Brad Richards' time with the New York Rangers is over. According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN and TSN, the team has used its second and final compliance buyout on the forward. He'll become an unrestricted free agent and will be eligible to be signed by any team beginning July 1.
Richards was signed by the Rangers as a free agent in the summer of 2011. It was a massive nine-year, $60 million deal which at the time made him the highest-paid player in the NHL. It doesn't expire until 2020 and no team would have taken the contract off of New York's hands, making a buyout the only real option for the Rangers. They still owe him lots of money, but it will not count against the salary cap, freeing up the Rangers to sign some vital pending free agents from their 2014 Stanley Cup Final run.
Buyout for Richards is $12.6M plus $8M due to him in signing bonuses. That's $20.6M total. Already earned $33M on deal.— CapGeek (@capgeek) June 20, 2014
Richards simply didn't live up to the money he was being paid by the Rangers. In his final two years before free agency as a member of the Dallas Stars, he set the world ablaze, registering 91 points in 2009-10 and 77 points the following season. He never came close to those marks again, though, putting up 66 points in his first New York season and bottoming out with a 51-point performance in the just-finished 2013-14 season. In the 2014 playoffs he was basically invisible for Alain Vigneault, and by the end of the Cup Final he was taking a regular shift on the fourth line.
But even if Richards did live up to the money he was being paid, the contract was still a huge risk for New York. Rangers blog Blueshirt Banter wrote earlier this week that the buyout was never a matter of if, but simply when, largely due to cap recapture penalties that would burn the Rangers even more than Richards' $6.6 million cap hit per season already has.
In fact, it was going to happen as soon as the new CBA was announced two years ago. Cap recapture penalties are the biggest driving force, with teams being punished for early retirement with a hefty cap hit. If Richards would have retired in 2018 (with two years remaining on his deal) the Rangers would have been strapped with a $5.6-million cap hit until his contract would have ended in 2019. It would have been the same story if he retired in 2017, just an extra year's worth of penalties.
That's why there is no other real option. Richards could have scored 100 points this year and his buyout still would have been very possible. The risks are high. The rewards are minimal. The Rangers have a get out of jail free card and they need to use it.
Rangers general manager Glen Sather has used that get out of jail free card. Richards will be available to any of the other 29 teams in the NHL.