The Rangers bought out the final six years of Richards' contract a week after New York lost in the Stanley Cup finals in June. Richards signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks less than two weeks later.
Richards will face the Rangers for the first time since his departure in a preseason game at the United Center on Friday. He admitted a preseason game won't be nearly the same as going back to Madison Square Garden for a regular-season contest, but he was happy to see some familiar faces on Friday morning.
"Didn't get to see a lot of people the last time," Richards said after the Blackhawks' morning skate. "I saw them when we had a year-end party reminiscing about how close we got to a Cup, then everything happened so quick. Nice to see the staff. We all know how hard they work, the trainers and medical staff, for your team, and you really get close to them. So, nice to see them this morning.
"Like I said, not all the guys are there. It'll be different, especially when you go back to the Garden. Tonight, it's fun, but it's more about trying to work on my game with these guys."
Richards joined the Rangers after signing a nine-year, $60 million contract in 2011. He accumulated 151 points in three seasons and helped them to three playoff runs, which included the Eastern Conference finals in 2012 and Stanley Cup finals last season.
Richards would have loved to finish out his contract with the Rangers, but he understood their decision. He said the impending buyout was a bit of a distraction during the Stanley Cup finals.
"The writing was on the wall," Richards said. "I wanted to play hard for the team. It was a lot tougher than you can imagine when you're a big part of the locker room, in the Stanley Cup finals, and you know probably the next week you're not going to be part of it anymore. It wasn't the greatest feeling. That would be the only negative point, but it wasn't anybody's fault.
"They had no cap room. The long-term deal and those rules, all that stuff came into play. It was never hard feelings. It was just a weird time going through that, being in the Cup final and knowing four days later we sat down and talked and we were going to go that way. No hard feelings. They treated me great. I loved my time there. That's home base. I met my wife there and we're always going to go back. No hard feelings. I've just moved on and want to win here."
Richards is focused on his new team, but he took a few moments to reflect on his time with the Rangers.
"Memories are great," Richards said. "When I signed in New York to play, that city is pretty magical. To play at the Garden when it's rocking and make those playoff runs -- we had two good runs in my three years there -- there's something about that city that keeps you alive. Great to play my first Original Six and all that stuff. Tons of good people, organization treats you unbelievable, but this is pretty special, too. I'd rather move on and look forward to this and how this will be a big part of my career."
Rick Nash, Richards' former Rangers teammate, was sad to see Richards go, but happy to see him land with the Blackhawks.
"It's fun when you create those memories with some guys around the league," Nash said on Friday. "Unfortunate, but the business side comes around to it. But it's always fun to have those memories.
"He's with a top contender. He's a guy who's put his years in the league and he deserves to have a chance to win another time."