The New York Rangers will keep Brad Richards, the team’s second-highest-paid skater, under contract even after he was benched during the National Hockey League playoffs, team spokesman Brendan McIntyre said.
The 33-year-old center has seven years left on a nine-year, $60 million contract with an annual salary cap impact of $6.66 million, according to ESPN. Only Rick Nash ($7.8 million) is paid more among Rangers forwards and defensemen.
The league’s labor agreement allows each team two compliance buyouts, which do not count against the franchise’s salary-cap space. The Rangers used their first in January on the contract of defenseman Wade Redden, and won’t use their second this offseason, McIntyre said today in an e-mail.
An All-Star in 2011, Richards had one point in 10 playoff games this season. He was demoted to the fourth line during New York’s first-round series against the Washington Capitals and was benched toward the end of their second-round series loss to the Boston Bruins.
New Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who replaced John Tortorella this offseason, said during his introductory news conference that he intended to give the team’s “top skilled players” more freedom on the ice.
“They have to understand the game and the time in the game when you need to play higher percentage, but they also have to be given that latitude to make something out of nothing,” Vigneault said last month.
Winner of the NHL’s postseason Most Valuable Player award in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Richards had 11 goals and 23 assists in last year’s lockout-shortened season. His 0.73 points per game was the lowest of his 12-year career, and he averaged less than 19 minutes per game for the first time since his rookie season in 2000-01.
Richards said after the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs that the season was disappointing for him. He said that while he understands the business of the game, he still felt he could contribute to the Rangers and hoped to have the opportunity next year.
“I didn’t play the last two games of the season in the playoffs, so obviously I’ve got to do something to get back,” he told reporters in May. “It was tough but life goes on, and I’ve got to regroup and figure some things out and start over.”
Also today, the Rangers announced that they had acquired Danny Kristo from Montreal in a trade for Christian Thomas, exchanging forwards.
-- Editors: Michael Sillup, Jay Beberman