Richards not interested in Rangers?

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    It seems worthwhile to report that we have a major Rangers source in veteran hockey writer Larry Brooks reporting the following, rather definitive piece of news about the Brad Richards sweepstakes:

    NYP_Brooksie
    @LA_theRiver No. Richards is not coming to NY.

    Brooks said in a follow up tweet:

    He was [apart of the Rangers' plans] but it doesn’t seem as if interest was mutual.

    The three main players in the Richards sweepstakes have long rumoured to be Toronto, Tampa Bay and New York. According to Brooks, you can all but rule out the Rangers. We know Richards would love a return to Tampa Bay, where he never wanted to leave in the first place but in February of 2008 was shipped out due to the Oren Koules and Len Barrie fiasco. With Tampa Bay coming off an impressive playoff run and hoping to take it a step further next season, the timing, cap considerations aside, seems perfect.

    “Obviously, fitting in with Tampa wouldn’t be an issue because of my history here,” Richards said. “In this salary-cap world, you have to be aware of each organization’s dynamics. Maybe you couldn’t get top dollar (in Tampa) that you might get somewhere else, but you consider other things.

    “I’ve got friends and people I play golf with who constantly hammer me about coming back to Tampa. Even if I tried, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So yes, it’s there. I’d love to see it progress. But what’s going to happen? Who knows?”
    -TBO.com

    To what extent Richards would accept less money to return to Tampa Bay seems to be the big question – The Bolts will expand their budget for next season (presumably at or near the cap ceiling, they spent around $50 million this year in player salary) but have 2010-11 playoff dynamos Sean Bergenheim (UFA) and Teddy Purcell (RFA) to resign, don’t have a goaltender signed past the end of this month, and have a minor contract to sort out with some guy named Steven Stamkos. It’s hard to envision Tampa Bay committing 7M + to each of Stamkos, Lecavalier and Richards down the middle.

    Burke appears to be willing to go all in on Brad Richards; overpaying for the PEI native on the open market at no cost asset-wise is Plan A in solving a number one center problem that has no in-house solution ready yet.  Richards doesn’t “just” fill the number one center need; he’s the left-handed playmaker Phil Kessel has been waiting for since he and Marc Savard parted ways, and the quarterback the Leafs‘ powerplay has needed since the Kaberle trade. Without putting too much weight into a single player’s stock, he’s a neat, simple answer to the Leafs‘ most pressing needs. It will be interesting to see how many of Burke’s cardinal sins when it comes to player contacts (i.e. NTCs, contract length) he’s willing to look the other way on to make it happen. The Maple Leafs appear to have the ability to outbid Tampa Bay here, and Richards for his part sounded far from opposed to the idea last November when Dallas visited Toronto.

    We could see the Los Angeles Kings among others enter these sweepstakes as well. The Kings are still looking for a big name forward after losing out on the Kovalchuk sweepstakes, and Richards could be their man as the big ticket free agent forward of the summer. This could come down to Richards deciding between the relative anonymity of a market like LA or a great hockey city but highly scrutinized hotbed like Toronto.

    As for any potential rights trade, the words of Richards’ agent Pat Morris appear to tell all. While Dallas didn’t hand out the no-trade clause originally, the smart move for Richards is to exercise the rights given to him by his contract and control his own destiny. Personally I don’t expect this stance from Richards and his agent to change.

    “I’m not aware of another player in this situation who has waived his no-trade clause, and I think there is a reason for that,” Morris said. “Accepting a move to another team creates an obligation, and you have to be pretty sure about that obligation. I think Brad has to do what’s best for himself and keep his options open.”

    Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. Contact him at [email protected]