Brad Richards Adds First Piece To Stanley Cup Puzzle

Brad Richards breaks the tie in the third. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Brad Richards breaks the tie in the third. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Last night Brad Richards and the Rangers went “Above & Beyond” to notch their first win of the spring.The NYR motto is an homage to police office Steven McDonald who went above and beyond the call of duty and was left paralyzed. Afterwards, Broadway Brad was wearing the Broadway Hat that he introduced in his first season with NY just 2 years ago. His smile was from ear to ear as he placed the first piece of hopefully 16 on the Rangers’ Stanley Cup puzzle board.

Fittingly, Richards may very well have been the first piece of a possible Stanley Cup championship back in 2011. The Rangers were in need of a veteran to guide a young group of players who had great potential, but needed the appropriate leadership to progress. Glen Sather set his sights on Brad Richards in the UFA market and landed him.

The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner had a nice debut in NY as they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. His stats were modest as he notched 25 goals and 41 assists, but he had some big moments that made it seem larger.

There was the millisecond goal in Phoenix, the Winter Classic game winner against Philly and the game tying goal with 6.6 seconds on the clock in the playoffs against Washington. NY would fall short in the Conference Finals with plenty of blame to go around. Scoring issues at the top of the list.

Last season was supposed to be the year, as the Blueshirts added all-star sniper Rick Nash. A lock-out postponed the magic and the Rangers never got off the ground. Richards fell completely apart late in the year. So much so, that he was scratched for the final two games in the playoffs against Boston.

So here we are today, with Richards shining on the stage where he was most embarrassed. The game winning goal on the power play and two assists. Pretty good stuff for a 33 year old guy we all wanted bought out this past summer.

“I really don’t need to talk much about last year,” Richards told the Pat Leonard of the Daily News. “I’ve had lots of good years. There’s no need to talk about one bad one.” His teammates did talk about him in high praise. Ryan McDonagh said ““Ever since he’s shown up here, you can see in the way he approaches the game: He’s so smart mentally, real wise in his experience, and he just steps up in big moments.”

Big moments are going to have to be what this season is all about for Brad. Although he scored 20 goals, he finished with his lowest point total in any season where he’s played more than 56 games (2008). As his numbers continue to trend downwards, it will take a huge playoffs, maybe no short of a Stanley Cup for the Rangers to keep Richards’ 6.7 million dollar cap hit for the next 6 seasons.

Cap experts and anyone with an iota of financial sense believe a buyout is inevitable. However, with the NHL ceiling expected to be raised, don’t doubt for one second that Glen Sather and Alain Vigneault would think otherwise. For them it’s all about winning the Stanley Cup this season or next. If they feel Richards is a key piece of the puzzle, finances be damned.

If Ranger fans are honest with themselves, would you care about cap issues 3 years from now for a Stanley Cup or two now? No need to answer, it was a rhetorical question.

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Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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