TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed center Brad Richards to a five-year contract valued at $39 million, it was announced by Executive Vice President & General Manager Jay Feaster. Richards' new deal has an average annual value of $7.8 million.
Richards, 26, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, would have been eligible to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2006-07 NHL season. The 6-foot, 198-pound native of Murray Harbour, Prince Edward Island led the Lightning in scoring for the third time in his five NHL seasons with 23 goals and 91 points in 2005-06. He also set a new franchise mark for assists in a season with 68 and finished 12th overall in the NHL in points and fifth in the league in assists.
"Brad Richards is a special hockey player and an even better person," Feaster said. "He has represented this franchise with class, dignity and pride since his first day wearing a Lightning sweater. The thought of losing Brad next summer at the age of 27 to unrestricted free agency was simply untenable, and thus we are absolutely thrilled that we will now be able to keep him in a Lightning sweater until at least age 31.
"Every time this organization has issued a challenge to Brad he has responded. From his performance at the Memorial Cup prior to signing his first Lightning contract to his Conn Smythe-winning performance the year after signing his second Lightning contract, to helping us get back to the playoffs this past season, Brad Richards has consistently demonstrated why he is a 'franchise player'."
Richards, the Lightning's all-time assist leader (261) and second on the team's all-time scoring list (368 points), has a long list of accomplishments in only five NHL seasons. Among his achievements:
- He is the only player in franchise history to post five consecutive 60-point seasons and three consecutive 70-point seasons
- He has missed only two games in his first five seasons
- He ranks fifth in team history with 107 goals
- He ranks ninth in the NHL in points during the past five seasons (368), first on the Lightning and among players 26 or younger
- Since the 2000-01 season, he ranks third in the NHL in assists with 261, trailing only Joe Thornton and Jaromir Jagr
- He ranks second among NHL forwards in games played since 2000-01 (408)
Richards' contributions during the Lightning's run to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship were immeasurable. He set an NHL record for most game-winning goals in a playoff year with seven and set a team mark for points in a playoff year with 26. He came through at crucial times as well, scoring the winning goal in Game 4 and scoring twice in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals vs. Calgary.
Selected by the Lightning in the third round, 64th overall, at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Richards made an immediate impact as a rookie in 2000-01. He led all NHL rookies in goals (21), assists (41), points (62), power-play assists (19) and power-play points (26), and finished second in the Calder Trophy voting behind San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov.
He led the team in scoring for a second year with 62 points in 2001-02, and he improved that total to 74 points in 2002-03 as the Lightning qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in franchise history. In 2003-04 Richards improved on his totals once again, scoring a career-best 26 goals and 79 points as the Lightning finished with the top record in the Eastern Conference.
In 1999-00, Richards led all junior players in scoring with 71 goals and 115 assists for 186 points in 63 games with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He also led the QMJHL in playoff scoring and was named tournament MVP as he directed Rimouski to the Memorial Cup Championship with 10 points in four games, including a two-goal, two-assist effort in the final. He also was named the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year. In three seasons with Rimouski he tallied 143 goals, 289 assists and 432 points in only 190 games
In international competition, Richards has represented Canada at the 2000 World Junior Championships, the 2001 World Championships, the 2004 World Cup and the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.