The Brad Richards Waiting Game, by Russell Davis
As the 2011 NHL Trade Deadline approaches (Feb. 28, 3 PM EST) all eyes in the hockey world are on the most coveted prize, Brad Richards. He is not only the best Dallas Star he is the Dallas Stars and the only hope the team and fans have of making the playoffs and possibly being something other than first-round fodder in 2011.
He is also money in the bank.
Joe Nieuwendyk to this time has not been afraid of making aggressive, chancy, bold, and long-term moves. Much has been made of his season-long stance that the number one priority of his administration is to re-sign Brad Richards. Lately, much has been made of his possible reversal. Where he has possibly not dangled Richards, he certainly has taken phone calls. No GM in their right mind wouldn’t.
So, let’s take a step back for just a moment and consider a few things. Less the obligatory, “even Gretzky was traded,” let’s focus on more recent events and look at the Ilya Kovalchuk trade to the Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta received from New Jersey in exchange for Kovalchuk, Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and a first round pick.
Bergfors is currently in his 3rd year and has had a promising start to his career in Atlanta this season scoring a little more than half a point per game on average. Oduya is only in his 4th season and has already established himself as, if not a number one or two defenseman, certainly one that will be shortly and for a long time after that.
Patrice Cormier hasn’t been so prolific scoring two points in 21 games so far with his club. If his name sounds familiar he was considered a second round gem for New Jersey after having a heck of a Juniors tournament for Canada but then was the perpetrator of a vicious elbow on Mikael Tam and was subsequently suspended after the deliberate hit that left Tam convulsing on the ice.
The first round pick also grabbed in exchange for Kovalchuk ended up being the 24th pick that was used as a part in the other blockbuster trade for Atlanta bringing Dustin Byfuglien and three others to the Thrashers.
To sum up, for Kovalchuk, who was set to become unrestricted that summer, and others Atlanta managed to acquire a young, true top-2 defenseman, a promising winger and an all-around player who can successfully play wing and defense.
Imagine for just a moment the Stars getting at the trade deadline something similar in exchange for Richards.
With that comes a slough of questions, postulations and assumptions. The most obvious assumption would be that this season and any hopes of making and breaking the playoffs are over. The instant, and rightful, assumption would be that Dallas with the parts that came back for Richards combined with the parts they have would not be enough to propel them to greatness in the next couple of years. After all, what really has Atlanta been able to accomplish thus far? What had they accomplished with Kovalchuk for that matter? What outside of 2008 has Dallas been able to do with Richards?
The major question right now is Dallas’s current slide and the resulting record enough to pull the plug on the rest of the season? However, would the return for Richards be enough to pull the plug on this season?
Then we look just a little further ahead; who would one of, if not the, biggest fish to land this summer? Brad Richards.
Who has been talking to Richards the longest, making their case, negotiating the price, and budgeting for his long-term stay with their club? The Dallas Stars.
Can or would the Dallas Stars and her GM Joe Nieuwendyk risk letting Brad Richards go to another club to be beguiled by another GM in order to receive multiple assets and then re-sign him in the summer pulling off one of the greatest coups in recent management history?
We’ll just have to wait and see.