Saturday, July 2, 2011

Breaking News: Rangers Sign Brad Richards To 9-Year, $60 Million Deal

On the second day of free agency, the Rangers have officially landed their No. 1 target - Brad Richards is now a New York Ranger. The talented center agreed to a blockbuster 9-year, $60 million deal, which averages out to about $6.67 million per year. The Rangers beat out the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings in the Richards Sweepstakes, who were the other top suitors for Richards.

The deal has not officially been confirmed by the Rangers, but all sites have confirmed the deal as being done, and New York Rangers players Marty Biron and Derek Stepan have both officially welcomed Richards to the Blueshirts on Twitter.

The contract is rumored to be heavily front-loaded, with Richards making $50 million in the first five years of the contract.

Most fans won't be crazy about the Rangers tacking on the ninth year to the deal, but it had to be done to land him. Richards was offered more money by the Flames and possibly the Kings, and he took less money to come to the east coast so he could play for John Tortorella again.

Richards reportedly received a clean bill of health from doctors after suffering a concussion last season.

As someone who made no secrets in wanting the Rangers to do nearly whatever it takes to sign Richards, I'm ecstatic. First of all, he's making less money each year than Chris Drury and Scott Gomez did, and is a far, far better player. Second of all, it truly seems like this is a guy who really wants to be here. Richards has been connected to the Rangers for several years now, and the Rangers patiently waited in the wings for him to hit free agency. There were subtle hints thrown out by beat reporters and Richards himself over the last few months that Richards wanted to play for John Tortorella again, and they apparently were true. The signing of Richards goes in line with what Torts said a few days ago about the Rangers wanting to target players who truly want to play here, and not just making roster moves for the sake of change. That's exactly what the Rangers did.

Glen Sather catches a lot of flack, and rightfully so, but it seems like he has had a much better plan in his handling of roster moves since John Tortorella came in. The Rangers couldn't afford to let Richards slip through their fingers after getting to this point, and Sather simply waited in the wings and pounced on this deal. Unlike the Kings, Flames and Leafs, the Rangers didn't send a contingency to Richards' agent's office in Canada to lure him to New York. There was only a conference call placed, in which Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported that James Dolan, Glen Sather, John Tortorella and Mark Messier were a part of. Richards knew what the Rangers had to offer and there was no need to dazzle him with smoke and mirrors.

And the best part of this whole process? It took less than 24 hours to reach a deal from the time free agency opened. Richards was quick and to the point in reaching a decision and didn't let this drag on too long.

I've already written in the past about everything the addition of Brad Richards gives the New York Rangers, but I'll briefly summarize: Marian Gaborik now has an elite playmaking center to play with, the Rangers have added a No. 1 center and Power Play quarterback in one signing and they've added a player that will take pressure off of Henrik Lundqvist in having to be perfect every single night. I think the terms in which Richards signed here also shows a distinct leadership role, and I'm sure if Richards is not named captain he'll be wearing an "A" on his sweater next year (I still think the captain should be Ryan Callahan, by the way).

I apologize for not being on top of things yesterday with regards to free agency, but I had a family emergency I had to deal with. So to recap, here are the Rangers' moves from the past two days:

- The Rangers re-signed LW Ruslan Fedotenko to a 1-year, $1.4 million deal. Can't complain at all about the terms on this deal. Fedotenko had a solid season last year by showing he could handle himself playing anywhere in the lineup, as well as his ability to kill penalties, and he only took a $400,000 raise from what he made last year. Great move bringing Feds back in the fold.

- The Rangers re-signed C Artem Anisimov to a contract, although the years and terms have not been revealed yet.

- The Rangers signed C Mike Rupp to a 3-year, $4.5 million deal. Rupp, 6'5" and 230 lbs., gives the Rangers size, grit and toughness that they need in the lineup, especially after the passing of Derek Boogaard. Rupp had 8 goals and 9 assists in 81 games for the Penguins last season, so he has some offensive ability to his game and is also a big body the Rangers can park in front of the net for screens and deflections.

- The Rangers traded LW Brodie Dupont to the Nashville Predators for RW Andreas Thuresson. Thuresson is a year younger than Dupont (23, as opposed to 24). Thuresson recorded 14 goals and 24 assists for 38 points and also added 41 penalty minutes in 76 games with the Preds' AHL affiliate, the Milwaukee Admirals, last season. Thuresson is listed as 6'1", 212 lbs. so he definitely adds some depth in size down there in Connecticut. Glen Sather sure does love adding his Swedes, it seems.

- Defenseman Matt Gilroy has signed a 1-year, $1 million deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The writing was on the wall for Gilroy, who was unlikely to be brought back after the Rangers acquired Tim Erixon in a trade from Calgary earlier in the offseason. Gilroy played decent at times for the Rangers last year, but was definitely not worth bringing back at a price tag of $1 million to be a seventh defenseman.

Just for fun, if I had to guess the Rangers line combinations as of right now, I'd go with:


Del Zotto-Erixon

I still think there's a strong possibility the Rangers will add a veteran defenseman on the cheap before camp opens.

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