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Will Richards return to Tampa Bay?

Brad Richards had 77 points in 72 games with the Dallas Stars this season. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Brad Richards had 77 points in 72 games with the Dallas Stars this season. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Brad Richards' days with the Dallas Stars are drawing to a close.

Late last week it was reported the Stars wouldn't make a contract offer to Richards, an unrestricted free agent this summer, because they wouldn't have a new owner in place by July 1.

The team is currently in the process of being sold to Vancouver businessman Tom Gagliardi, but some reports suggested the sale wouldn't be finalized until later in the summer.

It was also reported the Stars may attempt to shop Richards' exclusive negotiating rights prior to July 1. Subsequent reports cast doubt on this and suggested instead the sale of the club could be finalized for approval by the league’s board of governors at their upcoming meeting on June 21, which would give Stars management an opportunity to re-sign the pivot.

Richards, however, closed the door on that possibility. He took to Twitter over the weekend to tell Dallas hockey fans how much he'll miss them and he thanked them for their support over the past three years.

Meanwhile, his agent, Pat Morris, told Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star Richards would not waive his no-movement clause to allow his rights to be shopped.

Morris added his client had interest in any team that had interest in him and didn't rule out the possibility of signing this summer with a “premier Canadian city.”

That's bound to fuel rumors linking Richards to the Toronto Maple Leafs once he hits the open market.

The Leafs, of course, aren't the only team that would have interest in Richards, as the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and Detroit Red Wings are rumored as potential suitors as well.

Richards has also suggested he’d be interested in returning to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he had his best years and won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times noted Lightning management is expected to have a larger payroll to work with next season, but salary cap space plus the need to re-sign key free agents such as Steven Stamkos would be potential roadblocks to a Richards return.

Cristodero considered the possibility “intriguing” especially if Richards was willing to accept a little less salary to return to Tampa Bay.

It certainly would make for a good story, but one that probably won't happen.

The Lightning have undergone considerable change since Richards was dealt away in a cost-cutting move three years ago. Current GM Steve Yzerman is more likely to focus on keeping as much of his roster intact as possible and shop for affordable depth, rather than bring back an expensive former Lightning star.

WILD OPEN TO CHANGES ALONG THE BLUELINE

Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher has reportedly narrowed his search for a new coach, telling Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune a new bench boss will have influence over the club's roster decisions this summer.

Fletcher has interviewed former NHL coaches Craig MacTavish, Michel Therrien and Ken Hitchcock, plus Canadiens assistant coach Kirk Muller.

Fletcher also said he'd be willing to consider trading anyone on his current roster except team captain Mikko Koivu, which signals the GM’s willingness to get busy shaking up the Wild’s roster this summer.

Russo suggested the biggest decision facing Fletcher is determining if he'll attempt to re-sign defenseman Brent Burns, who'll be eligible for UFA status next summer, or shop him for offensive depth.

Another decision surrounds the potential buyout of defenseman Cam Barker, who has one season remaining on his current contract with a cap hit of $3.08 million. Barker's age (25) means the buyout would translate into one-third of his remaining salary (rather than two-thirds) being counted against the cap over twice the remaining tenure of his deal.

Barker was acquired by the Wild from the Chicago Blackhawks in a February 2010 trade, but has been a disappointment in Minnesota, struggling through injuries and inconsistent play.

Still, if he's bought out and becomes an unrestricted free agent, he would attract considerable interest from clubs seeking a young, promising blueliner, provided his salary demands are reasonable.

Any prospective teams would be willing to gamble that Barker simply wasn't a good fit with the Wild and could regain the promising, 40-point form he displayed in 2008-09 with Chicago.

CANADIENS SEEK BACKUP GOALIE

The Montreal Canadiens will be looking for goaltending depth behind starter Carey Price this summer.

Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette recently pointed out backup Alex Auld and minor-leaguers Curtis Sanford and Drew MacIntyre are unrestricted free agents this summer.

GM Pierre Gauthier could re-sign them still, but if they opt to test the market or if he feels he needs an upgrade, he’ll find plenty of options in a UFA market that will be deep in experienced, affordable backups.

Among those potentially available are: New Jersey's Johan Hedberg, Philadelphia's Brian Boucher, St. Louis' Ty Conklin and Columbus' Mathieu Garon, who began his NHL career with the Canadiens.

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 News.

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