Brad Richards ready, Zach Parise talks contract, John Tavares loves Long Island
NEW YORK -- For Brad Richards, there is a comforting sense of déjà vu as he prepares for his first season as a New York Ranger.
Among the factors in his decision to sign with the Blueshirts as the top unrestricted free agent this past offseason was a chance to reunite with head coach John Tortorella, with whom Richards won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay in 2004.
"It's going to be back to the old days again, but I've won with him and know that it works," Richards told ESPN.com during the NHL's annual Player Media Tour on Thursday. "Not sure every day will be great and rosy, but in the end, I know that when everybody buys in with what he's doing and trying to do, it's a good culture to be involved in."
Richards, 31, believes there are more than a few similarities between that 2004 Lightning club and what he senses even in his brief time in New York.
"It's a good young team," he said. "I don't know if it's the same as Tampa, but I'm probably saying that more because Torts took over a young team and kind of grew it, but it's the same feel.
"I don't feel old and don't want to say I'm old, but [there are] a lot of young enthusiastic kids that you can tell they're all really close to each other. It's a good, close-knit locker room and [we have a] great goaltender and it's kind of similar. Hopefully we just keep improving the way we did when I played in Tampa."
The goaltender of whom Richards spoke, Henrik Lundqvist, is certainly enthusiastic about Richards' arrival in Manhattan.
"I was excited. I think management's done a great job of keeping the core from last year," Lundqvist told ESPN.com. "And now we added a little edge to the team, a high-skill player, and I think Brad is going to play a big role for us this year. When I heard he signed, I think everybody on the team was excited that he picked us because he had a few options. It's going to be exciting to see how he fits in."
More from Thursday's interviews
• New Jersey Devils star Zach Parise got engaged over the summer, as well as entering into a contract of another kind after signing a one-year, $6 million deal with the team on the eve of arbitration. The deal could see the team's most important player become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
"It got to be pretty stressful," Parise told ESPN.com on Thursday. "I had booked a flight and getting ready to go to arbitration, which I didn't think was going to happen, and finally we figured it out toward the end. And we're going to continue talking like we said after we signed … and try and figure something out after the New Year."
But until a deal is signed, the specter of departing the team that drafted him with the 17th overall pick in 2003 -- and the potential that he could be dealt if the Devils don't think they can sign him long-term -- will hang over Parise and the team.
Still, the former U.S. Olympian, who missed all but 13 games last season with a knee injury, insisted he doesn't think it will distract him from his focus.
"I don't want to say easy, but I think once you get into the rhythm of the season, I think that for me personally, that's something that I'll be able to kind of put aside and just play," the 27-year-old said. "I don't foresee it being a problem. I think it'll be professional and everything will be fine and it won't hinder my play at all."
But has Parise considered the prospect of hitting the open market next summer?
"I think, just in particular, after missing all of last season, my biggest concern was this season," he said. "Now that I'm healthy and more focused on this season, which all the guys are on our team, just concentrate on this season and go from there."
• If it seems inevitable that a cloud of uncertainty will follow Parise and the Devils into this new season, another New York-area star, John Tavares, is doing his best to put to rest any question about where he will be playing in the future.
The former No. 1 overall draft pick of the New York Islanders told ESPN.com he is committed to being an Islander even as the team's fight to build a new arena remains in limbo on Long Island.
Entering his third NHL season, Tavares can become a restricted free agent next summer.
"In terms of my contract being up this year, I don't have any plans on leaving or what could happen," Tavares said. "I'm committed to Long Island and the Islanders. They've been great to me. We have a great bunch of guys and I'd love to be a part of turning this around from where it was and bringing us back to credibility, respectability and being a team that's constantly in the playoffs and competing for the Stanley Cup."