With the Brad Richards sweepstakes over with and the New York Rangers coming out on top with their nine-year, $60 million offer, the teams who also pursued him will have to find another way. While Calgary, Los Angeles, and Toronto are left wondering “What if?” regarding Richards, they’ve got to move on now and hit the secondary items on their offseason shopping list.
So where do these teams go from here? Here are a few ideas.
Calgary’s push to land Richards was one that came up late and strong last night. The Flames brought a similar nine year contract to the table but for more money than the Rangers offered as they came with a $65 million total. Calgary GM Jay Feaster was hoping his old connections to Richards from their days in Tampa Bay would get him somewhere and they did to a point, but not enough to make him move to Canada.
The Flames were hoping to give Jarome Iginla the #1 playmaker he’s never had and instead they’ll have to go back and rely on a mix of Daymond Langkow, Matthew Stajan, or Olli Jokinen to take care of that once again. If the Flames are truly worried about their corps of centers they could get in on talks with Tim Connolly or Jason Arnott to help provide better depth, but the Flames have a lot of bad money on the books this year and still need to add a defenseman or two. The chase for Richards may have been a shot in the dark kind of pursuit and one they’ll leave at that. With Feaster in charge you can’t be too sure.
Los Angeles Kings
Kings GM Dean Lombardi’s pursuit of Brad Richards was rather stunning considering he just acquired Mike Richards from Philadelphia last week to be their other top center alongside Anze Kopitar. Perhaps it was the lingering hangover from the pursuit of Ilya Kovalchuk last season that made him feel he had to get in on Richards, but the Kings have more pressing needs elsewhere with their forwards.
L.A. should be busy getting after another scoring winger and a depth center. This is where getting involved in the talks for Simon Gagne would be good things for the Kings. After how disappointing Alexei Ponikarovsky was last year as a booby prize for Kovalchuk, grabbing a guy like Gagne would give either Kopitar or Richards someone useful with offensive touch to play along with. If Gagne comes at too steep of a price, there are guys like Sergei Samsonov, Cory Stillman, or even Nikolai Zherdev to fall back on for offensive touch.
With Jarrett Stoll set to slot in as the Kings #3 center at the moment, perhaps getting more of a grinder at center would do them well. A character like Zenon Konopka or John Madden could do quite well in Los Angeles.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs GM Brian Burke had his heart set on getting Brad Richards in Toronto to play alongside Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin. The push didn’t work out and now the Leafs are still left with a huge problem not having a #1 center. The problem here for Toronto is that there’s not another top center to be had via free agency.
The Leafs are continuing to build for the future and growing the team together and this is where perhaps getting a strong character player like Jason Arnott could come in handy. Arnott is great in the locker room, still has some game to him, and if you slot him in as your #2 guy behind Mikhail Grabovski up the middle, he’ll play well there. There’s talk that the Leafs are sniffing around at Tim Connolly but they of all teams should know how frustrating he’s been the last few years in Buffalo both in his play and his injury struggles.
There’s no one left on the market for the Leafs to go crazy over at forward and Burke should realize that and be patient. After the Leafs sat back quietly and did nothing on Day 1 of free agency, Leafs fans might be a bit more worked up than anyone in the front office as they’re dying to see their team in the playoffs. Patience in this situation might be better rewarded.