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Friday, October 22, 2010

Brian Burke Lets On He Wants Brad Richards

Is Brad Richards the Next Piece
to Brian Burke's Puzzle?
On Wednesday, 20th of October, Andrew Krystal interviewed Brian Burke on Fan590 Toronto.  You can listen to it at this link

When you listen to the interview, you will not hear Brian Burke say he wants Brad Richards because NHL will reprimand him for tampering.  In the past, Brian Burke has forewarned us several times he will only respond in one of two ways when asked about players on other teams:
(1) We are not in any trade talks for this player;
(2) NHL tampering rules prevent me from commenting on this player.

True to his words, he has ruled out specific players on other teams as trade possibilities.

This did not happen in Andrew Krystal's interview when asked about Brad Richards. He gave the "NHL tampering rules prevent me from commenting on this player" response. For some people, they will only be satisfied with Brian Burke explicitly stating he wants Brad Richards.  Which we know is impossible for him to give.

In my opinion, Brian Burke is now going after Brad Richards as hard as possible.  If he succeeds, the deal will be as big and controversial as the Phil Kessel deal.  Allow me to outline why Brian Burke made Brad Richards his top priority.  In addition, let's explore the obstacles to the trade and how Brian Burke can overcome them.

Why Brad Richards is Brian Burke's Top Priority?

Brad Richards was fourth in assists and fifth in scoring points amongst NHL centres last season.  An elite NHL centre.  He can be available after Christmas because of the ownership issue for Dallas Stars.  This will be a great addition to Toronto's first line to compliment Phil Kessel's play and setup his goal scoring.  Richards' play-making will also boost Dion Phaneuf's scoring opportunities.

Adding Brad Richards is a significant upgrade to what Toronto has presently.  Last year, at age 23, rookie Tyler Bozak replaced Matt Stajan on the first line.  His stats are comparable to Matt Stajan's if you pro-rate his numbers.  Both he and Matt were good enough to rank 20th to 25th for assists and scoring points amongst NHL centres.  In other words, they provided scoring production good enough to be a first line centre for a non-playoff team.

At the beginning of the season, Ron Wilson predicted Tyler Bozak, at age 24, gets 65 to 70 scoring points and 45 to 50 assists.  If you go by last season stats, available at, you will see this is just good enough to be the 16th best scoring centre.

Ultimately, Toronto Maple Leafs want an elite play-making centre to get the most goal scoring from Phil Kessel, an emerging elite goal scorer.  Brad Richards may be the only option available this season.

Brad Richards has a No Trade Clause contract

Although it looks like Brad Richards will have to change teams at the end of the season because he becomes an unrestricted free agent, reports indicate he wants to minimize the disruption and inconvenience to his family.  He will not be a "rental player" to another team or accept a trade before Christmas.  Brad Richards will get his way because he has a no trade clause in his $7.8 mil cap salary contract.

However, do not jump to the conclusion he does not want a trade.  Remember, he wants to minimize the disruption and inconvenience to his family.  A trade to a team of his choosing after Christmas that includes a negotiated contract extension will be less disruptive to his family than waiting until 1st of July to sign a free agent contract.  His family will only have a few weeks to transition to a new city if he goes the free agent route.  He can give his family months instead of weeks if he approves a trade involving a contract extension.

Who has Cap Space for Brad Richards' $7.8 mil Cap Salary?

At present, only teams without money have cap space for Brad Richards.  In other words, nobody with money has cap space for his contract.

This changes as the season progresses.  Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings will have cap space for Brad Richards.  The reason for this is Dallas spends $42k of Brad Richards' cap salary each day they keep him on their NHL roster.  By 1st of January, Dallas will spend $3.648 mil of Brad Richards' $7.8 mil cap salary with $4.152 remaining.  

Toronto will be able to fit $4.152 into their cap.  This amount increases if they send players back to Dallas.  Brian Burke may want to move the trade back a few days or weeks in order to leave some cap room for another deal.

Why Would Brad Richards Want to Come to Toronto?

Playing with Phil Kessel might sway Brad Richards to Toronto.  This will be his chance as an elite play-making centre to play with an emerging elite goal scorer.  Los Angeles Kings is the only other team with both cap space and money to trade for Brad Richards.  Other teams with money can only make a play for Brad Richards if they involve Toronto or Los Angeles in a three-way trade.  For example, Montreal Canadiens will have to move a player such as Tomas Plekanec to make cap space for Brad Richards. 

What Would Dallas Want for Brad Richards?

Joe Nieuwendyk is in his second year as Manager of Dallas Stars.  The Brad Richards and team ownership situation has disrupted his work.

I expect Joe Nieuwendyk wants good young players with low salaries under control for several years in order to avoid experiencing additional disruptions caused by free agency.  The Toronto players who fit this criteria are Luke Schenn (age 20, $875k salary - $2.975 mil cap salary), Tyler Bozak (age 24, $875k salary - $3.725 mil cap salary), Nikolai Kulemin (age 24, $2.35 salary/cap salary), and Kris Versteeg (age 24, $3.083 mil salary/cap salary).  Interesting note, when Joe Nieuwendyk worked for Toronto Maple Leafs two years ago, he was the catalyst for Toronto signing free agent Tyler Bozak.  Brian Burke gave him all the credit.

For cap management purposes, Brian Burke does need to move one of Tyler Bozak and Luke Schenn in this trade.  I do believe he is willing to pay a high price to acquire Brad Richards.  But, I will be surprised he includes draft picks.  

Keeping draft picks allows him to pursue Restricted Free Agents in the off-season.  Even with Brad Richards, Toronto Maple Leafs will have cap space to pursue Zach Parise or Shea Weber.  Sending both Luke Schenn and Tyler Bozak to Dallas ensures it.

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Post Script 26-Oct-2010

Great article from James Mirtle on Leafs cap situation.

It expands on player bonuses.  In short, we should expect only $850k bonus payout each for Tyler Bozak and Luke Schenn.  Each of them are a cap hit of $1.725 mil.

Bonuses will total $1.87 mil.  As Mirtle concludes, Leafs have $3.96 mil in cap space before their $4.35 mil bonus cushion.

Also, bonus cushion is calculated on cap space after $1.4 mil carry-over bonus penalty has been deducted.  In other words, 7.5% of $58 mil instead of $59.4 mil.  This brings Toronto's bonus cushion to $4.35 mil.

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