Why the Rangers should keep Richards after this season
Not only did Richards struggle last season, but he also found himself as a healthy scratch during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Remember, Richards won a Conn Smythe as the league's most valuable player in the postseason back in 2004 while with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Basically put, Richards hit rock bottom last season under head coach John Tortorella. It was easy to see that Richards was no longer someone that Tortorella could count on and that their relationship was strained and on the outs.
Fast forward to now and Rangers general manager Glen Sather might want to keep Richards instead of buying him out in the off-season. There are several reasons why Sather might decide to keep the 33-year-old forward.
For starters, Richards has had a season on Broadway this year. As of this writing, Richards is tied for the team lead in points with 45 (16 goals and 29 assists) in 66 games.
Part of the reason why Richards is having a solid season production wise is because of new head coach Alain Vigneault. Vigneault has come in and has opened up the Rangers' offensive style of play and Richards has been a benefactor of that.
Another reason why the Blueshirts might keep Richards after this season is because of his offense. In looking at the Rangers' offensive numbers this season, it is apparent that not many players on this team are putting up big numbers.
While 45 points isn't exactly a big number, it is the best that the Rangers have. Should the Rangers buy him out at the end of this year, the team will have to figure out where other points are going to come. Considering that the team does not have a lot of offensive depth in their organization, that might be tough to accomplish.
The Rangers' acquisition of Martin St. Louis at the trade deadline certainly changes thing. Not only did Richards and St. Louis win a Cup together in 2004 with the Lightning, but they also trained together during the off-season.
St. Louis took Richards under his wing in this off-season and was able to get Richards refocused both physically and mentally. Based on what Richards has done so far this season, it is easy to see both of those things from Richards as both he and his game have looked re-energized this season.
Lastly, Richards is still a leader on this hockey club. He has won a Cup, has played in a lot of big games, has the ability to score big goals when needed and is someone that the team is going to need going forward.
While it is obvious that Sather has a difficult decision to make, Richards deserves to continue to play in New York because in the end, he might just be the one that leads the Blueshirts to sipping from hockey's Holy Grail.