Chicago’s lack of a second-line center has been well documented — often times by our very own Jason Brough — so it came as no surprise today when the ‘Hawks decided to address the issue.
How they addressed it, though, is a bit of a stunner.
The ‘Hawks inked ex-Rangers center Brad Richards to a tidy one-year, $2 million deal, one that comes with a no-movement clause, per CapGeek. Financially speaking it’s a major win for Chicago, a team that was pressed right up against the salary cap but still able to bring in a quality middle man… at a very affordable price.
Richards, who became an unrestricted free agent 10 days ago following his buyout from the Rangers, is coming off a solid-if-unspectacular campaign in which he finished third among all Blueshirts skaters with 20 goals and 51 points. While the 34-year-old was a lightning rod for criticism given his $6.6 million cap hit, Richards is now working under far better financial terms — just $2 million — and should be thrilled at the prospect of playing with any one of Chicago’s talented wingers: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa or Brandon Saad.
The move will also be good from a familiarity standpoint as it returns Richards to the Western Conference, where he scored a career-high 91 points with Dallas during the 2009-10 campaign.
As for the finances, it’s easy to see why Richards chose to go where he did. He’s going to make an awful lot of money from his Rangers buyout ($3.05 million this year) so the option to take less salary to join a winner was out there. Few Cup contenders needed help at center more than Chicago, especially after St. Louis inked Paul Stastny in free agency earlier today.
Looking ahead, few will argue Chicago didn’t upgrade the 2C position in getting Richards over Michal Handzus, but it’ll still be interesting to see how Richards fits. There’s no denying he’s lost a step (which was one of the criticisms of Handzus) and, given Chicago’s speed up front, the ability to skate is at a premium.
Richards does, however, buy the ‘Hawks at least one year for prospect Teuvo Teravainen to cut his teeth at the AHL level and learn the nuances of playing center. That’s an important aspect of this deal.