- Scott Burnside, NHL
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It is getting down to the wire for free agency's hottest ticket, center Brad Richards.
He won't be chowing down on lobster in his native Prince Edward Island, but eating sandwiches (no doubt high end) in the Mississauga offices of his agent, Pat Morris. But expect the bidding for Richards' services to be fast and furious.
The former playoff MVP is by far the top player available, so where does he land?
Our sense is he wants to land somewhere that will give him a chance to win another Stanley Cup, not just next season but going forward. He'll want a place that has stable ownership (sorry, Dallas and Phoenix), where he can trust the management and coaching team.
And, oh yeah, he'll want money and term.
Given those factors, you can make a case for half a dozen NHL teams, maybe more.
• Toronto? No Cup in the offing there regardless of whatever magic Richards might bring, so that seems like a non-starter no matter what the Leaf Nation faithful believe.
• Buffalo? Interesting after the Sabres signed defenseman Christian Ehrhoff on Thursday afternoon to a long-term deal. This follows on the heels of Buffalo's acquisition of Robyn Regehr and trade-deadline pickup of sniper Brad Boyes. Dark horse? Sure. But with new owner Terry Pegula dramatically changing the culture in Buffalo, it represents an interesting option.
• The Rangers are an option, too, given Richards' history with coach John Tortorella. The team has a strong, young blue line and solid goaltending but is more than one signing away from a Cup run.
• We always liked Washington as a quiet suitor for Richards, but after the Brooks Laich signing (six years, $27 million), it's hard to imagine Richards fitting in unless the Caps can somehow move a player like Alexander Semin or Mike Green.
• Of course, there's Richards former NHL home in Tampa. Is there room for Richards, Steven Stamkos, whom Lightning GM Steve Yzerman is trying to bring under contract as we speak, and captain Vincent Lecavalier's monster contract?
Don't see it, but we'll find out shortly after noon ET Friday.
8dScott Burnside and Craig Custance