The Toronto Maple Leafs and Brad Richards may have just become this year's version of the Tomas Kaberle trade rumours. After weeks of speculation, many in Leafs Nation are looking ahead to next season and praying that Brad Richards is the club's next top-line centre.
With ownership struggling to sell the Dallas Stars, GM Joe Nieuwendyk isn't even sure of his own future, let alone the star centre. Of course Nieuwendyk would love nothing better than to lock up his centre long term, the realities of the situation may come into play.
“When the time comes, if that’s an option, Toronto is always a No. 1 hockey destination,” says Richards when asked about playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. “It would be great being a Canadian playing in Toronto but we’re not even close to that bridge yet and, like I said, I’m focused here.”
While Richards enjoys Dallas and is focused on finishing the season, he isn't afraid of testing out unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.
“I don’t really care because I’m in total control of what can happen,” says Richards. “I sleep well at night with that. It would be different if I didn’t have control and you were wondering every day if you’re going to be traded or not.”
As I said in a previous article, signing Richards would provide the Leafs with a legitimate 90-point scorer—something the Leafs haven't had since 1993-1994 season. Scoring 111 points, Leaf icon Doug Gilmour was the last Leaf with numbers comparable to Richards.
If Richards has proven one thing, it's that he has heart. His run to the Stanley Cup finals with Tampa back in 2004 was awe-inspiring. It was also Conn Smythe worthy. What better way to pay tribute to that trophy than to come play for the organization from which that trophy derives both its name and its design?
Cap-wise, the Leafs have the room to sign Richards. He has shown he is willing to take a five-year deal before with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Given the fact that Burke doesn't like deals any longer than five years, can a deal still be made? And more importantly, will Richards even make it to unrestricted free agency?
Only one thing is for sure, if Richards does make it to free agency, he is definitely interested in signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs.