The Chicago Blackhawks, one of the more cap-strapped teams in the league is adding recent buyout recipient Brad Richards on a one-year, $2 million deal, per multiple reports. Chicago may have just found the solution for their long needed second-line center. The team's cap situation and the price Richards signed for makes this one of the biggest surprises of free agency opening up.
Richards was a key member of the New York Rangers squad that made it to the Stanley Cup Final this year. He put up 51 points in 82 games this season including 20 goals. Richards has nine 20-plus goal seasons in his career, with 867 points in 982 career games. New York ended up using their last remaining compliance buyout on the remainder of Richards' nine-year, $60 million contract he signed in the summer of 2011.
Even at 34, Richards is an effective player who should do well surrounded by the talent on Chicago. He makes a good team better at a position of need and at a very low cost. Richards likely was willing to take less term and money knowing that he'd go to a contender and knowing the Rangers are still paying him a lot to not play for them.
By joining Chicago on a one-year deal, the Blackhawks won't need to have Richards on the payroll as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane's new contracts kick in. Those haven't been signed yet, but odds are Chicago extends both at an extremely high price.
Chicago is now $2.2 million over the salary cap for the 2014-15 season, according to CapGeek.com. That means they likely have to swing a deal to free up the space necessary to bring in Richards. The only question now is, who goes?
Even with that in mind, this really couldn't be a better deal for the Blackhawks for what they're getting in Richards.