The Brad Richards Situation

No, it’s not the name of my new indie band I plan on creating and touring the strip in Austin with (I’m actually naming it “I Miss Rick Moranis”). It’s the title to an entry here at Blackout Dallas that is meant to explore the ins-and-outs of the situation surrounding Brad Richards and his contract.

The Stars are in a state of disarray… something akin to a Uwe Boll film. Let’s just say that this Stars team couldn’t have decided to stop being mediocre at a better time. No real owner, controlled by temporary investors who are looking for buyers to pay a price that they are never going to agree to in the current market without some sort of agreement that they can move the franchise to Canada. The league won’t let relocation of their prized Southern expirment happen and that is why we are still hunting for someone to take over going into February of 2011. This also means that since there isn’t a real owner willing to put money into the team that the soft-cap the team has on it right now is going to remain, making it extremely hard to make substantial moves.

I would like to say that there is no way Neiuwendyk lets Richards get away and that Richards is a Dallas Star at heart now, but that’s like saying that Modano would spend his entire career in Dallas. Oh, wait… The Canadian teams are chomping at the bits to acquire someone like Richards to build their team around for the last part of his career. Just look at the state of the press junkets every time we travel North of the border. It’s like they already know that their preferred team is going to snatch the center up and make him the final piece to their puzzle.

But, lets look at the facts or at least my skewed way of seeing the facts anyway.

Jamie Langenbrunner
I think this is the most obvious sign that the Joe and the management are looking to the Stars to go into the playoffs and make some noise when they get there. They aren’t going to do that without Richards. He’s leading the team in points and goals at this point (though I see someone taking the Goals award away from him, like Loui or Morrow by the end of the season). There isn’t anyone they could get to replace him at the trade deadline that is good enough to make up for it. The team is bringing in players like Jamie, because they believe in the team. They may not win the cup but if they can play the last half of the season like they did the first then they will make the playoffs and have a good chance to at least repeat the 08 season’s WCF appearance. And I think they are a much better team than they were that season, so who knows?

Salary Cap
A lot of teams are struggling and still can’t make a move because they are spending to the league cap. The Stars are flourishing well under it, working within a cap placed on them by their own team due to budget restrictions, as everyone well knows. This soft-cap is the reason why the Richards debate is even happening. My guess is if we had a real owner this would have already been handled by now. But, that’s beside the point. I think the big question is, how big of a raise are we looking at with the new Richards agreement? Let’s take a look at some comparable players first. The Sedins are probably the most obvious. Both of the twins are making about 6 million a year in a 5 year contract. Naturally there is a no movement clause embedded, as with most long-term contracts these days. Now let’s take a look at the much talked about Kovalchuck contract which will essentially net the Devil’s struggling forward 6.67 million annually. So as you can see the going rate for a top-10 forward of the NHL is between 6-7 million per year.

While the Kovalchuck deal makes me cringe about as much as the ludicrous DiPietro deal the Islanders signed (who signs a goaltender for 15 years?) I think the Sedin contracts were perfect and I think with the H. Sedin outpacing Richards every year, he can’t expect much more than what he’s getting. However, the wild card is the contract he signed with Tampa that is about to end. The 3 seasons he had left were getting him at 7.8m per season. This may boost that number, but it is unlikely that the Stars sign him for that; definitely not for more. So basically what you’re looking at is a decrease in pay if Richards takes the contract and perhaps a slight hometown discount on the first year or two until ownership gets ironed out. If this happens that means the Stars are essentially shaving off their overall budget. Which would make the argument that they need Richards for moving forward with the selling in the team more viable to those in charge of the team right now.

This is of course, entirely speculative and I will never claim to be a cap-ologist. But at this stage in the evolution of the league in its salary cap era, it seems likely that a player such as Richards would be suited with a 6m deal rather than a 7-8m deal of a few years ago.

I think the final piece to this equation is the sale itself. How much worth does the franchise lose if they lose the superstar vs. the 5-8m they will end up spending on the first year of his contract they will end up covering. I think the team falls to a lowly fringe team that could make the playoffs with enough luck if they don’t have Richards. Without a back-end star, Richards is the guy who is keeping this team suspended at he top of the conference, there is little to no questioning that. Knowing that, I think investors would be silly to essentially allow the Stars to be transformed from a top tier team this year to a team lucky to make the play-offs (again) next year. Buyers see this and they know the worth of a team who is ready to win and a team who needs a lot of work, they are going to adjust their offers accordingly. With them already having a lot of trouble getting the type of money they want for the team right now, it seems almost impossible that they would let Richards slip through their fingers. To me when he slips through so does a lot of theoretical cash for those who are covering for the apocalypse of sports that they call Tom Hicks.

In Closing
So, in my eyes all signs point towards an extension for Richards. There are a lot of assumptions and a lot of talking from my formidable behind, but these key points seem to be the harbinger of hockey delight. Does Richards believe in this team? Does he like the town and the fans? Does he want to stay here for the remainder of his career after seeing Modano let go with 1-2 years left in his career? There are a lot of what-if’s that could potentially counteract any of the things I’ve listed in this entry. So, could anyone fathom at any point in the last few years that Modano would be in the dreaded Red and White, let alone any team other than the Stars for his final year or two? Absolutely not, but is that more improbable than Richards getting moved despite all of the signs that speak positivity to the fans? No, probably not. The good news is as of December 30th, the people in charge of the Stars finances gave Joey N. permission to start negotiating Richards’ contract.

So here’s to hoping that my prophetic rant will come to fruition. Then not only will the Stars have a top-10 player int he league as their top-line center for the next 5-7 years or so, but I will also have another chance to proclaim my genius.

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