We start final week of the Stars player review series with the team's biggest gun.
There's no argument that the Stars' best player in 2009-10 was center Brad Richards.
The stats can tell you that. Richards, 30, led the Stars in points. Only seven NHL players had more than 90 points last season and Richards was one of them with 91 points.
He made players around him better. Loui Eriksson and James Neal have bright futures and are good goal scorers. But having Richards out there to pass the puck, draw defenseman away and create open ice for them certainly improved the entire line's play.
Richards was a dominant player at home, but dropped off some on the road when opposing coaches could better matchup players against his line. Richards had 55 points at home and was plus-7. He had 36 points on the road and was a minus-19. Those are vastly different numbers based on location.
That was one reason Stars coach Marc Crawford moved Steve Ott on Richards' line in place of James Neal. It gave the line some more defensive help (Neal's plus/minus on the road wasn't great, either) and some grit. It will be interesting to see what Crawford does next year with that line.
Richards was a key component of the power play. He was second in the NHL in power play points with 40.
The key question for the Stars on Richards is whether they can afford him past this season. He's making $7.8 million on average per season and I can't see the Stars paying that. I would think, as a 90-point scorer consistently, Richards would have to get a longer-term deal to come down to a number that makes more sense (like $6 million or $6.5 million). Are the Stars willing to do that? We won't really know until the ownership situation is settled and they know what they can spend in 2011-12.
If the Stars don't believe they'll have the money to sign Richards past this season, he could end up on the trade market. He would be a valuable piece at the deadline if there's a team in contention that needs a solid center like that. The Stars might be able to get a decent package in return and have some money free to spend on the market next summer. But replacing a player of Richards' production won't be easy.
One other point: If the Stars were to trade Mike Ribeiro this summer and then decide they can't afford Richards, they've parted ways with two productive centers and have all of a sudden weakened what is a deep position for them. I will say that I think the Stars have to trade Ribeiro if they can get a good defenseman in return and then just see what happens with Richards.
What do you think the Stars should do? Will Richards be a Star past next season?