Brad Richards (right) and Duncan Keith (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s safe to say things turned out probably better than both Brad Richards and the Chicago Blackhawks could have imagined last season and the Detroit Red Wings are banking on a repeat performance, both for Richards and the team.
Richards, who was thought to be on his last stop when he signed for just $2 million with the Blackhawks last summer, earned himself at least a $1 million dollar raise on his new deal, a deal that will escalate to a total of $4 million if the Red Wings advance to the Eastern Conference final in 2015-16. If that happens, that is a total the Red Wings will only be too happy to have to pay.
The Red Wings are counting on the run to the Stanley Cup with Chicago reviving and reinvigorating Richards, who showed during the Stanley Cup final that what he’s lacking in foot speed he can sometimes make up with superior hockey sense and creativity. And he can still play the point on the power play with decent results.
For the Red Wings, it’s a contract that does not carry a whole lot of risk. It was important for them to have Richards agree to a one-year deal because of their situation with the salary cap and the fact that they don’t want to tie up salary and term in an aging player when they have so many young prospects on the way up. The $3 million is a reasonable price, with Richards making $250,000 in bonus money if the Red Wings win the first round of the playoffs and an additional $750,000 if they win the second round and advance to the Eastern Conference final.
For Richards, it’s another one-year deal, which is probably all he can hope for at this point in his career. With so many teams up against the salary cap, particularly the kinds of teams that would interest Richards, it would have been difficult for a 35-year-old with that many miles on his odometer to demand anything more.
How much Richards will be able to produce for the Red Wings is what remains to be seen. He’ll almost certainly get a chance to play in the top six and when you look at the quality of Detroit’s wingers, the opportunities are intriguing. There will always be concern that Richards might not be able to fit into a team that has the philosophy of always pressuring the puck and puts an emphasis on speed of transition. But that’s precisely why a lot of people thought he’d fail with the Blackhawks and we all know how that turned out.
It’s a long time since the summer of 2011, when Richards camped out at his agent’s office and entertained a conga line of teams that were pitching for his services. But that doesn’t mean Richards can’t be a useful piece of a puzzle for a team that already has good veteran leadership and a good amount of talent.