GLENDALE – Earlier this summer, within the span of about 24 hours, the Coyotes transformed a question mark heading into 2015-16 into an exclamation point.
Arizona, which desperately needed help at the center position, received plenty of it by trading for Boyd Gordon on June 30 and then by signing Antoine Vermette and Brad Richardson as unrestricted free agents the next day. Suddenly, blank spaces on the depth chart were filled in with names and a position of weakness became a position of strength.
Coyotes fans know well what Gordon and Vermette will bring to the team; this upcoming stint with the club will be the second for both players.
Richardson, however, will be one of several true newcomers on the roster when the Coyotes start the season in October. Like Vermette and Gordon, Richardson, 30, is solid defensively and in the faceoff circle. And last season with Vancouver he displayed a nifty scoring touch with 21 points in 45 games before his season was cut short by injury. Richardson’s career high for points in a season came in 2009-10 with Los Angeles when he notched 27 (11 goals and 16 assists) in 81 games. With 21 in 45 games last season, he was on pace to shatter that personal mark.
Arizona General Manager Don Maloney said Richardson is a player who regularly stood out when his teams – Colorado, Los Angeles and Vancouver – played against the Coyotes in past seasons. Maloney noticed Richardson’s speed, intelligence and toughness in those games.
Regarding toughness, Richardson essentially played on one foot in the playoff series vs. Calgary at the end of last season after playing just two regular-season games after suffering a serious ankle injury in January.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett already has Richardson penciled in as the team’s third-line center with wingers Tobias Rieder and Shane Doan. He thinks the three players – all in different stages of their NHL careers – will complement each other well.
|Brad Richardson. Photo by Getty Images. |
Richardson is eager to take an expanded role with his new team.
“I feel really comfortable (signing with Arizona) and I feel like I’m going to be a big part of this team,” said Richardson, who agreed to a three-year deal on July 1. “That was one of the reasons I really wanted to go there.”
Richardson was drafted 163rd overall by Colorado in 2003. He played 136 games for the Avalanche before being traded to Los Angeles in 2008.
In five seasons with the Kings, Richardson played 255 games plus 13 more in the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs when LA made its run to the title. Richardson competed in those playoff games despite having had an emergency appendectomy just before they started.
Following his stint with LA, Richardson spent two seasons with Vancouver. Now he’s ready for the next chapter of his career and the Coyotes are hoping his post-season experience and savvy – he has played 50 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs – will inspire the team’s younger players.
Richardson, who will wear sweater No. 12 for the Coyotes, said he signed with Arizona because he liked the direction the team is heading. Plus, former Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata, who played with Richardson last season in Vancouver, highly recommended the team to him.
“He said the people around the organization are great and all the guys are awesome and it’s a great spot to live,” Richardson said. “Radim was one of the guys who was really high on Arizona so that kind of made me think about them.”