What to do with Brad Richards?

Brad Richards is the subject of lots of trade rumors as the NHL Trade Deadline arrives today. (Photo Credit: Shannon Byrne)

NHL Trade Deadline Day 2011 has arrived and Brad Richards is still a member of the Dallas Stars to start the day.  Will he remain a Star once the 2:00 PM deadline has come and gone?

Rumors are rampant on Twitter and the message boards for ESPN and TSN, and if you listen to those, Brad Richards is going to just about every team in the NHL.  Usually a source of baseless rumors, message boards ramp up their crazy on Deadline Day, and you have to ignore just about everything you read on a day like today.

The most consistent line I’ve heard about Brad Richards is that he’s not interested in moving.  He’d rather stay in Dallas and finish out his season, and then come July 1st, take a look at the free agent market.  He’s more than willing to talk about a new contract in Dallas, but would like the ownership situation to be resolved first.  You can hardly blame him – who knows what kind of owner the Stars will have next?  I’m optimistic that it will be someone who knows hockey and loves it, and would like to see the Stars as legitimate contenders every season, but I tend to look at things with rose-colored glasses.  Only time will tell.

So, if it’s true that Brad would like to finish out his contract in Dallas and then test the FA market this summer, is that something that is palatable to Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk?  Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if it is or not: Brad Richards holds all the cards.  With a NMC (No Movement Clause) in his contract, he can stay here if he’d like.  But, if he’s going to go anywhere in the NHL and approve it, the consensus is that it would be the New York Rangers.  The Rangers are legitimate contenders this year, and coach John Tortorella was Richards’ coach in Tampa Bay when they won the cup in 2004.  It would make sense that if Richards’ was looking elsewhere, the Blueshirts would be one of his top choices.

But is he willing to waive his no-trade to do so?  He hasn’t said one way or another, but again, the belief is that he would be willing to do so for the Rangers.  Probably not for most other teams.  That leaves Joe Nieuwendyk with a tough decision:

With the Stars in the middle of a heated battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, do they trade their top scorer away?  Or, do they hang on to him to play out the rest of the season and risk losing him in the off-season with no compensation?

Judging by the comments on media outlet message boards and Stars fan sites, the majority of hockey fans in Dallas seem to be leaning towards hanging on to Richards and seeing what this team can do in a playoff run.  In that way, Nieuwendyk’s job has been made much easier.  If the Stars do lose Richards in the off-season, there shouldn’t be too much of a fan backlash saying “I knew we should have traded him in February”.

This stance should allow Nieuwendyk to take the stance an owner should take.  He’s going to make the New York Rangers bowl him over with an offer.  If a trade doesn’t seem to definitively favor the Stars, then he won’t move him.  But, if he can significantly improve the team by moving Richards, I think that’s an option that is definitely on the table.

My money is on seeing Richards in a Dallas sweater through the rest of this season…but crazy things can happen on a day like today.  We’ll know for sure in just a few hours.

Photo by Shannon Byrne.

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