The speculation has been out there for a while, but it now appears official that center Tanner Richard is signing in Switzerland for next season. SwissHockeyNews.ch has reported that Richard will sign with Geneve-Servette HC of the Swiss NLA.
Richard was originally drafted by the Lightning 71st overall in the 3rd round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. After coming up in the Swiss junior system, Richard was passed over in his draft year of 2011. He came over to the OHL to play for the Guelph Storm where he garnered attention from scouts with 48 points in 45 games performance. Despite being in his second year of draft eligibility, he did enough to get the Lightning’s attention in the third round.
Richard spent another season in the OHL before turning pro full time with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. His first season was rough but he eventually settled in as a player that contributed over a half point per game in his sophomore campaign and around 0.75 points per game the past two seasons. Injuries on the Lightning led to his first NHL call-up this season with Tampa. During his three-game stint in the NHL he failed to earn a point.
Coming in to the season, Richard was viewed as a potential replacement for Brian Boyle on the fourth line. He has a good reputation in the faceoff dot and can play a grinding fourth line style. Unfortunately, he dealt with some injuries this year and was passed over on the depth chart for call-ups to Tampa. Even with all of the injuries the Lightning suffered, Richard never really got much of a chance.
When the AHL playoffs came around, Richard was out of the Crunch line-up completely. After being a healthy scratch in the first few games of the first round, Richard left the Crunch to play with Team Switzerland leading up to the World Championship.
Richard never panned out the way the Lightning intended him to. Some Crunch watchers I’ve talked to have felt that he didn’t have a great attitude and had some discipline issues over the years that may have kept him from reaching his potential. That could have also played a role in him not getting as many games in the NHL and eventually finding the press box in Syracuse to end the season.
At 24 years old, Richard didn’t have much time left to make it to the NHL. Seeing the writing on the wall this season, he’s made the decision to head home to Switzerland. With his vision and playmaking skills, he has the opportunity to be a very good player in the Swiss league. The Lightning can only hold on to his rights for one more season. If Richard decides to attempt a return to North America after 2017-18, he’ll be free to sign with any team in the NHL he chooses.