The summer of 2014 is months away, but that's not preventing speculation over Brad Richards' future with the New York Rangers.
Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun and Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal recently suggested Richards could receive a compliance buyout in June, freeing up cap space for the Rangers to re-sign free agents like Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi.
Richards – the Rangers’ leading scorer with 23 points in 31 games – is in the third year of his nine-year, $60-million contract, so his $6.7-million annual cap hit takes a huge chunk out of the Blueshirts’ payroll.
The Rangers have more than $39 million invested in just nine players next season. Even with the salary cap projected to be above $70 million, they will be pressed for space to re-sign key players and still have enough to pursue top free agent talent in July.
NBC Sports' Jason Brough also noted the Rangers would be hit with an expensive salary cap recapture penalty if Richards retires in the latter years of his deal. If Richards retires in 2018, two years prior to the expiration of his contract, the penalty would be more than $5.7 million per season.
After the Rangers used a compliance buyout on Wade Redden last January, it was widely assumed they would use their remaining one on Richards, who struggled through the lockout-shortened season. His improved performance this season, however, means they would be cutting loose their best center.
The deep-pocketed Rangers can afford a buyout, but if Richards were to be moved, they'd obviously prefer a trade in order to get something for him. Assuming Richards agrees to be dealt (he carries a no-movement clause), his hefty contract – and the salary cap ramifications if he retires before its' completion – could dampen his trade value unless the Rangers agreed to pick up part of his contract.
As long as the Rangers remain in playoff contention Richards won't be moved, but expect his future in New York to come under further media scrutiny before the June buyout period.
IS QUINCEY THE BEST TRADE OPTION FOR THE RED WINGS?
Helene St. James of The Detroit Free Press recently reported the Red Wings must create roster space for blueliner Danny DeKeyser (separated shoulder) when he comes off the long-term injured reserve list. One option is trading defenseman Kyle Quincey.
St. James noted Quincey's been “mediocre” since joining the Wings in February 2012, with a team-worst plus-minus of minus-10 and only three points in 31 games. He's in the final season of a two-year contract with an annual cap hit of $3.8 million.
Despite Quincey's stats and salary, St. James believes he could still fetch a decent return. The Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators are reportedly in the market for a defenseman.
Quincey might land with one of those teams, though if the Wings hope to move him sooner they could consider picking up part of his remaining salary. Otherwise, they could face waiting until later in the season for a trade partner.
WHEN WILL THE ISLANDERS FIRE SALE BEGIN?
Newsday's Arthur Staple reported New York Islanders GM Garth Snow is considering all his options to improve his floundering team, which sits 15 points out of a playoff berth with only eight wins in 31 games.
Snow won't publicly discuss those options, but Staple noted he's been shopping for a goaltender for weeks without success. One option could be a coaching change, as it's speculated former Flyers bench boss Peter Laviolette (who got his first NHL coaching gig with the Isles 12 years ago) could replace Jack Capuano. A coaching change, however, won't improve a club lacking goaltending depth and with a blueline ravaged by injuries.
Chris Botta of Sports Business Journal recently took to Twitter claiming rival GMs are inquiring about notable Isles like Thomas Vanek, Evgeni Nabokov and Andrew MacDonald, but Snow told them they're not available yet, preferring to add “pieces.” If the Isles fail to gain ground in the standings soon, Snow could start entertaining offers for some of those players.
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.).
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