Rangers have an expensive decision to make

Rangers have an expensive decision to make
May 28, 2013, 3:00 am
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New York Rangers center Brad Richards (19) is checked by a trainer during the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Madison Square Garden.

(Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

It’s always amazed me, the revelations that come out on breakup day every NHL season.

On Monday it was the Rangers’ turn to clean out their lockers and face the New York media following their second-round playoff loss to the Boston Bruins in five games.

And, as you might expect, head coach John Tortorella and banished center Brad Richards were the primary participants in the breakup day drama.

Essentially, Tortorella said Richards wasn’t good enough to be on the ice when it mattered most and, well, Richards agreed with him, essentially saying he was out of shape all season long.

First, some background:

Richards, who signed a nine-year, $60 million contract with the Rangers in the summer of 2011, followed up a so-so regular season [11 goals, 23 assists, 44 points, plus-8 in 46 games] with a dreadful playoff performance [1 goal, 0 assists, minus-3 in 10 games] and was a healthy scratch for Games 4 and 5 against the Bruins.

Tortorella won a Stanley Cup with Richards in Tampa and likely was one of the reasons Richards signed with New York. But that didn’t stop the team-first coach from benching his third-highest paid player [only Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist make more].

“It not only hurt Brad, but more importantly it hurt the team,” Tortorella said of Richards’ lack of production. “It's not all on him as far as all the things that have gone on, but when you have a guy that we had put in a position that we thought was going to produce, it hurts -- it hurts the team."

Richards pretty much admitted that once he learned the NHL season would not start on time he cut back on his training regimen.

"Every team missed training camp," Richards said. "I think for my situation it probably starts a lot earlier than that.

“I was in good shape to start the season in September, but everything was different after that. It's a full evaluation of how you're preparing and I'll try to do a lot more."

That’s an honest but alarming admission by a pro athlete who is paid to be in top physical shape.

The question now is whether or not the Rangers want Richards back, especially with seven years and $36 million remaining on his contract.

Before the season the Rangers were granted an amnesty buyout for Wade Redden and have one more to use. If they buy out Richards, he receives two-thirds of his pay and is free to negotiate a new contract with another team, with none of his salary counting against the Rangers’ salary cap.