Brad Richards will not play in Game 4 and he may never again play as a member of the Rangers.
Richards told reporters following the Rangers’ optional skate at the Garden Thursday morning that he was scratched for the win-or-go-home game.
“I’m just disappointed,” Richards said. “[I will] work harder and try my best to never let it happen again.”
Signed to a nine-year, $60 million free agent deal on July 2, 2011, Richards has not been the dynamic, top-line center the organization has long lusted after. In two years with the Rangers, Richards totaled 100 points (36 goals and 64 assists) in 128 games, and he finished the truncated 2013 season with 34 points (11 goals and 23 assists) in 46 games.
Following the trade deadline acquisition of Derick Brassard in April, Richards was ostensibly dropped to the third line. During the Capitals series, Richards was dropped to the fourth line with Arron Asham and Chris Kreider.
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Richards recorded 147:10 of ice time, an average of 14:43 per game. In the first three games of the series against the Bruins, Richards had only been on the ice for 31:41.
“Yes,” Richards said, when asked if it was difficult to contribute offensively with the limited minutes. He has one goal and a minus-3 rating in 10 playoff games this spring.
Head coach John Tortorella, whom Richards won a Cup with in 2004 with the Lightning, has routinely said it is a mistake to judge the center solely by his stats. During the 2011-12 season, Tortorella pointed to Richards’s mentoring of the Rangers’ young players, most notably Michael Del Zotto, off the ice.
However, on the ice, Richards never quite meshed with Marian Gaborik in 2011-12 or Rick Nash this year. His lack of production coupled with his contract and the organization’s salary cap status has led to rumors the Rangers may amnesty his contract this summer as per the new collective bargaining agreement.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly confirmed in an email to Metro New York that the Rangers have one more amnesty buyout available to them to use either this summer or next. The Rangers amnestied Wade Redden following the end of the lockout, and he subsequently signed a one-year deal with St. Louis. The Blues traded Redden to Boston at the trade deadline.
Should the Rangers amnesty Richards, the Rangers would have $20.2 million in salary cap room this summer, with Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin and Mats Zuccarello all in line for restricted free agent contracts, while Ryane Clowe is an unrestricted free agent. Next summer, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Henrik Lundqvist are all unrestricted free agents.
Injury updates ...
» Clowe, Darroll Powe and Marc Staal all participated in the optional skate Thursday morning. Staal characterized himself as “status quo.” Roman Hamrlik replaced Anton Stralman in the lineup. Stralman left Game 3 after 12:25 of ice time spanning the first two periods following a thunderous check from Boston left wing Milan Lucic.
Game 4 will be Hamrlik’s first game action since the 4-2 win over Winnipeg on April 1.
Follow Rangers beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.