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Brad Richards and big RFAs

Brad Richards has 63 points in 56 games this season, but is currently sidelined with a concussion. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Brad Richards has 63 points in 56 games this season, but is currently sidelined with a concussion. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Brad Richards trade rumors ended at the Feb. 28, 3 p.m. EST trade deadline, but the buzz about his free agent status began at 3:01.

Richards is eligible for unrestricted free agency this summer and while Dallas Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk would love to open contract talks right away, he cannot do so until the team finally gets a new owner in place.

That leaves Nieuwendyk hoping the ownership situation will be resolved prior to July 1, when Richards becomes a UFA.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post recently suggested that if the Stars get a new, deep-pocketed owner they could offer Richards a seven- or eight-year deal worth between $7 and $7.5 million per season, as could other teams - such as the Toronto Maple Leafs or Los Angeles Kings - if he's still unsigned by July 1.

Brooks believes the New York Rangers will also be keen to sign the skilled playmaker, but probably on a lesser deal (five or six years between $6 and $6.5 million per) in hopes Richards would jump at the opportunity to play on Broadway for Rangers bench boss John Tortorella, who coached Richards during the Tampa Bay Lightning's Stanley Cup run in 2004.

It's believed Richards would prefer to remain with the Stars, but only if they have stable ownership that’s committed to building and maintaining a winner.

While there are still more than three months until Richards is eligible for free agency, time is of the essence for the Stars to get him under contract. The longer the ownership situation drags on, the less likely they’ll retain him.

DOUGHTY AND STAMKOS STILL UNSIGNED

Nothing new to report on the contract talks between the L.A. Kings and defenseman Drew Doughty or the Tampa Bay Lightning and center Steven Stamkos.

The Calgary Sun reported agent Don Meehan, who represents both players, said he had no substantial discussions with the Kings regarding Doughty, but was confident the Lightning intend to re-sign Stamkos to a deal longer than three or four years.

It appears both clubs will wait until after the playoffs to resume negotiations with their stars. It's possible one or both will still be unsigned by July 1, leaving them open to receive offer sheets from rival clubs. But it's more likely both will be under new contracts before that becomes an issue.

TAVARES HAPPY ON THE ISLAND

New York Islanders center John Tavares recently acknowledged he'd heard rumors earlier in the season suggesting he wanted to leave Long Island when he becomes a restricted free agent in 2012, but he dismissed that talk and claimed he was unaware of its origins.

Tavares said he loves being a Islander, pointing out the team's improvement over the second half of this season.

It may seem like Tavares is clutching at straws regarding the team's improvement, but there's no denying they've shown promise since mid-season. The up-turn has been helped not just by Tavares, but also reclamation projects such as P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner and Al Montoya.

Tavares obviously believes in his team's future and wants to be a part of it.

OIL RESERVE

The Edmonton Oilers will have considerable cap space available for next season, but their fans shouldn't expect the club to make any big splashes in this summer's free agent pool.

Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal reported the Oilers would have around $27 million in available space (if the salary cap were to remain at $59.4 million), giving them plenty of room to re-sign restricted free agents such as Andrew Cogliano and Ladislav Smid and also bring in some free agent talent.

GM Steve Tambellini suggested he wouldn’t pursue high-end free agents this summer, in part because of the difficulty of attracting such players to a rebuilding club like the Oilers. It's possible, however, Tambellini will go the trade route, perhaps by targeting teams with limited cap space looking to dump salary.

Options would include the New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota Wild, which all have payrolls in excess of $50 million for next season.

 

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.

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