Larry Brooks says word on the street is that unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Brad Richards is looking for a hefty long-term contract.
I don’t begrudge Richards taking a payday, but I do have a suggestion.
Don’t go for a cap-busting contract.
Instead, consider a long-term, cap-friendly deal that will see him make decent money, but will also allow his future team to surround him with talent.
Because once a team commits $7 million plus to a single player (a single player with possible concussion-related issues), they suddenly run out of personnel options. Bad signings become permanent and it becomes challenging for a now struggling team to bring in help.
Richards can help his future team avoid that pitfall by taking a smaller contract. Obviously, he’ll make less money, but it will also increase his chances of winning another Stanley Cup.
Richards’ last contract was pretty steep and it wound up getting him traded from Tampa Bay to Dallas (after Tampa ran into financial problems and Richards waived his no trade clause). His last two seasons in Dallas saw him regain his dominant form, but there are lots of concerns about how he’ll rebound from the concussion he suffered in February. That concussion is on the mind of every GM considering Richards. Richards giving teams a salary break could go a long way toward making GMs comfortable signing him.
Of course, there’s probably enough interest in Richards that he doesn’t have to give any concerned GMs a break. The market will probably force GMs to ignore the concussion and to take a chance on Richards.
But imagine what it says to future teammates if Richards does take less than what the market is offering. What does it tell a team when the top unrestricted free agent takes less money to play somewhere?
It tells his team that he’s serious about wanting to play in that city and it tells his teammates he wants to make sure there’s enough money to pay everyone the team needs to win.
Brad Richards isn’t a flashy player. He’s never scored more than 30 goals in a season. He’s a strong, two-way player who knows how to bring out the best in his teammates. He’s a top-line center who thrives in the playoffs. It’s a great skill set, but it’s not always a sexy skill set. When he’s the team’s highest paid player, if things go wrong, people are going to start pointing their fingers at him. That’s what happened in Tampa, where it was felt he wasn’t playing up to his salary, and I can’t imagine it won’t happen someplace else, the second Richards’ production dips.
Richards can take as much money as he can get, hoping he plays well enough to be considered deserving of his astronomical salary.
Or, he can take less than the market might give him and show his future team he’s about winning and not about earning. He’ll make less money but I suspect he’ll have a much higher quality of life.
And if he’s on the fence about this, he might consider giving Chris Drury or Sheldon Souray a call. They might be helpful guys to consult on this issue.