Brad Richards will not be a Dallas Star next season.
And this could prove too devastating for Dallas hockey to handle. But that's another story all together.
While Stars fans are forced to contemplate a future without their best forward from the last three seasons, fans of several other NHL teams saw hope in the report that Richards would not be signed by Dallas.
Toronto Maple Leaf fans are wondering how deadly Phil Kessel could be with a center of this caliber (and maybe also if Brian Burke can see the future).
Suddenly the New York Rangers are conjuring up dreams of Richards leading them back to another Stanley Cup, Mark Messier-style.
I say dream on, sports fans.
Here are five reasons why Brad Richards will once again be playing in Florida for the 2011-2012 season and beyond.
There isn't a better way to determine where a player wants to be than to look at where he spends his free time.
So where does Richards hang out during the offseason?
Where does Richards train during the offseason?
Where does Richards still rent property to live in during the offseason?
I think you see where I am going with this. Maybe I'm reading too much into the fact he spends so much of his free time where he used to play hockey, but I don't think so. He's a pro athlete, and a highly paid one at that. Richards could spend his time anywhere.
He could spend his time training in California like so many players do. Or climbing a mountain in Europe. Spending time with his family up north. But no. He resides, relaxes, and trains in Florida. Which wouldn't be a big factor.
Unless a particular team in Florida may be interested in having Richards back.
For whatever reason, New York sports fans across the spectrum expect athletes to take less money just for the opportunity to play under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden (or where ever).
The catch is a simple one: not all athletes dream of seeing their name in the marquee.
Brad Richards has shown a preference for playing in cities with less media attention and scrutiny. It's well known that he wanted to stay as a Star—ownership was the only hurdle to his return. In the end, it proved to be too high a jump.
His preference was to stay in Texas, where hockey is a second thought on the best of nights. And he didn't take a hometown discount to stay there.
I'm not saying that I am a psychic and can read the mind of Richards, but through his actions and comments, I think it's clear that being the center of attention (ironically) isn't the most important thing to him.
Heck, there have even been some rumors floating around that he may want to play in Carolina.
He could end up playing for the Rangers, sure. But, as New York Post writer Larry Brooks wrote earlier this week, the asking price for Richards will be hanging at or around 7 million dollars a year.
The magic number for the Rangers, cap-wise, has to be below that.
According to capgeek.com, the Rangers have 18 million dollars to sign eleven roster players, including the likes of Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Bryan McCabe,
That may be cutting it a little to close for the Blue Shirts to depend on landing Richards.
I know that many view having a history between coach and pursued player as a wild card, but I don't think that it'll be enough to push his number down.
This story broke in February, and I don't think it has received nearly enough attention as far as Richards' destination goes.
Fans in Toronto—and rightfully so—feel they are only a few moves away from being able to make some serious noise in the playoffs. But those are a few large, expensive moves. One of them being a number one center.
Of course Brad Richards fits the bill.
He is exactly that. A number one center. A guy that fans love, who plays the game with guts and passion. The Richards jersey could easily pop up in the top ten highest sellers of the season if he signed in Toronto.
Richards may not want to play there.
According to Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun, Richards doesn't have an interest in suiting up for the Leafs.
Per the article: "The free agent to-be has told an old Tampa source that he has no real interest in playing in Toronto, if he, in fact, becomes a free agent come July... When asked about Toronto, he apparently said nothing but shook his head."
Stranger things have happened than a player changing his mind for dollars, but rotoworld has reported that Richards turned down some pretty sizable contracts from the Stars organization. So it may not be about money for this guy. He has already made over 50 million dollars in his career.
It is becoming clearer that Richards wants another shot at the cup. While turning into a cornerstone in a rebuilding effort may seem like an exciting opportunity to some players, Richards may feel he has passed that particular stage in his career.
Just calling it like I see it: The Lightning are closer to being a Cup contender than any other team that could seriously have a chance at landing Richards. And that may be what is most important to him: Winning a Cup with his old teammates and friends.
Toronto is still in the middle of a rebuild, and may still be a few pieces away from taking a serious, I-totally-saw-that-coming, run at the Finals. They are in fine shape, but they appear to be still a few seasons away from that ultimate goal.
Richards isn't getting any younger (I don't think) and while his play hasn't slipped just yet, his prime could come to a close here in the next three or four years.
A guy like this wants to contribute on the top lines to a Championship-caliber team for as long as possible. Let's be honest: If you had to pick between three or four shots at a Cup with Tampa, or one or two with Toronto, which would you pick?
Without all the outside factors, one might say Toronto. Or one may say Tampa. But there are other factors at play here, and if winning a Championship is the number one priority for Richard—and that seems to be the case—then the Lightning are his best shot.
New York is always scraping their way to a playoff birth, but the odds of them downing a team like the Penguins, Flyers, or Bruins is still a bit of a jump. They, too, need a few more pieces to truly contend.
Would Richards want to be one of those pieces?
Maybe, but Tampa has already assembled a team capable of making a run by defeating the Capitals and the depleted Penguins.
Even Richards himself took notice. The St. Petersburg Times reported that he had this to say on the matter: "Obviously, it's back on the map. It's going in the right direction."
That's another (selling) point for the Lightning.
And why would he?
His best friends are there, and it was in Tampa that his career took off.
If comments he made earlier this week are any indication, Richards has every intention of listening to the Steve Yzerman, should he come calling.
He was quoted in a St. Petersburg Times article stating the following:
"I never really wanted to leave Tampa. So, obviously, on July 1, if they talk to me, it's going to be something I'll listen to because of my history there."
As the same newspaper states in another story, however, money could be the biggest hurdle to reuniting the center with his former Tampa Bay teammates. But as I wrote earlier, it certainly seems that he isn't hitting free agency looking for the biggest paycheck.
Richards is keeping his options open.
And if at the end of the day he has an 8-year, $7 million offer from the Maple Leafs, a 5-year, $6.5 million offer from the Rangers, and a 5-year, $6.5 million offer from Tampa Bay, who would you bet on him picking?
Lightning fans and management shouldn't count on the hometown discount, but if he was going to give it to anybody, why wouldn't it be Tampa Bay? This may not be as far a cry as some people think.
Maybe this is what is holding up Steven Stamkos talks. Maybe this is Yzerman asking Stammer if he'd take a million less to bring in Richards to center him all the way to multiple goal-scoring titles. If Stamkos took a little less, and they let Gagne walk, this is a deal that could happen.
One way or the other, Brad Richards will be fielding offers from at least half the League come July 1st. Some with money. Some with term. Some with both. But I think Richards will find the third intangible—the chance to win a Stanley Cup—combined with money and term with the Lightning.