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Richards signs multi-year deal with Rangers

by Dan Rosen
Brad Richards had three reasons for why he chose to continue his career in the Big Apple.

* Stable ownership, which he didn't have at the end of his tenures in both Tampa Bay and Dallas.

* The chance to play for an Original Six franchise, which he's never done.

* John Tortorella, who helped turn him into a Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner seven years ago.
Richards never mentioned money during the conference call to announce his signing Saturday, but dollars and years weren't ever going to be a concern as he will make a reported $60 million during the course of his nine-year contract. That, according to Rangers general manager Glen Sather, is less money than other teams were offering.

However, those other teams, including Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Calgary Flames, couldn't offer Richards everything else that he wanted.

"When you factor that all in together, it kind of shows me this is the right fit for me," said Richards, who will reportedly make $57 million in the first six years of his contract.

Richards, 31, actually knew for a while that the Rangers were going to be a legitimate option for him. He had been scouting rosters since he knew he was going to be parting ways with the Dallas Stars, and studied how badly the Rangers need for a No. 1 center actually was. He obviously knew Tortorella was the coach, and that was also a big selling point.

"We have a good enough relationship where I know what he's doing there and I know what he expects," Richards said.

Richards just didn't know what kind of offer the Rangers were going to come up with by 12 p.m. ET on Friday, when free agents were allowed to start signing contracts in the NHL.

"I knew if I got to July 1, which I planned on doing, because of my relationship with Torts, if he was involved in getting in touch with me that I was going to listen," Richards said.

Tortorella finally did speak with Richards on Friday evening, but that was after a chaotic afternoon that involved Richards sitting through presentation after presentation from various NHL clubs at his agent's office in Mississauga, Ont.

Sather did not go to meet with Richards and agent, Pat Morris, at the Newport Sports Management, Inc. offices like the Los Angeles Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. But, Sather said the Rangers were the first team to talk with Richards on Friday at around 12:01 p.m. ET, when they presented their offer.

He said he knew other teams would be making their presentations in person, but Sather "didn't want to get involved in that kind of circus arrangement."

"I think we came in initially with a very good offer, expressed our interest," he said. "I talked with his agent, Pat Morris, and he knew we were serious about it. There is always tweaking and refining of every offer and every demand. It's not an unusual to take a long time to do a deal of this magnitude and it took a long time."

The deal with the Rangers was reported Saturday morning by TSN, but Richards didn't make his signing official until 3:06 p.m. ET, when he used his own personal Twitter account to announce he was, "Very happy to become a New York Ranger today!!!" The Rangers sent out an official press release shortly after that.

Richards said he understands the pressures that are associated with signing a big contract in a major market like New York.

"It's going to be a challenge for sure," he said. "It's going to be something different. I haven't experienced it, but if you want to be a good player or a great player that's something you should relish. What better place to try to perform every night than Madison Square Garden. That's a dream come true."

The fact that he already knows Tortorella should make Richards' transition to New York smoother.

The two had a strong and sometimes volatile (at least early in Richards' career) relationship when they were together in Tampa from 2000-08. Tortorella said the difference now is he knows exactly what Richards can do and how to play him.

"Early in his career you put him in a situation and see if he succeeds. Now he has a tremendous amount of responsibility as far as helping our young kids grow and being put in all situations on the ice, and he knows that," Tortorella said. "It's not testing him. It's putting him in there and he needs to accept the responsibility to help us succeed."

And make no mistake, the Rangers believe with Richards centering their top line (likely with Marian Gaborik on his right wing) and quarterbacking their power play, they should most definitely succeed.

"We outlined some of our needs when we met as an organization after we were knocked out in the first round and there were four or five main points we needed to fill," Tortorella said. "We talked about an elite center iceman. We got that with Richie. We talked about a guy that runs a power play. We got that with Richie.

"But, one thing that goes a little unnoticed and I think is maybe more important than the first two is the mentoring of some of our young guys. We're still learning how to win in the playoffs. Richie has done that. Just teaching kids to be a pro, I think that's going to be very important. He certainly fits the bill there."

Then it's a good thing the Rangers fit (and footed) the bill for Richards.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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