Speculation has already risen about the possibilities of the New York Rangers using a compliance buyout on forward Brad Richards. Regardless of his struggles in the 2013 season, Richards has seven-years remaining on a nine-year, $60 million contract that could potentially cause problems down the road for the franchise.
While the course of action the Rangers plan to take this summer remains to be seen, Richards made it clear on Monday that he hopes to return to the team next season, via ESPN New York:
"I signed here to be a Ranger a lot longer than a year and a half. I still hope to do that, but I gotta take care of how I can play and that's all on me."
Richards was scratched for Games 4 and 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal, which has led some to believe that he has played his final game as a Ranger. Of course, the potential of a buyout of Richards had been discussed long before that.
Given the "cap advantage recapture rule" of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Rangers could be penalized in the event that Richards retires prior to the completion of his contract at the end of the 2019-2020 season. Katie Strang of ESPN presents the following scenario, which would be less than ideal for the Rangers:
The rule penalizes teams for any cap advantage gained from a player whose salary exceeds his cap hit in a given year. Richards was paid $24 million in salary over the first two years of the deal, which comes with an annual cap hit of $6.66 million. The last three years of his deal, he is due to make $1 million annually.
Under the parameters of the rule, the Rangers would be charged with a penalty of $5.66 million if Richards were to retire in the offseason of 2017, $8.5 million in 2018, and $17 million in 2019.
This line of thinking makes Richards' performance in 2013 less of an issue, given that his contract is potentially a bigger problem. In the event that he plays in 2013-14 and gets seriously injured, the team would not be permitted to administer a compliance buyout as injured players are not eligible.
When head coach John Tortorella was asked about the situation, he directed the responsibility towards general manager Glen Sather. However, he stated that he would obviously be a point of discussion when the team travels to California for its annual organizational meetings.
This situation is complicated. Richards did not perform well in 2013, but footing the bill for a buyout could be premature. If Richards is bought out and then goes to another team and regains his form, it would be the worst possible situation for the Rangers. Of course, his contract is a ticking time bomb. Regardless of his decline in performance, the Rangers might want to get out of the deal to avoid any negative ramifications against their salary cap allotment.
Teams will be permitted to use their compliance buyouts 48 hours after the deciding game of the Stanley Cup Final. The buyout period ends at 5 p.m., ET on June 30.