Richards goes to New Yahk – surprise surprise!

In the end Bradley chose? The most likely and usual suspect

The Rangers Get:Brad Richards.

I’m not nostradamus. But I can see where this one’s going.

The New Yahk Rangers just bought instant credibility and a sinecure with a very talented forward Brad Richards.

I’m hoping Brad is happy.

I’m gonna’ do some math.

NHL hockey math.

It’s short it’s sweet and it’s dandy neat.

At 31 Brad – or rather Brad’s agent knows – that he’s approaching that point in his career. The denouement. probablt not trite to say that the truly great players achieve their apogee from 23 to 34. The superhuman body-paparazzi like Chelios or Recchi motor on way past their prime. Geez look at Gordie Howe. Many more. But the many more are the exceptions that prove the rule.

Players are on the flat sides of their careers when the clock starts ticking past 34 or 35.

So let’s give Richards another 4 years – i’m a glass half-full guy. Voila. The New York franchise purchased Richards for 9 years. That’s 40. But let’s balance what could be with the philandering of a team that can logistically afford to spread $60 million over 9 years – which today is a pro forma nod to cap and trade in the NHL.

On the face. I think the Rangers made a pretty good deal. They didn’y come out of this free agency battle unscathed. But a guy like Richards?

Wow we’re looking at some healthy productivity for the next 4 to 5 years. And after that you’ve got a top six forward that has the strength of character to bring some young talent into the fold.

Here’s the down side for the Rangers. Fan expectations are going to be super high this coming season.

I think they’ll be looking for some magic in a bottle of Chablis! But heaven help management or the fans if they’re hoping they just bought themselves another Mark Messier.

Cos’ knuckleheads? A dealio like that? Well that’s a once in a generation dance with destiny.

Anyway what follows is a synopsis of the deal via TSN – The T stands for THE – and rootin’ tootin Scotty Cullen.

Richards, 31, was the prize of the free agent market and because this year’s free agent class was relatively weak, that meant a substantial payday awaited him. Tried and true as a big ticket free agent suitor, willing to spend what it takes to acquire talent, the New York Rangers also had an ace in the hole, head coach John Tortorella.

Not only is Tortorella capable of providing great sound bites, but he also coached the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004 and his leading playoff scorer on that Cup run was none other than Richards, so it’s not even remotely surprising that Richards’ preference was to re-unite with his old coach.

So now that the Rangers have come out on top, spreading $60-million to Richards over nine seasons, what exactly are they getting? Is this more free agent folly along the lines of Scott GomezChris Drury andWade Redden — big ticket moves that ultimately backfired on the Blueshirts?

For starters, Richards’ deal has three years at the end of it that will pay him $1-million per season, which drives down the annual value of the contract for salary cap purposes, but also makes it very easy to buy out Richards in the final years (if he doesn’t retire) when his cap hit is so much higher than the actual cash remaining on the contract.

If Richards plays it out, then it’s not salary cap circumvention, but suspicion understandably exists now regarding future intent.

Leaving that aside, what will the Rangers get in the meantime? From his second season in the league, 2001-2002, Richards has played at least 19:48 per game in each of the last nine seasons, playing 21:43 for the Stars in 2010-2011  Since 2003-2004, Richards has tallied 518 points in 528 games, good enough for .98 points per game, a total which ranks 12th among NHL players that have played at least 500 games over the course of those seven seasons.

As expected, then, Richards can play the role of point-producing centre. It might be a reach to believe it will continue into his late thirties, but for the next four-to-five seasons, it would seem fair to expect 70-plus points from Richards, a total he has surpassed six times in his career. If he finds chemistry with Marian Gaborik, perhaps he could even challenge his career high of 91 points, set in 2005-2006 and tied in 2009-2010.

Richards has scored at least 25 points on the power play eight times in his career, so he ought to help a Rangers power play that ranked 18th in the league last season.

Aside from his point production, though, Richards isn’t a big goal-scorer — last season’s 28 goals represented a high-water mark for his career — and last season’s plus-1 rating was his best since 2003-2004. Richards’ plus-minus has been troubling; in the previous four seasons, he was a combined minus-62, so that may have contributed to his use at even strength last season.

According to www.behindthenet.ca, Richards had the lowest five-on-five quality of competition rating (using relative Corsi numbers, for those into the advanced stats) among any Dallas forward that played more than 50 games. Richards may not be looking at those protected minutes with the Rangers, so it will be interesting to see if his plus-minus can stay on the right side of the ledger.

If anyone, other than Gaborik, might be poised to benefit from Richards’ presence, it could be Brandon Dubinsky, an emerging power forward, who scored a career-high 24 goals and 54 points last season and could be raised to even higher levels with a proven playmaking centre.

From the Stars’ perspective, they’re going to have a sizeable hole to fill after losing their number one centre. Since it’s easier to find scoring help on the wings, perhaps it would make sense to move rising star Jamie Bennto the middle.

The New York Rangers got their man and, despite any misgivings noted, should have a better team next season because of him, but the long-term ramifications of the deal are fraught with risk. A player who is 31 and suffered a concussion last season may not be the safest bet for a long-term contract, but he was the best available on July 1, so the disparity between supply and demand for quality point-producing centres results in an inflated contract value and term.

To wit, the Rangers reportedly didn’t even offer Richards the most money, so there is little room to complain about the Rangers’ largesse. If the Calgary Flames were willing to spend more, doesn’t that suggest that the market for Brad Richards dictated a relatively fair price for his contract under the circumstances?

Now that he’s signed, the contract isn’t what matters so much. Richards’ production is what matters to the Rangers and adding a potential point-per-game centre at no cost to your current roster is a move many NHL teams would be happy to make in free agency.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.