Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk was a guest on NHL Live! this afternoon and his injured/pending free agent star center, Brad Richards, was one of the main topics of discussion.
Richards is second on the Stars with 24 goals and leads the team with 63 points. He has not played since February 13 because of a concussion. Just as important, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and his name has come up in many media discussions about the forthcoming trade deadline.
It turns out his name has come up for Nieuwendyk as well.
"I've discussed it with some teams," he said. "All options are in play here. It is certainly not my first choice. We've maintained all along that we'd like to keep Brad as a Dallas Star for a long period of time. There's a lot of uncertainty on our side as far as ownership and things like that are a concern from them. All options are open. It is certainly going to have to be good type of deal in order to pry him away from us because we are sitting here tied for eighth right now and have a lot of home games coming up in March."
This will not be an easy decision for Nieuwendyk. Richards would be the marquee player available this week, just as he'd be the top player available on July 1 if he doesn't sign between now and then. Richards is a legitimate No. 1 center and has a Conn Smythe Trophy on his resume. He also doesn't turn 31 until May, so he could have several years at a peak level remaining.
He's also concussed, which makes a potential deal tricky for other teams.
"Unfortunately there is not timetable for Brad," Nieuwendyk said. "We're talking about some of our best players here. Brad probably is our best player. It is difficult. I think he is feeling better. I anticipate that he will start skating soon although we don't have a timeframe on when he'll return."
There is more to the decision for Nieuwendyk (and for Richards) than just signing a contract. The Stars are a franchise with an in flux ownership situation. It is also one that needs to build some momentum with a fan base that was used to seeing the club win for a long time.
Making the playoffs would make some money and maybe help sell some season tickets for next year. Keeping Richards (and eventually signing him) would be the best-case scenario for Dallas. Keeping him and losing an elite player for nothing could be devistating.
"For our fans and our franchise it is important to make the playoffs, so that is always in the front of our minds," Nieuwendyk said. "Obviously the situation with Brad is a very delicate one, but we're certainly not going to give him away unless we feel we can make our team stronger now and for the future."