I’ll give you a moment to wipe the spit-take off of your face.
Now that the Buffalo Sabres have become big time spenders in order to become big time contenders, the perception of this team and its management is going to change. Sure, it’s not like anyone ever has anything nice to say about the Queen City anyway, but get yourselves ready to hear “You guys are trying to buy a Cup, so laaaame” all over the internet.
Frankly, the teams now bear a lot of similarities. Both now have a young core that was weaned from the draft, and both have over-spent to hopefully bolster their lineups on July 1st.
In order to assess how Sabres fans feel about this troubling comparison, I did some very scientific research: I consulted the Twitter. Here’s a few gems from the Sabres Nation Twit Poll:
- @Sabrefreakydeak: Yes & No> Yes: TPegs flexing financial muscle. No: Nobody can make idiotic decision quite like the tandem of Dolan & Sather.
- @MintyP69: no, because the talent we bought into isn’t here because of our name & they are still in their prime
- @MusingMaryAnn: Think of it as trying to catch up with the rest of the League who had a jump on us in the past. Spending money is new!
Now that the Brad Richards frenzy is over, we can calmly and cooly look back at it. (I hope?)
The Sabres didn’t want to pay (or perhaps overpay depending on your opinion) the money it would’ve taken to sign Richards. They knew roughly what he would command in the market and had their backup plans.
So no Richards.
Do we really want Richards anyway? He already won a Cup so how hungry can he be for another? And he besmirched the Cup with a crustacean. Everyone knows the only food that should go in there is chicken wings.
A simple text and an innocuous one, it turned out. For those unfamiliar with the line, one of the princesses of the Pegula dynasty, Jessie Pegula, tweeted the words “so no richards”. The tweet was quickly deleted and @jlpegula said it was a butt tweet. Ok, sure. No one was buying it, but she did her best to cover for what could potentially have interfered with signing the biggest name free agent in this year’s market.
I for one thought it was cute and wouldn’t have really changed anything. She had inside information yet the deal wasn’t going through at that point.
But was the deal for Richards really ever going to go through at all? After the smoke cleared, another report came out that Pegula and Regier didn’t go up to Mississauga to visit Richards and his agent after all.
“We had plans to go up to Mississauga to meet with him,” Regier said. “As the day progressed and even with the number of clubs that were in line to speak with Newport Sports, we really got into a time pressure situation where we had to make a decision. We felt very strongly about Ville, and we felt that it was important to make sure we didn’t allow a quality player like him to slip by us.
It doesn’t sound like the Sabres really wanted Richards that badly after all. Actually sounds like they wanted Ville Leino more and they went for it.
Richards also risked taking the Cup for a ride on a jet ski. Well, actually that's pretty cool. After all, it had a life jacket on.
There are a couple things I take away from this.
One is that Richards is 31 and has concussion history. Richards had success in Tampa Bay, even winning a cup but that was with a stacked team. In the last 4 years with the Dallas Stars, his team has made the playoffs only one time, although they did make it to the 3rd round that year. Richards is called a “point a game” guy, but look at his plus-minus (click to embiggen):
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Only during one year, Tampa Bay’s Cup victory, did Richards post better than a +3. Darcy’s mamma didn’t raise no dummy. He knew the Sabres could spend their money much more effectively.
The other takeaway is this: the Sabres aren’t going to be completely honest with the public. Even in this amazing new Pegula era, we can’t expect complete transparency and honesty. They have to play games with other teams. Disinformation, confusion, misdirection… it’s the art of war and every other team is the Sabres enemy. If we can use tactics to get other teams to pay more for free agents, we’ll do it.
So the Sabres probably weren’t really even in the Richards race to begin with. Even if they were, Richards could join the growing line of expensive Rangers free agents that just haven’t panned out. He may even look a bit like (dare I say his name) Timmeh.
So no Richards?
Nope, and that’s just fine.
It feels like the entire city of Buffalo partook in liquid lunches today.
By noon, the hash-tag #BradRichardsToBuffalo was officially trending in the Queen City on Twitter. Jeremy White (of WGR55) got the uppity Richards dreamers in town even uppitier when he launched the hash tag trend in the early morn.
If this proves anything, it proves even further how passionate the Sabres fan base is about their boys in Blue and Gold (and the boys they want to put into Blue and Gold uniforms). Beyond that, it proves that a lot of us have nothing better to do with our time at our work desks than to spam and troll the Twitter account of the player we (or some of we) want the most on July 1st.
It was inevitable.
With the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs often mentioned as the main suitors for Brad Richards in news reports, and failing to land his rights (so far), it was only a matter of time before a sports writer out there remembered that the Sabres are now owned by Terry Pegula.
Kevin Allen, of USA Today, just made the Pegula connection.
Richards, 31, could be the hottest free agent in the market, and there seems to be considerable interest in the Eastern Conference. The New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs both need a center. Richards liked playing in Tampa before the Lightning dealt him to Dallas and he excelled under Rangers coach John Tortorella when both were on the Lightning. The Buffalo Sabres could try to make a signifcant offseason splash under new owner Terry Pegula, and they could use a top center if Tim Connolly is not going to be re-signed.
Dallas is saying goodbye to their star center.
Brad Richards’ agent, Pat Morris, gave the New York Daily News some details on Monday night:
“The Stars have not asked Brad to waive his no-trade clause, and at this point in time, he has no intention of doing so,” agent Pat Morris told the Daily News Monday night when informed that a source had said a move to the Toronto Maple Leafs could be completed by the end of this week. “We’re still pointing toward July 1.”
The Daily News goes on to say that the Leafs remain the team to beat in the Richards derby:
A source told The News Monday night that the Maple Leafs felt close enough to making such a deal that they already have plans in place for subsequent moves to clear salary-cap room for Richards, who made $7.8 million this season.
“It’s legit,” the source said. “Toronto is desperate for a star like this.”
The Rangers remain linked to Richards through their head coach, John Tortorella, who coached Richards in Tampa. The Lightning, whom Richards won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy with back in 2004, are also in the speculative market.
Next stop: Toronto?
Meanwhile, Mark Stepneski of ESPN reports that while the Stars are out of the running to retain their star center, GM Joe Nieuwendyk has a plan B already in place:
One of the priorities for 2011-12 is a top six forward with it becoming clear now that Richards will hit the free agent market and will not be back with the team. Nieuwendyk said that top six forward might come through a trade rather than overspending on one in free agency.
“I think we need a top 6 forward with Brad obviously moving on,” Nieuwendyk said. “Jamie [Benn] shifting to center is a very likely scenario. It’s not 100 percent set in stone yet. If you’ve Benner and Loui [Eriksson] and you’ve got [Mike Ribeiro] and Brenden [Morrow], there’s your top two (lines)and you fill in around them.”
While adding Alex Goligoski at last season’s trade deadline was a major boost to the defense, Nieuwendyk said adding a top defenseman is a focus as well.
“We’d like to improve our defense for sure,” he said. “Again, it may be through trade.”
Depth is another priority. It’s an area that hurt the Stars last season and something that has paid dividends for teams that have gone deep in the playoffs.
That might seem like a lot of work for the Stars, but it shows what kind of impact a big contract like Richards’ can have on a team. With his $7.8 million off the books, Nieuwendyk suddenly has the ability to change the complexion and depth of his entire roster. Any team that takes on Richards is going to lose much of their wiggle-room for a long time, a problem that Buffalo Sabres Nation has touched on before.
Still, some team out there will think Richards is worth the riches.
See also: “Target: Brad Richards.“