5 fits if Brad Richards leaves Rangers
These decisions are never easy. Not the one to sit Brad Richards in a game the New York Rangers needed to win to extend their season. It's the one that comes next, when the Rangers' season is eventually over.
New York coach John Tortorella's emotional explanation of the decision to make Richards a healthy scratch revealed just how hard those decisions can be. Especially for someone like Tortorella, whose history with Richards goes well beyond their current situation.
"This is a Conn Smythe winner, a guy I've grown up with, a guy that I love as a person and as a player, but I have to make that decision ... so kiss my a-- if you wanna write something different," Tortorella said following the game. "It's not about blaming that guy, and I don't want anyone to pile on. This is my decision and I make it for the hockey club."
And at some point, the next big decision will be made by Rangers management. The salary cap is dropping to $64.3 million next season and according to CapGeek.com, the Rangers currently have $51.5 million committed to 18 players next year. Ryane Clowe is an unrestricted free agent who needs a new deal if the Rangers want to keep their trade deadline addition in New York. A few key restricted free agents such as Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Mats Zuccarello and Ryan McDonagh all need raises.
That cap cushion of roughly $13 million can disappear in a hurry, and that's without making any significant upgrades to the current roster. Upgrades the Rangers could use.
As part of the new CBA, teams get two compliance buyouts, which would allow the Rangers to buy out the remaining seven years in Richards' deal, one that comes with an annual cap hit of $6.66 million.
That frees up cap space but just as important, as colleague Katie Strang pointed out, a compliance buyout would free the Rangers from any possibility of getting hammered by the new Cap Advantage Recapture Rule that would kick in if Richards retired before his contract was done.
Considering the last three years of his deal are worth just $1 million in actual salary per season, retirement may look awfully appealing.
It's a risk the Rangers might not want to take, which makes a summer buyout somewhat more appetizing than the bitter pill it otherwise is. Well, as appetizing as anything that includes paying big money so a talented player and leader can leave the organization and potentially latch on with another.
And that can't be lost in all this. Richards, despite the rapid decline in his skating ability and his ineffectiveness during these playoffs, is still a talented player and contributor.
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