For a time, it appeared as though New York Rangers forward Brad Richards had played his final game in Broadway Blue. Coming off a disappointing season on a high-priced contract and reportedly feuding with head coach John Tortorella, many speculated that Richards was a candidate for a compliance buyout.
By most accounts, New York at least considered the option.
The Rangers ultimately decided to retain Richards for the 2013-14 season, but parted ways with Tortorella to bring in Alain Vigneault. Richards believes the move will not only be beneficial for himself, but the team as a whole, via the New York Post:
"I haven't talked to Alain yet in any detail about [his system], but I think his style of play will be a lot more fun for a player like me. I'm excited to have a difference voice [coaching the team] and a coach with a different view of how we should play that's more focused on offense. It suits me and I think it suits everybody more on the whole team, to be honest."
Vigneault has a reputation as a coach who likes to focus on match-ups, which could result in favorable scenarios for a goalscorer like Richards. At the very least, he won't have to focus on blocking shots as much as he did with Tortorella.
2013 was a complicated year from the start for Richards. Having played a prominent role in the NHL Players' Association during the 2012 lockout, questions persisted about his fitness level entering the season. Tortorella was one such individual who questioned his decision to stay in North America instead of finding an opportunity overseas.
This offseason, the 33-year-old forward participated in a new conditioning regime that was developed by Martin St. Louis' trainer Ben Prentiss. His goal is to prove he can still compete at a high-level.
"I know I can play the game. Sometimes I might have to defend myself a little bit to people who think I can't play anymore. I'm very motivated. [Last season] kept me very hungry all summer."
Of course, pressure will permeate this season as the Rangers still have one compliance buyout available for next summer. If he gets off to a slow start, speculation will flare up. Regardless of performance, the Rangers might look to buyout Richards because of potential salary cap scenarios (that still remains to be seen and is merely speculative).