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It's been widely assumed for a while now that Brad Richards would be hitting the free agency market, but a story posted by TSN confirmed it today. The Dallas Stars won't be offering their No. 1 center a new contract before July 1st, meaning his time in Dallas is likely over.
TSN is also reporting that the Dallas Stars would like to be able to trade Brad Richards' rights before free agency opens, although it's unlikely they'll be able to since Richards has a no-movement clause. After getting this close to free agency, I gotta believe Richards will absolutely test the market. He has nothing to lose since he'll easily be the top free agent on the market, and he'll have plenty of suitors lining up to sign him. The top suitors for Richards are believed to be the Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and, of course, New York Rangers.
I don't really find this to be breaking news, but as someone who would love to see Brad Richards on Broadway, I do think this is positive news for Rangers fans. I wouldn't be concerned by the fact that Dallas is looking to trade Richards' rights before free agency opens - they're just doing their do-diligence to try and get a nice package of players in return before they likely lose Richards for nothing come July 1st.
I'm sure you all know that Richards has been connected to the Rangers for a long time now - Richards is connected to the Rangers after having previously won a Stanley Cup with John Tortorella when they were both with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and earlier this weekend a picture of Brad Richards vacationing with Sean Avery in Jamaica was posted by Avery's girlfriend on Twitter. Also, this past season when the Rangers played the Dallas Stars, Richards sparked even more speculation when he asked a member of the New York media, "How's my buddy, Torts?" in some pre-game comments.
There's still just under a month to go before free agency starts, but expect to hear plenty of rumors between now and then about where Richards will land. Something key to watch will be what the Rangers do between now and then, such as clearing cap space by buying out Chris Drury or dealing other high-priced veterans like Wojtek Wolski.