There's always one prime buy on the market. It's the one that keeps hockey fans dreaming throughout the summer. The one that makes you think with his signature everything will be different, that your team immediately becomes the favorite for The Cup and will make your team the story of the summer. With that one signing, your team gets circled on every opponent's calendar, and every opposing fan gets nightmares about how they're team can't beat you. This summer, it's Brad Richards.
Richards is so far and away the best player, not just center, on the market that there isn't even anyone on the same block. Actually, Jules Winfield would say it's not the same ballpark, it's ain't the same league, it's ain't even the same sport. He's the only bonafide No. 1 center out there, and would make a mediocre team good and a good team great. That's the kind of influence he could have.
Richards has two 90+ point seasons on his resume, and a further three 70+ point ones. He had 91 points two years ago for a simply garbage Dallas team. Last season, in 72 games he had 77 points, missing time with a concussion. Without him, the Stars would have been in the lottery instead of competing for a playoff spot.
He's more of a playmaking center than he is a scorer, though last year was a career-high in goals with 28. When you need him to bury one, he can do that. But it's what he could turn Marian Hossa into that leaves Hawks fans having to clean up the drool off the floor. If Loui Eriksson could manage 29 with him, Hossa could manage 40. Richards also mans a point on the power play, and we know the Hawks love to have a forward on the point with the man-advantage. With the departure of Brian Campbell, Richards could be another power play QB that the Hawks might not have. Quite simply, Richards would give the Hawks the best center depth anywhere.
Can the Hawks get him? Almost certainly not. Richards is looking for over $8 million a year for eight years or more, and he's already 31. The Hawks are probably done handing out lifetime contracts, with Hossa's and Keith's still on the books and having just lost one in Campbell. Moreover, Toronto and New York have made him priority No. 1, and those teams have cash to spend and the lack of marbles to take whatever it takes. Unless Richards would take a discount to play with a proven winner -- something that has not been indicated -- then No. 91 on the Hawks will remain in the realm of our NHL 12 rosters and our dreams.
Sam Fels is the proprietor of The Committed Indian, an unofficial program for the Blackhawks. You may have seen him hocking the magazine outside the United Center at Gate 3. The program is also available for purchase online. Fels is a lifelong 'Hawks fan and he also writes for Second City Hockey .