Is the End Near for Brad Richards After New York Rangers Scratch Him for Game 4?

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IMay 23, 2013

Richards looks up to the rafters, where he will be seated tonight.
Richards looks up to the rafters, where he will be seated tonight.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

According to Dan Rosen of, New York Rangers $12 million man Brad Richards is a healthy scratch for Game 4 of the 2013 Stanley Cup semifinals. Richards was the Rangers' playoff hero in 2012 when he was dubbed "Mr. 6.6" because of his clutch goal against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Oh how the mighty have fallen, and the clock now starts to tick a little louder as Richards' New York minutes appear to be ticking down.

At the time when Richards was signed, the move was brilliant. It was a masterful acquisition for the team. The Blueshirts coveted a bona fide first-line center, and Richards was their man. He had the credentials, the intangibles and he had a proven history under Rangers bench boss John Tortorella. However, in year one, Richards struggled.

He was looked at as the perfect center to pair with sniper Marian Gaborik. The pairing, however, of Richards and Gaborik was short-lived, and it ended permanently when Gaborik was shipped to Columbus at the 2013 trade deadline.

In the first two months of the 2011-12 season, Richards put up 19 points in 21 games, a respectable amount for a veteran-scoring center. But then he took a nosedive, which was overshadowed because the Rangers were the top team in the Eastern Conference.

In Richards' next 40 games spanning December, January and February, the team's top-line center scored a pedestrian 22 points. Before anyone could start to question Richards and whether or not he was right for New York, he had a breakout month that silenced his naysayers.

During March, Richards tallied 22 points in 17 games. This was only second to the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin. The 2004 Conn Smythe winner would then go on to have a great playoff run in which he scored 15 points in 20 games.

He lived up to the hype as a playoff performer, and it was a decent first year for Broadway Brad. In the summer, the Rangers readdressed their needs and they acquired Rick Nash. This time, the Rangers were sure they had the right winger to play with their No. 1 center.

It isn't necessary to re-hash the 2013 regular season and illustrate how the Rick and Richie combination didn't work out for the Blueshirts.

The Rangers' season ended in disappointment when you consider the expectations that were placed on them earlier this season, but they have advanced to the second round of the playoffs. Yet, if the Rangers' season ends tonight, you can guarantee there will be changes.

The biggest change, as indicated by tonight's healthy scratch, will likely be the buyout of Brad Richards.

Richards is 33 years old and the team can't afford to keep him around if he isn't performing. Kevin Allen of USA Today tweeted that Richards is a likely buyout candidate, and it is hard not to agree with him.

Richards' skills don't make him an effective third- or fourth-line center. He was never fleet of foot, and he is primarily an offensive player. The emergence of Derek Stepan and the acquisition of Derick Brassard in the Gaborik trade have given the Rangers the ability to buy out Richards if they see fit.

The team has some obvious holes—notably scoring depth on the left wing—and freeing up over $6 million in cap space would give the team options. The amnesty buyout gives the Rangers a chance to exonerate themselves from a contract that has just looked worse and worse as the playoffs have progressed.

Yes, they will still be on the hook for $24 million spread out over the next 14 years, but for James Dolan that won't be a problem.

The Rangers now stand at a proverbial crossroads. With their season on the line, they have scratched one of the NHL's most clutch playoff performers in NHL history. They have decided to make a statement, and if they win Game 4, maybe this can spark Richards.

Regardless what happens during the rest of this series, the writing appears to be on the wall and this likely is the end of Richards' tenure as a Blueshirt.