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Brad Richards is a hockey junkie.
|Brad Richards had 28 goals and 49 assists in 72 games with the Stars this past season.|
When he's not busy being one of the world's best centers, the pride of Prince Edward Island keeps an eye on whatever else is going on around the NHL, just like any media member or passionate fan. As such, July 1 has been an interesting spectacle for him over the years.
But now, for the first time in his career, he's actually going to get to participate in it. Never before has he been an unrestricted free agent.
"You always keep an eye on that first day of July, you see what teams do and where players go. It's always interesting," Richards told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "There's always something that surprises you. That's why I want to keep everything open-minded. I've talked to people that have been through it and there's always things that come out of nowhere and you want to be open-minded to receive all that stuff. It's probably my last contract, so you want to set yourself up where you have a chance to win and feel comfortable."
Richards, 31, is in good hands with veteran agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports, who has huddled a few times with Richards over the past few weeks, including Tuesday in Tampa, and worked up analytic charts of what may await them July 1.
GM Joe Nieuwendyk reiterated to ESPN.com on Tuesday that the Dallas Stars are still hoping to convince Richards to waive his no-movement clause so they can trade him this week in order to recoup some asset value. While Richards didn't comment on that specifically, it's becoming clearer with each passing day that he and Morris are figuring, why should they limit themselves to one team now via trade when they could have 10 teams knocking at their door July 1?
Richards is the No. 1 center on the UFA market, and it's not even close in what is otherwise a thin year. Los Angeles, Toronto and the New York Rangers are just some of the teams that we're told will make a bid.
"Every day, it gets closer. I'm starting to think about it a lot," Richards said. "It's a very unique time, but also a little bit stressful. It's going to be a very important decision. It's exciting in a good way. It's a big moment. It's starting to hit me that it's getting close, whereas a month ago, I would sit back and not really worry about it."
Jaromir Jagr continues to mull over his future.
"We had more discussion yesterday with Detroit and Pittsburgh," Jagr's agent, Petr Svoboda, told ESPN.com on Wednesday morning. "Jags may be talking with [Pens GM] Ray Shero and maybe [owner] Mario [Lemieux] today, so hopefully we'll be further along after that. Hopefully we'll have some news, one way or another, soon."
Having said that, Svoboda didn't think a resolution was coming Wednesday, so the waiting will continue for a bit. In the meantime, we asked Svoboda about the widespread theory among some hockey observers that the talks with Detroit and Pittsburgh are all about extracting more money from a KHL team in Russia.
"It's absolutely not true," said Svoboda. "I've heard that, but it's not true. I mean, there's always that option if things don't work out with [the NHL], but this is not about trying to get more money from [the KHL]. I know Jags wants to come back to the NHL and for the right reasons."
(It should be noted that Jagr has a different person representing him in his KHL talks.)
Another quick Jagr note: Some Bruins fans via Twitter were asking us whether the Cup champs might be that third, mysterious team showing interest in Jagr. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, via text, said "No" to us when we asked him that Wednesday. For that matter, the Kings, Canucks, Blackhawks and Sabres also told us they're not involved on the Jagr front (again, because fans were asking us).
The great Teemu Selanne continues to mull over his future.
"Teemu hasn't decided whether he's going to play or not," Selanne's veteran agent Don Baizley told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "If he plays, it's going to be in Anaheim."
Selanne will be UFA July 1 and turns 41 two days later, but he looked 31 this past season in racking up 80 points (31-49) in 73 games. The Finnish Flash's decision will be based on his health (he's had that wonky knee for years) and his passion that remains for the game. The latter is not an issue, we know that.
Imagine a UFA goalie on the market who sported a .926 save percentage and 2.28 goals-against average this past regular season, and is only 28 years old?
Well, that's Ray Emery.
He was limited to 10 regular-season games (going 7-2-0) and a first-round playoff exit against Nashville, but Emery's story is well known by now. Through hard work and dedication, he bounced back from what should have been a career-ending hip injury and found his way back to the NHL this past season.
So now he's UFA July 1.
"I'm not sure," Emery told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I just try to take care of my end and hopefully there'll be a good option out there for me. As far as goalies go, it looks like things will shift out there. Hard to know where I will fit in with all that, but we'll see."
His agent, J.P. Barry of CAA Sports, hasn't totally closed the door on the Ducks yet, although with Jonas Hiller and Dan Ellis under contract, it's hard to know where Emery would fit in there.
"I'll be discussing Ray with [Ducks GM] Bob Murray this week to see what their plans are," Barry told ESPN.com. "But barring anything there, it looks like we'll go to July 1 to find a team for Ray."
The obvious concern for any NHL team is Emery's health.
"I took a few weeks off after the season ended and I felt amazing after that," said Emery. "My training is going amazing right now. I'm really excited to get back this year. I'm not too worried about impressing anyone when I find a place to play because I have no concerns [on my health]. I feel great."
"He's working out every day and he's in incredible shape," added Barry.
• Paul Kariya didn't play this past season, but kept his options open in terms of possibly coming back. We're hearing that's likely not going to happen. While he feels fine physically, we're told he's likely going to take the safe route and retire because of his history of concussions. If that's his final decision, hats off to a tremendous career.
• Talks between pending UFA blueliner Kevin Bieksa and the Canucks are progressing. The betting money is a deal gets done.
• Barry, who represents restricted free agent Andrew Ladd, hopes to meet with Winnipeg GM Kevin Cheveldayoff this week in Minnesota.
"It'll be our first time, formally, to talk about Andrew," Barry told ESPN.com on Wednesday. Ladd has until July 5 to file for salary arbitration.
• There has been a lot of speculation Wednesday that a deal in principle was in place between Ilya Bryzgalov and the Flyers, but that because of cap issues (tagging rules), the deal would have to wait until July 1 to be announced. A Flyers source told ESPN.com on Wednesday morning there was still no deal and both sides were still far enough apart that it could go either way. Surely, however, it'll get done. Where else would Bryzgalov be as good of a fit as in goalie-starved Philly?