Mike Richards‘ contract has been terminated by the Los Angeles Kings and he is now a free agent. At first glance, the Colorado Avalanche probably don’t have much use for 30-year old center coming off a 16 point season, but maybe they should make room for the former Philadelphia Flyers captain, assuming he’s not in major trouble with the law.
I’m not saying the Avs should break the bank for Richards, but what’s the harm in signing him to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million?
Here’s what I know about Richards: he’s a fierce competitor with two Stanley Cup rings. His scoring has fallen off, but he can still be a valuable depth forward and penalty killer. The Avs are already loaded at center and there’s no way he cracks the top six, but would you rather have Richards or Marc-Andre Cliche as your fourth line center? Even if Cliche is half the cost, he’s also half the player.
On a one-year deal with no pressure of having to live up to a big contract, Richards could surprise a lot of people. Keep in mind that he’s only 30-years-old. Even though his numbers have fallen off, he shouldn’t be completely washed up. I’m not expecting him to return to his 60+ point form, but if he can chip in with 20 points while also providing good two-way play then he’d be worth it.
Look what the Chicago Blackhawks did with Brad Richards last offseason. After being bought out by the New York Rangers, the Blackhawks signed Brad to a one-year deal worth $2 million. Brad finished the season with 34 points and played a big role in the Hawks postseason run that saw them capture another Stanley Cup. He came at a cheap price due to his buyout and had very little expectations on him playing behind Jonathan Toews.
Mike Richards would be the fourth center behind Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, and John Mitchell. The Avs are a young team who actually got even younger up front by trading Ryan O’Reilly (24) and Jamie McGinn (26) for Mikhail Grigorenko (21) while also losing Daniel Briere (37) to retirement. Alex Tanguay is the only forward with his name engraved on the Stanley Cup and Jarome Iginla is the only other forward with more than 20 playoff games under his belt.
I realize that the Avs acquired Briere last season under the same “veteran forward with playoff experience” premise and things didn’t work out, but this situation is different. Briere is seven years older than Richards and had a $4 million cap hit. He was brought to the team to put up points, and when he didn’t do that consistently and his compete level dropped, he was benched.
Richards would be brought to the team to play smart hockey and kill penalties. You’d also never have to worry about his compete level. Points would just be extra.
Some team will sign Richards for cheap in the coming weeks. That team may find a bigger role for him than the Avs can offer, and they may offer him more money. But if the Avs decide to take a flyer on him, it could pay off.
He would be a low-risk, potentially high-reward player. If things don’t work out, he can be a healthy scratch who eats very little cap space and the Avs can move on from him in 2016. If he does work out, he could help the Avs play into April.
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