Curtains on Broadway: Rangers buy out Richards

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After much speculation, the rumors have proven true — New York has used a compliance buyout on Brad Richards, per ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

Per CapGeek, Richards — who holds a no-movement clause — opted against being placed on waivers, allowing the Rangers to immediately move forward with the buyout process. Capgeek also reports it’s the fourth-largest buyout in NHL history.

Richards just wrapped the third of a massive nine-year, $60 million deal signed in 2011. This move will free New York from his annual $6.6 million cap hit, but the club will pay Richards $1.05 million annually until 2025-26.

The Rangers will also avoid potential cap recapture penalties for Richards’ back-diving contract. The deal paid $57 million in salary in the first six years, and just $1 million over the final three seasons — so, should Richards have retired prior to fulfilling the duration of the contract, the Rangers would’ve been hit with gigantic penalties:

The decision to use the compliance buyout comes after Richards, 34, enjoyed something of a bounce-back campaign this year. He racked up 51 points in 82 games — third on the Rangers in scoring — and 11 points through his first 20 playoff games, averaging close to 17 minutes a night.

While he struggled in the Stanley Cup Final (no goals, one assist, minus-4 rating and a fourth-line demotion midway through the series), agent Pat Morris recently expressed optimism that Richards would be retained by the Rangers, thanks to conversations he had with GM Glen Sather.

“Gut feeling, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s kept,” Morris told Sportsnet’s Fan 590 last Tuesday. “Glen was pretty positive about Brad’s role this season, especially after [former Rangers captain Ryan] Callahan left.”

Today may be a difficult day for Richards, but he should be comforted by the following two facts:

Update: Per Sportsnet, Richards cannot sign with a new team until July 1.