Broken Clouds 35° Good Afternoon
Broken Clouds 35° Good Afternoon
SportsColumnistsArthur Staple

Richards still Star; Rangers have changed

(Feb. 11, 2011)

(Feb. 11, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

Glen Sather wanted Brad Richards to be a Ranger. Brad Richards wanted to be a Ranger - so much so that he reportedly was willing to waive his no-trade clause only to become a Ranger.

So why isn't he a Ranger? Because things are really, truly different around the Rangers.

The trade deadline came and went Monday afternoon without much fanfare and the Rangers made only one minor move, adding depth-center John Mitchell from the Maple Leafs for a seventh-round draft pick.

In the past, if Sather and the Rangers identified a target, that player usually became a Ranger. Especially if he wanted to be here. Bryan McCabe was willing to waive his no-trade clause only to be here, and once that happened, Sather brought him in Saturday for a bargain price.

There was no bargain to be had from Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, although it's believed he knows the chances that Richards will sign a long-term deal with Dallas before July 1 are almost zero. Richards and Rangers coach John Tortorella have a strong relationship dating to their years in Tampa, and Richards will be the biggest prize on the free-agent market. He certainly still might become a Ranger in four months.

But Nieuwendyk wanted at least one and likely two of the Rangers' core assets. A good, young player off the roster, a prized amateur prospect and a first-round pick to have Richards down the stretch and get an exclusive negotiating window before he hits the open market.

Those would be valuable. But Sather and Tortorella place more value on the depth of this young team. "This is a hard-working team that's stuck together, and I didn't want to disrupt that," Sather said. "There was a lot of interest in some of our young players, but we didn't want to give any of them up."

There have been many signs in the last two years that the culture has changed around this team, from the responsibility heaped on one of the NHL's youngest defensive corps to key roles for young pluggers Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan and Brian Boyle.

"I've always liked this hockey club," Tortorella said Monday. "I've said that from day one, and it certainly hasn't altered."

Losing Marty Biron (broken collarbone) on an errant practice shot hurts, and Sather could have brought in a veteran to back up Henrik Lundqvist. Ty Conklin (Blues) and Pascal Leclaire (Senators) cleared waivers, but even those minor additions would have cost too much.

So the Rangers will go for the playoffs with the group they have and not the guy they wanted, even if Richards ends up here next season. The price was too high. That's a change for the better this trade deadline.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Rangers, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

New York Sports