The New York Rangers have reportedly decided to use a compliance buyout on veteran center Brad Richards. He was scheduled to make nearly $7 million per year through the 2019-20 season.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN passed along word of the unsurprising decision by the reigning Eastern Conference champions:
Brad Richards has been bought out by the New York Rangers, source says— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 20, 2014
The Rangers commented on Richards' release:
"We would like to thank Brad for everything he has done for our team on and off the ice during his time here." - Glen Sather #NYR— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
"This was an extremely difficult decision to make because of how much respect I have for him (Brad Richards)." - Glen Sather #NYR— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
"Brad's leadership and guidance for our young players was invaluable to the organization." - Glen Sather #NYR— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
"We are grateful to have had the professionalism and experience he brought as an example for our team to follow." - Glen Sather #NYR— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
"Brad has been a very good player for us and an even better person. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors.” - Glen Sather #NYR— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
Richards offered his thoughts as well:
"I've met many new friends, excellent teammates and staff and I have memories that I will cherish for a lifetime." - Brad Richards #NYR— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
“Tough last few days ... I loved being a Ranger and living in New York and playing at MSG in front of great fans." - Brad Richards #NYR— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) June 20, 2014
Chris Johnston of Rogers Sportsnet notes Richards will receive more than $20 million over the next 12 years as part of the transaction:
Brad Richards receives $20.667-million over the next 12 years from his #NYR compliance buyout, including signing bonuses.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 20, 2014
LeBrun further broke down the payout:
Richards, 34, had six years remaining on his contract, paying him an average of $6.67 million per season. He signed a $60 million, nine-year deal with the Rangers back in the summer of 2011.
As per the buyout rules, Richards will get two thirds of the $19 million remaining in salary (paid out over the next 12 years) on his deal plus the full $8 million still owed in signing bonuses which are due over the next three summers. So in the end, once everything is paid out, Richards will have been paid about $51 million in total (made just over $2 million in salary last season during lockout year out of his $4 million salary).
Richards scored 51 points while playing in all 82 games during the regular season. The forward added 12 more during the team's run to the Stanley Cup final. He also provided valuable leadership during his three seasons with the Rangers.
At 34, he could have still provided a couple more seasons of solid production for New York. He wasn't playing at the same level he was during his prime with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars, but he was still a reliable No. 2 center.
He even drew praise from Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault after the Final ended and the buyout talk took center stage, as pointed out by Tal Pinchevsky of NHL.com:
AV today on Richards: "I'm a big fan of Brad Richards. I've said it from Day 1. He's a classy individual there. We'll see what happens."— Tal Pinchevsky (@TalPinch) June 16, 2014
In the end, the Rangers were forced to make the smart financial decision. Even if Richards gave New York two more really good seasons, there would have still been four more years left on his deal where he'd be taking up key cap space.
Did the Rangers make the right decision on Richards?
This offseason also marks the last chance of teams to use their compliance buyouts, which wipes the contract clean from commitments to the salary cap. A combination of those factors led the Rangers to let Richards go even though they are now forced to replace him.
Looking ahead, Richards should attract plenty of interest on the free-agent market, albeit with most teams offering short-term deals. The good news for him is that he'll still be getting money from the Rangers, which could allow him to join a contender for a lesser price if he wants to chase a Cup.
The Rangers still have several more roster decisions to make in the weeks ahead in terms of free agents, both of the restricted and unrestricted variety. By the time they take the ice for the opener next season the roster could look quite a bit different.