Brad Richards trade rumors: The Final Word

So I've been out of touch the past few weeks, spending some time with family and not spending much time away from work (my real job). Thankfully Art, Brad and Brandon B. have kept the site running in my absence and have done a great job as well. This morning I decided to open up the Defending Big D mailbag for the first time in a while and I was extremely surprised by the amount of readers concerned with all of the Brad Richards trade rumors "flying about".

This is a subject that is touchy with me. I have to be honest; I am not a big fan of discussing vapid rumors that just flitter about the internet. While I understand the allure of chatting trade proposals among fans, it's not something I have ever wanted to take part of here at DBD officially. I just don't want to take the chance of having a rumor that's mentioned here be passed as fact elsewhere, because that gets out of hand and our credibility becomes suspect. So when the rumors started to fly last month about the New York Rangersbeing interested in trading for Brad Richards, I chose not to discuss them here at Defending Big D. Now this does not mean that I prohibit any talk of rumors; in fact I encourage those interested in these discussions to write up a FanShot or FanPost and share your thoughts and concerns on any rumors that might pop up.

After being inundated with emails about these Richards rumors I've decided to share my official view on why it's highly unlikely this trade would happen. Since it seems that these rumors just won't go away and that more and more news outlets are running with this story, I thought it best to finally address what could happen.

Follow the jump.

#1. Consider the source.

I have spent nearly all morning scouring websites and blogs and I have yet to determine exactly where these rumors originated. The best I can determine is that a New York Rangers fan blog was running a series of stories focusing on the direction of the Rangers franchise. With John Tortorella coaching, they came up with the thought that it would be interesting to see what Brad Richards could do for the team if he was reunited with his old coach. Obviously that would be a great proposition for any Rangers fan so they began to hypothesize what it would take to trade for the Stars' center. Wade Reddenwas mentioned as was Alez Kotalik and Michal Rozsival. It was an innocent enough post, but one that sparked a flurry of activity.

Several other Rangers blogs picked up on this thought and as with any game of "telephone", this turned into full a full blown official rumor. SB Nation's own Blueshirt Banter picked up on the rumors, stating their belief that such a trade would be a bad idea. But here is what is most telling about this situation and what has made it frustrating to try and track down whether these rumors have any validity. Several mainstream "news sources" have run with this story but choose to use extremely vague references when mentioning the rumor.

 New York Post:

There is, however, widespread beliefthat Dallas owner Tom Hicks' financial problems -- his team canceled prospects camp in order to save money -- will force the Stars to cut payroll. . . with the cutting to feature former Tampa Bay Conn Smythe winning first-line center Brad Richards, who has two years at $7.8 million remaining on his deal.

It would take a newer new math to figure out how the Rangers could accommodate Richards under the cap, but there is no doubt that Sather will try if Dallas has to move him. 

Hmm..."widespread belief" that the Stars will be forced to cut payroll? Here are the facts: the Stars are certainly under financial limitations right now and are operating with a budget that is well below the salary cap. But they are no where near the dire straits that would force them to do whatever is necessary to dump salary; the payroll is low enough. If they were in such a tough situation then I doubt they would have been able to sign Karlis Skrastins, Jeff Woywitka, Jere Lehtinen and Mark Fistric. So we have several blogs and "news sources" that have Brad Richards involved in trade talks between the Rangers and Stars (including this snippet in a Pittsburgh sports and rumors website, that has apparently gotten fans spun up yet again) but we've yet to see any reputable sources mentioned. Just names, and the statements that both sides are not anywhere close to a deal. Easy way to cover your back, I guess.

There was mention last week about a report that used a Stars official as a source, but Mike Heika squashed that as a bit unbelievable. If there were any trade talks between the Stars and Rangers involving a player like Richards and a Stars official wanted to talk about it, some random reporter on the East Coast would likely be the last to get personally informed.

 

#2. The money does not add up.

