By: Michael Abitabilo
Larry Brooks of the New York Post has just reported that the New York Rangers will not exercise their second (and final) compliance buyout on Brad Richards before the July 4th deadline.
After the Rangers’ season ended, most pundits thought it to be a foregone conclusion that Richards would be bought out. In my “Five Off-Season Predictions” piece, I waffled on this issue, ultimately predicting they would exercise the option. While my final prediction may have been wrong, I stand by the analysis. I still think the Rangers must and eventually will exercise their right to buy out the Richards contract. The Rangers will have another opportunity to do so following the 2013-2014 season, provided Richards doesn’t suffer a serious injury that would render him unfit to play. While the possibility of injury creates some risk, the Rangers’ decision to hold onto Richards for at least one more year is a sign that management did not believe there were any viable alternatives available to them. Sure, Vinny Lecavalier and Danny Briere were recently bought out, and – at a minimum – could be serviceable centers, but the Rangers might believe (A) neither is a significant upgrade from Richards; (B) there will be significant competition to sign both players amidst an otherwise barren free-agent market; or (C) both.
Ultimately, my reason for predicting the Rangers would buy out Richards was based on the salary cap flexibility it would provide. In the absence of desirable or attainable players to fill that space, however, there is little risk in holding onto Richards for one more year, in hopes that he finds his game.
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Mike Abitabilo is the co-founder of the Read Zone, and is 0 for 1 on his off-season predictions.