Will the Rangers use a compliance buyout on Richards?

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With 20 points in 28 games, Brad Richards is the New York Rangers’ leading scorer.

There’s also a very good chance he could be bought out this summer.

“That’s the business we live in,” Richards told the Daily News yesterday about the potential for this season to be his last with the Rangers. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. We play hockey every day. That’s out of my control. But like I told you last year, I plan on playing the next six, seven years, and hopefully it’s all here (in New York). That’s never gonna change. If it does, you move on.”

The issue isn’t Richards’ play; it’s his front-loaded contract. The 33-year-old is signed through 2019-20 with a cap hit of $6.67 million. After this season is over, he’ll have already been paid more than half of the $60 million his deal is worth. A buyout would cost the club $18 million spread over 12 years — manageable for a financial powerhouse like the Rangers — and because it would be a compliance buyout, the team wouldn’t take a cap hit on any of those years.

With both Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi pending unrestricted free agents in need of new deals, general manager Glen Sather may choose the cap space a Richards buyout would free up over having the veteran in the lineup. Remember that Henrik Lundqvist just signed a $59.5 million extension, which starts next season.

Also remember that this summer is the last opportunity for clubs to use their two compliance buyouts. If the Rangers don’t use their last remaining one (they used their first on Wade Redden) on Richards, they’re essentially stuck with him, along with the potential cap recapture penalty they’d have to pay should he retire before his contract expires.

For example, via CapGeek:

source:

Is a Richards buyout all but guaranteed? No, it’s not. Sather, after all, may be loathe to go into next season with Derek Stepan and, in particular, Derick Brassard as his top two centers. Though that assumes he doesn’t go out and acquire another one.

As we wrote yesterday, Sather has a number of pressing questions to answer now that Lundqvist has been locked up. Whether or not to buy out Richards is just one of them.