Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland is regarded as one of the best in the business, and he showed why on Wednesday, addressing two needs through free agency and doing so without getting carried away on long-term deals he would regret.
Holland has been after Green a for a long time, approaching the Washington Capitals a summer ago when it appeared Green might be available after the Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik signings overloaded the Caps' blue line. Instead, Green stayed put until his deal ran out.
That’s when Holland jumped on him, though not at all costs. The Wings made it clear early on to Green's representatives at Newport Sports Management that they weren’t going to do a long-term deal, so forget a five-year contract.
The conversation then came down to doing three years or four, with average annual value a bit higher on three years. The Wings chose the shorter deal, even if the AAV was higher at $6 million.
Finally, after two-plus years looking, the Wings had a right-handed defenseman in their top four.
Buying out Stephen Weiss (whose signing was a rare Holland mistake) brought about a need for Richards, though the two events weren’t really connected, in the sense that the Wings didn’t have anybody in mind when they bought Weiss out.
But it made things just a little awkward, and it invites an appreciation for the sensitivity of being a player agent, when Pat Morris of Newport Sports was trying to get Weiss on the phone before news of the Richards signing broke. No doubt, Morris wanted to make sure his client didn’t think this whole thing was cooked up from the beginning, which it wasn’t.
The Wings, in fact, debated until 11:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday whether to buy out Weiss, and it was a hard decision. It wasn’t until 12 hours later, 11:30 that night, that Holland was talking to Morris about the idea of Richards.
The Wings had to give Richards a raise from the $2 million he made in Chicago last year, not only because the veteran center played better this year, but also because there’s an awareness that his deal with the Blackhawks a year ago was special circumstance in that he was joining the NHL’s destination team to win a Cup.
So the Wings will pay Richards $3 million and will also give him an extra $250,000 if they win the first round of the playoffs, then $750,000 if they win Round 2. The message here is clear: Richards was brought in as much for his winning pedigree as he was for his offensive boost.
Really nice job by the Wings on Wednesday.