ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers counts down the days to the opening of Blackhawks training camp on Friday with a look at 20 storylines facing the team this season.
The Chicago Blackhawks will have some positions to sort out in training camp, but they finally have someone they can mark down as their second-line center.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman took care of that in the offseason by signing Brad Richards to a one-year deal. The Blackhawks offered Richards another chance to win a Stanley Cup, and Richards offered the Blackhawks a veteran center at an affordable price.
"It was important for us to try to get some depth at that position," Bowman said during the offseason. "Obviously, Brad is more than depth. He's an established, experienced player. I just think you can never have too many guys who can play in the middle."
The Blackhawks have been missing a steady second-line center in recent years. They tried everyone from Dave Bolland to Michal Handzus to Brandon Pirri to Ben Smith to Marcus Kruger to Andrew Shaw to even Brandon Saad. Some of the centers had more success than others, but none were permanent solutions.
Richards might not be permanent himself for the entire season, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville already has said he expects Richards to start there. That's progress considering Quenneville was toying with the idea of Saad as the second-line center during last year's training camp. Whether Richards remains there will depend on how his 34-year-old body holds up over the course of the season and whether the organization's top prospect, Teuvo Teravainen, proves to be ready.
Richards will be one of the more offensive centers Patrick Kane has played with on the second line in recent seasons. Richards has recorded 60-plus points in 10 NHL seasons and is coming off a season where he had 20 goals and 51 points for the New York Rangers.
Richards was second on the Rangers with 8.79 shots per 60 minutes last season, but he likely will shoot a little less and become more of a distributor with Kane and Brandon Saad on his wings. He's recorded 50-plus assists four times in his career.
"I've watched these guys play the last 6-7 years," Richards said during the offseason. "Patrick Kane is one of the most explosive players in the league. It's not just him. It's a great group that's been together and knows how to win. When you get a chance to maybe team up with one of those players on a line, whoever is on your line, it makes you feel pretty excited. I can't wait to get to work and try to make it a great experience for everybody."