New York Rangers' Brad Richards says he wants to return to team
Richards spoke with reporters on Monday as the team conducted its breakup day interviews before heading into the offseason. The veteran center, who struggled mightily and has been the subject of speculation regarding a potential contract buyout, said he wants to return next season.
"I signed here to be a Ranger for a lot longer than a year and a half and I hope to do that," Richards said. "I gotta take care of how I play."
How he played was a large part of the reason Richards was a healthy scratch for Games 4 and 5 of the Rangers' Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins. He scored just one goal in the first 10 playoff games.
"I didn't feel normal all season," Richards said. "There are a thousand things I could blame or put excuses on, but I won't. Obviously there was something missing."
The 33-year-old scored 11 goals and recorded 23 assists in 46 regular-season games, one season after scoring 25 goals and playing all 82 contests.
When asked if he still feels he has a lot to contribute, Richards gave a one-word answer: "Yes." Whether those contributions are with the Blueshirts or elsewhere remains to be seen.
As per the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement, the Rangers can use a compliance buyout on Richards during this offseason or next. New York already used a buyout on defenseman Wade Redden earlier this year.
Richards said he's aware of that scenario.
"That's been written since probably a week into the season," he said. "That's the business side of it. I'm playing hockey no matter what."
Richards' poor play may not be the sole factor behind a potential buyout. A provision in the salary cap would penalize the Rangers if Richards retires before his deal expires. Additionally, teams cannot buy out injured players, so the Rangers could lose that ability if the center suffers an injury in 2013-14.
For now, Richards' future is merely speculation. He's just going to focus on getting ready to play next season.
"I get to start over, in about a week or two," he said. "It's one thing I can control, how I prepare. If I do all that then I am confident of how I will enter the season."