Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Brad Richards would consider a return to Tampa Bay.

Richards officially hits the market July 1, after having his contract bought out by the Rangers. Pat Morris, his agent, said Richards would "certainly respond positively to interest from Tampa." Of course, this says nothing about whether the Lightning even have interest in him. Richards can still be an asset in the right situation, and his production now won't automatically need to be judged based on the huge contract he was under with the Rangers.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Rangers GM Glen Sather said the decision to buy out the remainder of Brad Richards' contract was "extremely difficult."

Sather said he has a great deal of respect for Richards. "Brad's leadership and guidance for our young players was invaluable to the organization," he said in a statement. "We are grateful to have had the professionalism and experience he brought as an example for our team to follow. Brad has been a very good player for us and an even better person. We wish him all the best in his future endeavors."

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Brad Richards enjoyed his three seasons with the New York Rangers.

Richards had the last six years of his contract bought out by the Rangers on Friday and he is now an unrestricted free agent. "Tough last few days," Richards said in a statement. "I loved being a Ranger and living in New York and playing at MSG in front of great fans. Glen Sather, the management, and the owner, Mr. [James] Dolan, are all class acts. I want to thank them for letting me be a part of New York life and the Rangers family. With this decision finalized, I can now look forward to starting the next chapter of my career." The 34-year-old will now look elsewhere and he should have no trouble finding an interested team as he is still a top-six forward.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

New York Rangers GM Glen Sather said the decision to buy out Brad Richards was "extremely difficult" because of the respect Sather has for him.

Sather went on to praise Richards' leadership and guidance. The Rangers aren't buying out Richards' contract because he didn't have value. They're doing it because he's 34 years old and came with a $6,666,667 annual cap hit through 2019-20. They had the option to rid themselves of that cap hit entirely through a compliance buyout, but that option wouldn't have been available to them beyond this summer, so they had to act now.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Brad Richards has been bought out by the New York Rangers, according to multiple sources.

That's not in the least bit surprising. Richards isn't being bought out because he's a bad player, he's being bought out because the Rangers had a unique and time-sensitive opportunity to get out of the negative part of the heavily front-loaded, long-term contract they signed Richards too. By using a compliance buyout on him, which is something they wouldn't have been allowed to do past this summer, they can entirely wipe his $6,666,667 annual cap hit off the books. He would have otherwise cost the Rangers though much through 2019-20, which would have been a significant problem for the team given that Richards is already 34 years old. In effect, the Rangers got the short-term benefits of frontloading his contract without having to suffer for it when that cap hit persisted through his late-30s.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Agent Pat Morris, who represents Brad Richards, doesn't think his client will be bought out.

"Gut feeling, it wouldn't surprise me if he's kept," Morris said. "Glen was pretty positive about Brad's role this season, especially after [former Rangers captain Ryan] Callahan left." If Richards does get bought out, it will have very little to do with how he played this season. This is the Rangers' last chance to use a compliance buyout on Richards, which will rid them of his cap hit going forward. That's a big deal given that Richards is 34 years old and comes with a $6,666,667 annual cap hit through 2019-20.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Larry Brooks of the New York Post believes the Rangers have already made a decision to buyout the contract of forward Brad Richards.

Brooks reports the team has conducted its annual evaluation of the roster in advance of the draft and the free agency period and this assessment has led the club to decide on using a compliance buyout to shed the burden of his contract, which runs until the 2019-20 season.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

New York hasn't made a decision yet on the future of Brad Richards.

"We met [Sunday] for the first time with our scouts," coach Alain Vigneault said. "We're going through the process of evaluating our team. Obviously everybody knows we've got quite a few decisions to make. We're just starting that process now. We've still got quite a bit of work to do." The Rangers may use a compliance buyout on him. His contract runs through the 2019-20 season and carries an annual average value of $6,666,667 per year.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Brad Richards only had two assists in the Rangers last 10 playoff games.

That type of scoring slump gets you demoted to the fourth line and that's exactly what happened to Richards for the final two games of the series against the Kings. Richards ended up the playoffs with five goals and 12 points in 25 games and it sure looks like the Rangers will use a compliance buyout on Richards, ending his career in New York and freeing up $6.6 million in salary cap space.

Brad Richards C CHI 4 Months

Brad Richards very likely has played his last game with the New York Rangers.

The Rangers were beaten out for the Stanley Cup title by the Los Angeles Kings in five games. They lost all three games in Los Angeles in overtime, including Game 5's 3-2 double overtime loss Friday night. "It's definitely worth every second of these last two months," said Richards, who almost certainly will be bought out of the final six seasons of his nine-year, $60 million deal. "But right now, you're just kind of speechless."