It was somewhat of a surprise when the New York Rangers decided to not use one of their compliance buyouts on center Brad Richards this past summer. Instead, the team decided to stick with their big-money forward and new coach Alain Vigneault seems to be determined to give him an opportunity to play a major role in the offense.
He has Richards skating on New York's top line between Derek Stepan and Rick Nash, and in the first period of Monday's game in Los Angeles it produced the first goal of the game to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
Stepan forced the turnover, Nash put the initial shot on net, and Richards was there to bang in the rebound.
The 33-year-old Richards still has seven years (including this one) remaining on the nine-year, $60 million contract he signed with the club prior to the 2011-12 season. There were some rough patches during the 2012-13 season, especially in the playoffs when he was at times relegated to the team's fourth line and was even a healthy scratch. He still finished the regular season with 34 points in 48 games.
His numbers have certainly fallen off since joining the Rangers (which shouldn't be a shock for a guy in his mid-30s) but he's still put up some solid numbers and he's now off to a nice start in 2013 getting another chance on New York's top line.
Richards would score a second goal later in the game for the Rangers as they defeated the Kings 3-1 on Monday night.