The New York Rangers will have to consider buying out one of their high-salaried stars this summer.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post speculated the Rangers could use their remaining amnesty buyout to shed Brad Richards' contract.
The 32-year-old center is in the second season of a nine-year, $60 million deal, of which all but $3 million is paid out in the first six years. It also comes with a full no-movement clause.
With next season's salary cap dropping to $64.3 million, Brooks observed the Rangers would have roughly $10 million to re-sign restricted free agents Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan, leaving little room for other roster moves.
Brooks also noted if Richards were to retire before his front-loaded contract expires, the Rangers would face expensive salary cap recapture penalties.
Richards' numbers since joining the Rangers in 2011 (66 points in 82 games last season, 11 points in 17 games this year) are not those expected of a first-line center with a cap hit of $6.7 million per season.
Considering the centers potentially available this summer via free agency (Ryan Getzlaf, Stephen Weiss, Mike Ribeiro) or trade (Ryan O'Reilly), it might be worthwhile to buy out Richards and put the savings toward a more affordable option.
They could try to trade Richards' contract, but with the salary cap decreasing next season and his no-movement clause, the Rangers won't find many takers.
Another buyout candidate is be Marian Gaborik, but as Brooks pointed out, Gaborik has only one season left on his contract at $7.5 million. If the Rangers are to free up cap space for the long term, Richards is the obvious choice.
If bought out, Richards would become an unrestricted free agent and would be quickly snapped up for far less than what the Rangers paid for him.
Unless Richards makes himself invaluable over the course of this season, it could be his last on Broadway.
NO MORE TML FOR JML?
Is John-Michael Liles on borrowed time with the Toronto Maple Leafs?
That was the question posed by the Toronto Sun's Terry Koshan, noting Liles has been a healthy scratch in recent games.
While Koshan wasn't suggesting Liles has played his last game as a Leaf, he wondered if there would be a future in Toronto for the 32-year-old blueliner, especially with promising Jake Gardiner and Morgan Reilly waiting in the wings.
Liles is in the first season of a four-year, $15.5 million contract and carries a modified no-trade clause (he can list 18 teams not to be traded to).
That contract wouldn't be easy to move, but a cap hit of $3.9 million per over the next two seasons is not unwieldy for teams in need of a veteran puck-moving blueliner.
If Liles is dealt, however, it won't be at his request. While acknowledging the difficulty of his situation, he told the Sun's Mike Zeisberger he had to deal with it “like a pro” and await his opportunity to return to the lineup.
LESS ‘Os’ IN COLORADO
Holdout center Ryan O'Reilly might not be the only player being shopped by the Colorado Avalanche.
Responding to a reader's question regarding Shane O'Brien's status, the Denver Post's Adrian Dater believes the defenseman could be on the trade block.
The 29-year-old played 76 games for the Avs last season, but Dater feels O'Brien has fallen out of favor with coach Joe Sacco since training camp. He's played only six games and was a healthy scratch in their last three.
If the Avalanche fall out of playoff contention in the coming weeks, don't be surprised if he's moved before the trade deadline.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
(Editor's note: correction made to Liles' contract year after initial publication.)