GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- While the New York Rangers are using their final compliance buyout on center Brad Richards it appears to be a fait accompli, coach Alain Vigneault told reporters Monday at breakup day that no decision has been made yet regarding the 34-year-old’s future with the team.
The Rangers are still having organizational meetings, Vigneault said.
Richards has six years remaining on the nine-year, $60 million contract he signed on July 2, 2011. The deal carries an annual cap hit of $6.67 million, and Richards will be 40 by the time it expires.
If Richards were to retire before the final year of the deal in 2019-20, the Rangers would face significant cap penalties based on the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. And coming off its unlikely run to the Stanley Cup finals, New York could use some extra funds with several of its players due for raises in free agency.
Overall, Richards had a strong season in 2013-14, notching 51 points during the regular season and 12 more during the playoffs. But he had just one assist against the Los Angeles Kings in the finals, while posting a minus-4 rating. In the final two games of the series, Richards was demoted to the fourth line.
New York Rangers
“I think if you look at Brad’s overall season, he had a really good year,” Vigneault said. “In the final series, I don’t know if it was a combination of some other guys [who] might have been playing a little better than he was, but we had some decisions to make in Game 4 and Game 5, but his overall play five-on-five and on the power play during the year was very good. I’m very happy with what he brought to the table, veteran player that from Day 1 was a real good extension of the coaching staff in that dressing room. So, I mean I think he should walk away from this season very pleased with how he played, and how he contributed to our team. And as everybody knows, there’s decisions to be made, and we haven’t made those yet. But I’m a big fan of Brad Richards. I’ve said it from Day 1 since I was hired here.”
The Rangers have 11 free agents: defenseman John Moore, defenseman Justin Falk, left winger Chris Kreider, center Derick Brassard and right winger Mats Zuccarello are restricted, while defenseman Anton Stralman, defenseman Raphael Diaz, left winger Benoit Pouliot, center Brian Boyle, center Dominic Moore and right winger Daniel Carcillo are unrestricted.
Stralman ($1.7 million) and Zuccarello ($1.15 million) should be in line for the biggest raises. Stralman, who excelled on the second-pairing alongside Marc Staal, said he’d like to return, but also wants security for his family. The Rangers may not be able to offer him what he wants.
Boyle ($1.7 million) said he’d like an increased role, but Vigneault told him that he loves him in his current role as an ace penalty-killer and rugged fourth-liner. It’s very possible Boyle has played his final game in a Rangers uniform.
“His role on our team is a very important role,” Vigneault said. “I would say in my dealings with Brian he would probably like to have a different role, but his role on our team is a very important role. If he’s satisfied having that role, I would definitely want him back.”