The Stanley Cup returns to Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island, this summer and the only question is which NHL team Brad Richards will be affiliated with when brings the most famous trophy in sports back home.
The 35-year-old center, who had a solid second half in Chicago this past season, particularly raising his game in the playoffs with 14 points (three goals-11 assists) and some clutch moments, joins the fray of unrestricted free agents who can sign with any team in the league as of Wednesday at noon ET.
The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks remain an option, although given the team’s salary-cap crunch, not the most likely one.
"They’ve talked to [agent] Pat [Morris] and obviously I want to continue talking to them, but I also know their situation," Richards told ESPN.com on Monday. "Personally, I don’t know how long I can wait to see what the landscape is."
Having said that, Richards, a sharp dude who has always shown an interest in the business side and the machinations of the game CBA-wise, also realizes this is a different offseason for the NHL and many cap-strapped teams will need time to make trades before they can sign players. In other words, maybe Richards signs with a team on July 1, but maybe he has to wait longer.
"I’m very patient with the whole process and looking to gather as much information and options as I can and weighing them all," Richards said.
"The situation I’m in, I mean I’m still enjoying what just happened two weeks ago, so being patient this time around whereas maybe other years you’re kind of antsy. I know the right thing will come along at some point and I’ll know when that is. But with the salary cap, all the restricted free agents, teams trying to clear cap space, nobody really knows the landscape perfectly yet and that might not happen July 1. It might take longer than that. There are more things you have to weigh. There’s a lot of different ways to look at it right now."
Richards looked quicker this past season than he has in three or four years; there’s lots of hockey left in this guy. Just where exactly he fits will be interesting. Another chance with a Cup contender is always appealing, but perhaps helping out a young team with his leadership could also be an option. Given how his Blackhawks teammates spoke of him during the playoffs and the same from his old New York Rangers teammates, you know you’re getting a great team guy.
"Winning is No. 1, of course it is, but there could be a fit elsewhere where a team surprises you and I look at their roster and maybe think it’s better than other people think," said Richards, who has played 78 playoff games the past four seasons alone.
"I still feel like I can contribute and I proved that to myself this year. I understand there are roles I have to accept at this point in my career but I also think I can play an important role. I’ll weigh all that stuff and see what kind of role a team will have for me."
AROUND THE LEAGUE:
The Kings still have interest in re-signing UFA blueliner Andrej Sekera and perhaps with the Mike Richards contract termination they can find enough cap space to do so. But if not, it’s believed 10 teams have shown interest.
Drew Stafford's agent, Steve Bartlett, said Monday morning that he continues to talk with the Winnipeg Jets but doesn’t have a deal done. Stafford was a good fit there as a trade-deadline pickup but finding the right parameters to stay put is always a challenge. Still, I hope this one gets done, because sometimes the fit is more important than just making as much money as possible. Stafford looks good on that roster.