It's official. The New York Rangers have won the Brad Richards' sweepstakes.
Despite some apparently excellent presentations by teams such as the Los Angeles Kings, the gem of free agency this year has decided to take his talents to the Big Apple.
Surely you saw the LeBron James joke coming?
Regardless, now that Richards' contract has been signed, and he is officially a member of the Blueshirts, it's time for me to show why bringing Richards to New York was a great move.
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It's been a long time that the Rangers have had such a offensively potent top-line center.
Richards is without a doubt a No. 1 type of center and was easily the head of his class of free agents this year.
Whilst Brandon Dubinsky and Derek Stepan are good, neigh, great players, neither of them are true No. 1 guys.
This week, I've been congratulating the Columbus Blue Jakcets on finally filling their two biggest needs: top line center and an offensive defenseman.
I am very glad to see that the Rangers have followed the Blue Jackets' lead by going into free agency and filling the largest hole on their roster.
There are also other benefits of Richards being a true No. 1 center....
In the summer of 2009, the New York Rangers signed another marquee player: Marian Gaborik.
His first year on Broadway was a huge success as he notched 44 goals whilst developing excellent chemistry with line mate, center Vaclav Prospal.
However, Gabby then struggled this year, scoring only 22 goals with a big reasons of his struggles being because Prospal missed a large chunk of the year.
On his day, Gaborik is one of the top snipers in the NHL but he is just that, a sniper.
Marian isn't known for creating his own chances and needs a capable center to feed him the puck.
With the signing of Richards, Gaborik not only gets one of the top playmakers in the NHL right now who will provide him with plenty of scoring oppportunities but also a center who can finish off any chances Gabroik himself creates.
With a top center on his line, look for Gaborik to hit 40 goals again this year.
There is a reason Mr. Richards was the top free agent this year.
Excluding injury hit seasons (where he played less than 60 games), Richards has recorded more than 60 points eight times out of a possible nine, 70-plus points six times and 90 or more points twice.
Those stats alone show that Richards is capable of putting up points, and that's without mentioning he has scored 716 points in 772 games. That's 0.92746114 points a game without considering he's also played on some pretty poor Lightning and Stars' teams.
Richards can score and set up and has done so big in the past. If he can continue that production, the Rangers are laughing.
CEO of the Garden was one of many responsible in helping get Richards to join the Rangers
This one is more of a reflection on how the Rangers are viewed more than how Brad Richards is.
Numbers coming from TSN, PuckDaddy and every other hockey source on the web were saying that Richards left "large money" on the table to sign with New York.
It seems that Richards was offered more money by at least Calgary but instead chose to go to the Rangers.
I mean, it wasn't that much money. He is still getting around $60 million over the next nine years, but I guess it shows (to a very small degree) it's not just about money in sports.
Plus, it's a great ego boost for James Dolan, Glenn Sather and others to say that Brad came to the Rangers for less than what his other suitors offered him.
I'll be honest, the NHL is heading down a dark path.
Richards now joins Ilya Kovalachuk and Christian Ehrhoff as recent examples of large, front-loaded contracts which specialize in cap circumnavigation.
For example, Brad makes $50 million of his total (roughly) $60 million contract in the first five years.
That is not good.
But what is?
For once, GM Glen Sather got things right.
Richards cap hit is only $6.5 million throughout his contract.
Whilst that may not be anywhere near decent in seven or eight years time, right now it's great.
To put it into perspective, last year Richards' cap hit was $7.8 million, and the cap hit from his latest contact was estimated to be around $7-$8 million again.
With this contract, Richards' cap hit has decreased by $1.3 million to play the same role on a different team.
It's even better as the NHL salary cap has now increased to roughly $64 milllion which gives the Rangers even more cap room.
One of the best things about Richards' reduced cap hit is the fact the Rangers now have more room than expected to re-sign their remaining RFAs.
Before the signing of Richards was revealed, the Blueshirts announced they had re-signed Ruslan Fedeotenko to a one-year, $1.4 million contract.
With that number, the Rangers now have roughly $16 million to re-sign any other players they want for the upcoming season.
I have already wrote about who the Rangers should re-sign this year and future captain Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky head that list.
Along with Dubs and Cally, Artem Anisimov, Brian Boyle, Michael Sauer and Steve Eminger should all be re-signed.
I have Dubinsky and Callahan pegged as signing for about $3.5-$4 million apiece leaving about $8-$9 million to re-sign the other four for about $2 million each other.
It definitely helps that the Cap has gone up for this season, but New York have added their prize acquisition and left enough money to re-sign the heart and soul of their team.
Take notes Philadelphia.
At last year's trade deadline, the only splash the Rangers made was to trade for Florida D-man Bryan McCabe to try and boost the flailing powerplay.
It didn't work out.
Whilst it was the right move by GM Sather, McCabe was a colossal bust, especially in the playoffs where he couldn't do anything to help the Rangers' anaemic powerplay against the Washington Capitals.
In Richards, the team not only gets their top-line center, but a powerplay quarterback as well.
The quarterback role was developed predominately in Dallas where Richards was known for his lethal slap shot.
In 2009-10 alone, Richards was second in the league with 40 points on the powerplay which should drastically improved the Rangers' 18th ranked powerplay from last year.
Also, being the playmaker he is, it's easy to assume that his teamates on the powerplay will be seeing improved chances to score, pushing their goal totals up as well.
Apart from Michael Del Zotto who may not even make the team this year, the Rangers have no offensive defenceman on their roster which directly impacts their powerplay.
Now that Richards is playing in the Garden, teams will be more wary against taking penalties against New York lest Richards and the improved powerplay punish them.
Now I don't believe the Rangers are going to follow their stadium-sharing Knicks team's lead and try to sign three marquee stars to help them get further in the playoffs.
But having two nationally recognized All-Stars on your roster (Henrik Lundqvist is the other) is very beneficial to the Rangers.
Being a top-10 player in the whole of the NHL, a huge chunk of Rangers fan will want some sort of Brad Richards 19 merchandise whether it be posters, T-shirts or jerseys.
And while I doubt $60 million worth of Richards' merchandise will be sold, a lot of money is going to come from him.
Not only that attendance will also improve.
Being an original six team, New York have never had any issues with attendance, last year ranking 13th in the league with fans filling 99.3 percent of the Garden, but the lure of seeing King Henrik manning the posts and Richards skating through center ice will be enough to lure on-the-fence fans to come and watch their Rangers team play.
More attendance also equals more money.
Not only that but there is even the chance of a better television contract from the MSG network seeing as there will be more people tuning into to see New York play due to their new star.
As the phrase goes, "You have to spend money to make money," and you've done just that James Dolan.
Mike Rupp was the Blueshirts' first signing this offseason
Without a doubt, the biggest move of the Rangers' offseason will be signing Brad Richards.
Yet as I've already mentioned, the team could not even be finished.
Before Richards, New York signed Mike Rupp to provide further depth on the wing for the team and re-signed Ruslan Fedotenko.
The contract of Mr. Richards means we have enough money to re-sign our restricted free agents, but if we chose not to (for whatever reason), we'd still have money to go out and sign players.
Brad does fill the team's biggest need and I don't see any scenario where we'd need to sign another free agent but the possibility is there.
If our RFAs take less money than expected, we could still have $2-3$ million in cap room.
However, that is just a bonus.
Mr Sather, you have signed the crown jewel of free agency to a fantastic deal for everyone involved, well done.
Now please just make sure you re-sign Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.
Lewis Hughes is an aspiring writer on nearly any sport. Follow him on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/lah_8