It’s Richards, Laich or Bust


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By now we’ve all jostled with the idea of the Leafs landing Brad Richards in some way or other. These things tend to happen when it’s basically been talked about for over a year prior to his upcoming free agency period.

Much like Rick Nash in the past, Leafs fans have plotted their potential line combinations with Richards’ name embedded on the top unit for some time now.

For me, the Richards idea sort of fell by the wayside a while ago as I came to grips with the fact that he’d likely become a Ranger in the off-season. Returning to the free agency list, a few people began to throw around Brooks Laich’s name – which, I think, is a great thing. But the Richards situation has sort of resurfaced for me over the past week or so, and I think I’ve had a change of heart (or hope).

Quite frankly, it’s going to take a cap miracle for the Rangers to sign Brad Richards. And of course it’s still very likely he could remain in Dallas, but if he indeed  hits the market and it comes down to Sather and Burke, Leafs fans could be in luck.

In order for the Rangers to land him, they’ll obviously have to pay the premium at 7-8 million or so, placing them with three forwards (Drury, Gaborik) with enormous 6-7+mill cap-hits. Chalking up 20+ million to three guys probably isn’t the best of ideas.

Now there’s strong speculation that the Rangers will buy out Drury’s remaining year, since he cannot be demoted and given the Redden treatment. This would obviously go a long way in clearing space for Richards, but is that really a type of team players will want to go to? Demotions here, buyouts there – seems like a bit of a circus (yes, even more circus-like than the Leafs).

The point is, what I thought would be a fairly easy signing for the Rangers would actually be quite the auction if Burke gets involved. And the Leafs could be in a position of power.

Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are both up for contracts, along with other players like Anisimov and Gilroy. A few players like McCabe, Fedotenko and Prospal are quite expendable, but even then, the Rangers are going to be strapped to acquire Richards over another real bidder, which Burke and the Leafs have the ability (cap space) to be.

Returning to the Laich scenario, this guy is really a no-brainer as the top prize outside of Richards this summer. And there isn’t much doubt that Burke and company will have interest.

If Richards isn’t attainable, and the top-six can’t effectively be upgraded through another trade, Burke will probably look to round out the forwards corps with another big guy that can provide offense. Laich fits the description, and I’d actually like to see this thing come to fruition. Though, I wouldn’t want to see the Leafs get into a major bidding war for him. At a sensible price, he could provide the team with some solid work in front of the net and plenty of edge.

The main downside however, is that Laich plays with a great team in Washington, and probably would like to remain until they take home a mug. Then again, we always give athletes this type of loyalty attribute, and it rarely rings true. So with that said, if you offer enough cash, they’ll probably play in Toronto.

Other than that the free agency list is actually hilarious. There really isn’t much else out there that’s a big upgrade from what the Leafs have, especially up front. James Wisniewski or Christian Ehrhoff would be decent signings if the Leafs didn’t already have 455 defencemen.

It’s actually possible that Burke could sign both Laich and Richards, a true Christmas in July. But as much as we (myself definitely included) sometimes choose to forget it, there are 29 other teams in the league.  Let the speculation carry on.

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