Rumor Roundup: Brad or Mike, which Richards will be bought out?

Richards (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

New York Rangers center Brad Richards and Los Angeles Kings pivot Mike Richards may be unrelated, but they share more than a last name, position and participation in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final. They’re also the subjects of compliance buyout speculation.

Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reports the possibility of a Brad Richards buyout is the elephant in the room for the Rangers. The Globe & Mail’s Eric Duhatschek believes the Kings could face a choice between buying out Mike Richards to free up cap space to re-sign Marian Gaborik or risk losing the latter to free agency.

Brad, 34, is currently in the third year of a nine-year, $60-million contract worth $6.66 million annually. Mike, 29, is in the sixth year of a 12-year, $69 million deal worth $5.75 million per season. Both contracts could create salary cap grief for their teams this summer.

The Rangers have nearly $54 million invested in just 13 players for 2014-15 and must re-sign or replace Chris Kreider, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Anton Stralman, Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore and John Moore. The Kings have almost $58 million tied up in 18 players, with Gaborik, Willie Mitchell, Dwight King and Matt Greene as their notable free agents. Though the salary cap is projected to rise to between $69-70 million, that’s not enough cap space for these clubs to re-sign all their key free agents.

Both Richards saw a decline in their respective offensive production this season, but Brad has emerged as the Rangers de facto captain and is among their leading playoff scorers. Mike, however, now centers the Kings fourth line, prompting concerns the wear and tear of his two-way style has caught up with him.

The Rangers and Kings could consider trading their Richards and perhaps even pick up a portion of their salaries to make them more attractive in the trade market. However, because each was signed to front-loaded deals under the previous CBA, there are cap-recapture penalties to consider.

For example, assuming the Rangers were to trade Brad to the Anaheim Ducks and he retired in 2016, the Blueshirts would be hit with recapture penalties of $4.16 million annually until 2020, when his contract was due to expire. The Ducks would be penalized $916,000 annually over the same period.

If the Kings were to trade Mike to the Toronto Maple Leafs and he retired two years later, the Kings would be tagged with $1.33 million in annual recapture penalties to 2020, while the Leafs would be docked $375,000 annually.

With this year being the last teams can use the compliance buyout option, it’s the best way for the Rangers and Kings to shed those salaries without any impact to their cap payroll in the coming years. The buyouts will be two-thirds the remaining value over twice the remaining tenure, but it won’t count against their respective cap payrolls.

WILL SPEZZA STAY WITH THE SENATORS?
With the NHL draft weekend only three weeks away, speculation continues to percolate in Ottawa over the trade status of Senators captain Jason Spezza. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Bryan Murray is “working the phones” trying to find the right fit for Spezza leading up to the draft.

Garrioch cites league sources claiming Murray prefers to deal with Western Conference suitors. He writes the Anaheim Ducks, St. Louis Blues, Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks are believed to have interest in Spezza, who is entering the final year of his contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Garrioch believes the Senators seek a 2014 first-round pick, a top-six forward who can help them immediately and a top prospect. A source said if they pursue a deal with the Ducks they could ask for forward Nick Bonino as part of the return.

The Senators and Ducks have a recent trade history, with Bobby Ryan being shipped to Ottawa last summer. The Ducks also have two picks in the first round, one of which the Senators sent to Anaheim as part of the return for Ryan. If the Ducks want Spezza, Murray could ask for his first-rounder back.

Spezza has a 10-team no-trade list, which factors into where he gets dealt. He could prefer going to a potential Cup contender like the Blues and Ducks.

HEMSKY A GONER?
Speaking of the Senators, it appears Ales Hemsky’s tenure in Ottawa will be short-lived. Garrioch reports contract talks between Senators management and the Hemsky camp broke down after the latter sought a new deal worth $5.5 million annually.

The Senators acquired Hemsky at this year’s trade deadline from the Edmonton Oilers. Garrioch states Senators management liked the 30-year-old winger’s performance but weren’t prepared to pay a high price to keep him. He speculates they could try to replace him via trade, noting they had interest in Buffalo Sabres winger Chris Stewart before the trade deadline.

They could also go the free agent route. Garrioch suggests right winger Ryan Callahan might be a good fit if he doesn’t re-sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Callahan sought a six-year, $39-million deal from the New York Rangers, which forced his trade to the Lightning at the trade deadline. If he’s sticking to that asking price this summer, he’ll prove too expensive for the budget-conscious Senators.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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