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A Slippery Slope for a Richards Return

I like feel good stories. Brad Richards coming back to the Lightning would be one of them if he were to be bought out by the Rangers.

Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones explored this in a Richards nostalgic piece, and he writes around with enough wiggle room for it to work, but doesn't quite show his work in his math even though it could work financially. Barely. (More on that below.)

However, Jones' own logic escaped him for a moment.

This part in particular:

Close your eyes and imagine it:

Richards moving over to wing and lining up next to his old buddy Vinny Lecavalier.

Sounds wonderful, except that on March 1, Jones advocated for a Lecavalier trade:

It's not only time to think about trading Lecavalier.

It's time to do it.

Shop him around, find interested takers, ask for the world, swallow hard and pull the trigger on the best deal you can get

It would be pretty hard to rekindle that magic when you're saying trade the guy he'd best fit with on the team (though Richards and St. Louis and Stamkos would be a good combo, too).

That "trade Vinny" column was pretty ridiculous as it was to ship out your longtime franchise player during a shortened season because the team was playing like crap. Vinny isn't a special Iginlia case. He already punched his card, and Iginla's face in the process. Jones at least got the coaching part right, but hey, when you make as many suggestions in that column, you're bound to get something right.

By the way, thanks to the resurfacing and more thorough explanation for the Cap Benefit Recapture penalty thanks to Elliotte on these back-diving over-35 deals, Jones neglected in that March column that if Lecavalier were to be traded to the Canadiens, both teams would be on the hook for a penalty.

This is why you really don't trade Vinny: Cap Geek says that if the Lightning were to trade the captain to the Habs during this off-season, and he were to retire in 2017, three years before his deal expires, Tampa pays a $3 million penalty while the Habs pay a $2.5 million penalty through 2020. And while we're on that subject, the Bolts would also pay a $2.3 million penalty if the team were to acquire Roberto Luongo and he retired at age 40 in 2019, two years before his deal was up. If you didn't kiss that one goodbye before it got started, and when Ben Bishop was acquired, you can definitely now.

So, if you get rid of Vinny as Jones suggested, this Richards deal is not going to work financially because of that uncertain cap penalty. Production wise, who knows. Messier and Gretzky fared well in their one-year reunion when The Great One came to New York, but it only lasted a season before The Captain left town. The Lightning are quite a different team outside of Vinny and Marty compared to that Cup team. Might as well swing for the fences and bring back Dan Boyle (not enough room here to crunch those numbers, too.)

Richards could be had for $3 million per year or less, Jones speculated. Let's try to fit Richards in with Vinny.

I'm pulling my Yzerman card and selecting Ryan Malone as the amnesty buyout candidate for the team. Might as well have Brian Lee as the other one since his buried contract is counting against the cap. Ohlund remains on LTIR. That frees up $5.65 million in salary, bringing the cap commitment to $55,543,975. The cap is $64.3 million for a good while.

That still leaves four healthy defensemen and 10 forwards under contract. What does that mean?

You'll be seeing a good blend of Crunch on the 2013-14 roster, and there isn't much if any breathing room for veteran upgrades.

Even with the handy Cap Geek tools, it's damn hard trying to make a 23-man roster for next year. I assembled a starting point that leaves only $893,561 in cap space, using existing Lightning/Crunch players. Malone and Lee remain on that roster. The fantasy tool doesn't allow to punch in buyouts and new contracts, so that's why you don't see RFAs Benoit Pouliot and Keith Aulie on my roster.

It really magnifies how important the two amnesty buyouts will be for the Lightning, too.

Take the Malone and Lee amnesty buyouts into consideration, and that cap space returns to $6.54 million. Go ahead and sign Richards for Jones' suggested $3 million contract. You have $3.5 million to sign both Pouliot and Aulie, and fitting all of this into a long-term budget. Not going to happen.

Jones' out is that he says he thinks the Lightning could get Richards for "much less." Based on other contracts signed after a buyout, Richards could be had for $3 million over the length of three years--that's $1 million per year.

Scott Gomez and Wade Redden signed $700,000 and $800,000 deals respectively after their buyouts, coming off of contracts signed when they were New York Rangers (both around $5 mill). This would put Richards in the $900,000 to $1.2 million range per year from my best guess.

Richards still can command a decent post-buyout contract from other teams--he wasn't in those dire situations Gomez and Redden found themselves in. Don't rule out a pitch by the Columbus Blue Jackets with their cap space to play with his old Rangers pals Gaborik, Dubinsky, Anisimov and others.

With all that, Jones has just enough wiggle room not to be wrong, but he has just as much room not to be right.

All I can say is if you want Brad Richards back on the Lightning, you better hope he signs for dirt cheap and that Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback will play well enough to end goalie trade talk, or else this entire roster falls apart.

This post was written by a member of the Raw Charge community and does not necessarily represent or express the views or opinions of Raw Charge staff.

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