed 31-year-old center Brad Richards to a massive nine-year contract prior to the 2011-12 season. Notice a pattern? Like many other big-name acquisitions for the Rangers, the deal did not pay off and the team found themselves cutting their losses.
With the Rangers needing money to re-sign impending free agents such as Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello plus the high cap hit/low productivity of Rick Nash, hopefully the team can resist the urge to bring in more bloated contracts in the forseeable future.