The Toronto Maple Leafs are in dire need of a centre. Potential unrestricted free agent Brad Richards would be a perfect fit. Only trouble is, according to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, signing Richards is unlikely.
To support his claim, Simmons refers to “an old Tampa source” that says Richards has “no real interest in Toronto.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, Richards never said he didn’t want to come to Toronto, he apparently just shook his head when he was asked about Toronto as a possibility.
Word on the street has always suggested that Richards would like to remain a member of the Dallas Stars, but isn’t this almost always what Pending UFA’s say anyways?
Simmons’ article goes on to suggest that Richards top choices would be Dallas, Tampa Bay, the New York Rangers and perhaps even the Carolina Hurricanes.
Of those four teams both Dallas and Tampa may have a hard time signing Richards due to financial concerns and/or cap restraints.
In New York, the Rangers have a total $43,700,000 committed to 15 players next season. That projects into roughly $15,700,000 in cap space, of which Richards would likely command upwards of $8 million.
For the Rangers, the matter would only get worse in 2012-13 where they currently have a total of $25,475,000 invested in just seven players—adding Richards $8 million would bring them to $33,475,000 committed to just eight players, which seems like an awful lot, doesn’t it?
Sure, the Rangers could make a few moves in order to accommodate a move for Richards, but it seems unlikely at best that they would be able to dump salary in this the cap era of the NHL.
In Carolina, the Hurricanes already have an eight million dollar player in Eric Stall. The Hurricanes have a total of eight unrestricted free agents and an additional five restricted free agents to consider this summer.
With a total of $27,190,000 committed to ten players next season, the Hurricanes have the cap space to make the Richards signing work. The issue is, with so many question marks, why would Richards want to go to Carolina?
Which brings us back to the Maple Leafs.
League rules prohibit Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke from publicly stating that he is or will be in pursuit of Richards, but come on, isn’t it obvious?
And, let’s not forget, Richards was approached by the media earlier this season and was asked about a potential trade to Toronto. His response may shock you, as it goes against the latest scuttlebutt:
“When the time comes, if that’s an option, Toronto’s always a No. 1 hockey destination. 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. I have so much respect for Joe Nieuwendyk, and to even talk about other teams is not even close to being fair.”
So which is it? Does Richards’ head shake tell the truth, or is his statement (which suggests he would be honored to be a Toronto Maple Leaf) closer to the truth?
The Reality is, in both cases, Richards has never firmly said he would want to come to Toronto, nor has he said he does not want to come to Toronto.
We can speculate all we want, we can debate the matter until the cows come home, but nobody—not even Richards—really knows what the future holds.
Until next time,
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