Dallas’ long summer ahead without the playoffs and now without a coach after firing Marc Crawford has one more major problem lying ahead in the form of Brad Richards.
Richards is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and while he’s enjoyed his time in Dallas, the lack of stability with the team’s ownership situation as Tom Hicks continues to look for a viable buyer for the team is causing Richards to think long and hard about whether or not he wants to stay in Texas.
Richards, should he become a free agent, will be the top free agent available this summer and with teams like the Rangers, Maple Leafs, and Kings all likely to be in the mix to go after him the Stars might want to figure out a way around things fast. As for Richards, he told ESPN Dallas’ Mark Stepneski today that he’s got a lot of thinking to do over the summer when deciding on his future.
“There’s been a little chatter, but it’s always come back to if I am going to sign and there’s no ownership, I am still kind of hesitant,” said Richards, who made $7.8 million this past season. “And there may not be ownership by the time I have to make a decision.
“Right now, there’s no rush. There’s nothing that’s pressing me. I am going to try to see what happens. If there is no change, it doesn’t mean I am leaving. I’ll have to make a different type of decision at that time. Right now it doesn’t look like it’s going to be in place but, like I said, there’s no deadline right now, so I can sit back. I am sure I will talk with Joe here in the next day or two and get a better idea. Then we’ll wait and see.”
If you’re a Stars fan those are very ominous words from Richards and Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk will come under fire in a big way should Richards leave without any compensation. The Stars had opportunities to deal Richards before the trade deadline but opted not to in order to make a run at the playoffs with him. The Stars missed out on the playoffs on the final day of the season and the second-guessing of Nieuwendyk’s lack of movement is bringing into question his plan.
On the upside, if it looks like a deal can’t be made with Richards to re-sign in Dallas, they can deal his rights away before July 1 in an attempt to salvage something in return for his imminent departure. The downside there is that the return in any deal like that would pale in comparison to what the Stars could’ve gotten at the trade deadline from Toronto, New York, or anyone else who came calling to get the All Star center.
This summer is setting up to be a dreary situation for the Stars. While Joe Nieuwendyk is well loved by the fans in Dallas, losing Richards while being hamstrung by the lack of new ownership when free agency rolls around will make life miserable for him. Nieuwendyk will have to get creative to try and find more players to surround rising star Jamie Benn and captain Brenden Morrow.