Will the Maple Leafs be in on the Brad Richards sweepstakes? Should they be?
It is a complicated scenario made even more vague by the fact that for all sorts of reasons, Toronto general manager Brian Burke and his management team have no interest in discussing the matter publicly in advance of the July 1 free-agency period.
The Leafs got burned, you will remember, on the foiled pursuit of the Sedin twins a couple of years ago and, to add to that frustration, were charged by the NHL with tampering because of seemingly innocent comments made by coach Ron Wilson while the Sedins were still under contract with the Canucks.
Given the fact that Richards is the standalone big-name in this year’s pool and the list of suitors has some heavy hitters, nothing can be gained by Burke tipping his hand.
This much would appear as a consensus opinion on draft weekend, however.
The New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers are each expected to give Richards a long, hard look and like the Leafs, both could use the established superstar centre.
Not long after the season, the soon-to-be former Dallas Star suggested he would take a discount to return to the Tampa Bay Lightning, though that would seem like a stretch.
And let’s add Toronto to the list, with conditions.
Richards is likely looking for a big deal that would send him toward retirement, probably in the eight-year range at close to $7 million a season. That would seem a little north of where Burke generally likes to go, so it will depend on how desperate he feels.
Desperation isn’t something we generally see in the Leafs GM, however. He doesn’t mind spending money and he has the cap room to do so, but Burke is loathe to overspend, especially when free agency turns to frenzy.