Richards will retire from the NHL it was announced Wednesday after a 15-year career that included two Stanley Cup championships. Richards was selected by Tampa Bay 64th overall in the 1998 NHL Draft after three seasons in the QMJHL where he averaged 144 points per year. The center would remain with the Lightning through the 07-08 season and helping them lift Lord Stanley's Cup in 2004 on his way to winning the Lady Byng and Conn Smythe trophies for sportsmanship and postseason MVP respectively. After several successful season with the Stars and Rangers, the 36-year-old once again ended the year on top as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks 2014-15 championship while tallying 37 points in 76 games. All told, Richards ends his career with 298 goals and 634 helpers during the regular season and adding another 37 markers and 68 assists during the playoffs.
Richards will not be re-signed by the Red Wings, allowing him to test the open market as an unrestricted free agent this summer, The Detroit News reports. Richards was rather ineffective with the Red Wings this past season, as he picked up a career-low, 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) through 68 regular-season contests. Richards turned 36 years old earlier this month, so one has to wonder whether he'll go through the process of seeking out his fourth team in as many years or hang up his skates and call it a career.
Richards, a pending unrestricted free agent, is not likely to return to the Red Wings next season with retirement also a possibility, MLive.com reports. Richards has 15 years of service time in the NHL, having played for three teams in the last three years. He has a lot to think about since Tampa Bay ousted Detroit in the first round of the playoffs. "Going to go get away and relax for a bit," Richards said. "Three teams in three years, a lot of hockey, so I think mentally I think I need to just go recharge the batteries. Richards is a two-time Stanley Cup winner, having reached the Promised Land with the Lightning (2004) and the Blackhawks (2015). Unfortunately, his 2015-16 campaign arguably was among the worst of his career as battled through a back injury and only produced 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) in 68 games.
Richards netted his eighth goal of the season in a 5-2 loss to Chicago on Wednesday. Richards has given Detroit about what they expected from the 14-year veteran this season in occasional scoring from the third line. He actually has been more productive on the power play this season, with 10 points compared to seven last season, but his overall production is down. His days as a great fantasy option are over, but Richards' veteran presence adds some intangibles to the Red Wings' lineup.
Richards assisted on a pair of power-play goals in Sunday's win over the Bruins. Richards bagged the two points Sunday, but he also finished the contest with a minus-2 rating. The 35-year-old's most productive days are clearly behind him, as he sits on just 18 points on the season, but he does provide a steadying presence on a Wings squad in the thick of the playoff race.
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