Here is what I think is the biggest factor that a trade is highly unlikely between the Stars and Rangers. The Stars are currently around $10 million under the salary cap, but are hard up against their internal budget. Taking on any additional salary would be highly unlikely, and in fact was one of the contributing factors that the Stars were hesitant to take a chance on Sergei Zubov. Would the Stars like to find a way to lower their payroll to a more manageable level, one that will give them flexibility during this season if something should happen? Of course, but not at the risk of losing the ability to win games. Tom Hicks has made a commitment to get the Stars turned in the right direction, despite how much his financial difficulties are affecting the franchise. Trading Brad Richards for the sake of freeing up budget space makes sense only if the return from the Rangers is a match on the ice as well.

That's where these trade rumors break down. The Rangers are right up against the salary cap (about $2.5 million under), and are still trying to sign RFA Brandon Dubinsky. If the Rangers have any hope of taking on Richards' $7.8 million annual salary, then they MUST move salary in the deal. Rozsival ($5 million), Wade Redden ($6.5 million) and Kotalik ($3 million) are all candidates to trade in order to take on Richards' salary, but there's no way the Stars will want to take that on in return. Dubinsky has also been mentioned as part of the trade, but I personally do not understand why the Rangers would want to trade away a player who will be a younger, cheaper version of Richards anyway.

 

#3. Brad Richards is valuable to the Dallas Stars.

Forget his exorbitant salary. It's high, and it's a burden but it does not define Richards' value to this team on the ice. Before he was injured last season, Richards was really starting to show the type of production and playmaking skill that the Stars traded for back in March of 2008. If he had played a full season, Richards was on pace for 23 goals, 46 assists and 69 points. Not astronomical numbers, but good enough for second on the team in assists and points. Richards was enjoying a chemistry with his team that was really starting to gel in December and January and he was integral in the Stars' surge up the standings once Morrow was lost to injury.

Richards wanted out of a tough situation in Tampa Bay and decided to come to Dallas, a franchise that was known for taking scoring machines and turning them into two-way, defensive players. Despite his good numbers last season, it's apparent that Richards had a rough time adjusting to this new style of play. With Marc Crawford now leading things in Dallas, Richards could be the one player that benefits the most from a change in offensive systems. As the number two center on the team under Crawford, Richards will have the freedom and capability to really let his creativity and offensive skill shine. I doubt the Stars would want to risk losing that potential unless absolutely necessary.

 

#4. Brad Richards has a no-trade clause in his contract.

Would he waive that to re-join John Tortorella in New York? Possibly. But he still has one.

 

#5. The New York Rangers have already started to move on from acquiring Richards.

Yesterday the New York Rangers signed Vaclav Prospal to a one-year deal, and are reportedly inquiring about Todd Bertuzzias well. Prospal is another player reuniting with Tortorella and will provide stability on the Rangers' lines for a good price without them having to give up much in the process. Would the Rangers still want Richards, at the price of losing Dubinsky? Possibly but as we covered above it's going to take more than a few overpriced veterans to acquire the center from Dallas.

 

Is a trade sometime this season that sends Brad Richards elsewhere possible? Absolutely. Anything is possible as the trade deadline approaches. The Stars could find themselves in the middle of a disaster and decide to enter full-on rebuilding mode; trading Richards and his salary to a contending team for a handful of your prospects would do the trick. But it's tough to sit and determine how this season will play out this far in advance, especially with a player like him.

In his short time in Dallas Brad Richards has become a favorite among fans, and after last season it was extremely apparent just how much this team needed him. Being a fan favorite will never weigh in on the decision making by the front office (Joe Nieuwendyk knows this personally) but it's tough for me to see the Stars trading away a player of his caliber unless the situation and the return was absolutely perfect. As of right now, there are just too many holes in the equation between the Stars and Rangers to really consider the validity of these trade rumors and how much the two teams have actually spoken. It was probably just the Rangers picking up the phone, asking what the price was for Richards and then hanging up laughing. Who knows.

What are your thoughts on all of these rumors? Even if they were not true, should the Stars consider trade offers?

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