On the first day of NHL free agency, the Chicago Blackhawks signed veteran center Brad Richards to a one-year, $2 million deal. Richards spent the past three seasons with the New York Rangers after signing a nine-year contract in 2011. After a disappointing season in New York, the team decided to buy out the rest of his lucrative contract. Richards will seemingly step into that pivotal second-line center role that the Blackhawks desperately need. Will Richards be the long-term answer? No, but he does provide a bridge and some time for Teuvo Teravainen to mature in the AHL.
Richards is a 14-year veteran who has spent his career with the Tampa Bay Lighting, Dallas Stars and the Rangers. While his career is coming to an end, he still has some gas in the tank that could help the Hawks in the middle of the ice. He brings added playoff and Stanley Cup experience, and after losing to the Los Angeles Kings in the Finals, he should be hungry to dethrone the Kings.
While the Hawks got Richards at a bargain price of $2 million, the team is still up against the salary cap and expected to make a few moves this offseason. With Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane reportedly asking for $12 million each, getting a solid center with the experience Richards brings is a great move by GM Stan Bowman and the front office staff. On a day when the Central Division got a whole lot stronger with the signings by the Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and the Stars, the Blackhawks kept pace and added a piece they were missing. If the Hawks are to keep up with these young teams, a few more moves will need to be made, and I have all the faith in Bowman to continue to lead this team in the right direction.