Brad Richards, the alleged “prize” of the 2011 free agency pool, surprised no one Saturday when he agreed to a nine-year contract to play for the New York Rangers.
Richards will be heading to broadway for $60 million, with an annual cap hit of around $6.667 million. Richards had spent Friday talking with the Kings, Maple Leafs and Lightning about why their teams and cities would he his best destination, but when it came down to it, none of those teams could offer the same allure—or cash—as New York.
The Rangers got what they needed in Richards: a No. 1 center who could run their first-unit powerplay. But one has to wonder if he is worth $60 million. He did tally 77 points in 72 games with Dallas last season and has 716 points in 772 career games. But the 11-year veteran has never had a season in which he has scored at least 30 goals or 100 points. His best season came during the 2009-10 campaign with Dallas when he netted 24 goals and 67 helpers. Richards, who also has a Stanley Cup ring and is a former Conn Smythe winner, will undoubtedly make the Rangers a better team. And presuming that he will be placed on the top line alongside Marian Gaborik, that instantly makes the duo one of the scariest in the league.
Gaborik was the Richards of the 2009 free agency draft pool, but he has fallen short of expectations, especially in 2011 when he tallied just 48 points. Now the target has been shifted to the back of Richards. Having played in Tampa Bay and then Dallas, Richards has never had to encounter the same sort of scrutiny that he will face in the Big Apple.
Will he be able to perform under the pressure?