GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Jaromir Jagr, who signed with the Flyers after three years in Russian, will turn 40 in February. Don’t even ask Brad Richards, the newest Ranger, about 40.
“I just turned 31 in May, I’m not even thinking about nine years,” said Richards, the elite center who agreed to a $60-million contract that runs through the 2019-20 NHL season.
“My two best seasons have been my last two years; I’m going to try to keep building on that…I don’t know where it’s all going to go, I can’t sit here and tell you that. Someday I can’t play, I can’t play…I’ve gotta walk away. I don’t consider turning 31 to be too old. I’ve got a lot of years left.”
Richards’ confidence comes from his regular summer training regimen, which he will shortly resume at Tampa’s Athletes Compound, where the clients include Derek Jeter, the Jets’ Dustin Keller, Phillie slugger Ryan Howard and Maria Sharapova, before settling into a Manhattan apartment.
So anybody wondering whether Richards will be overwhelmed in New York’s celebrity life should think again. He’s visited Sean Avery here in the summers, has friends in the Hamptons and managed to remain a humble hero to the 400 residents of the Murray Harbour, the Prince Edward Island fishing community where he was born.
“It’s pretty big news…anytime you’re from a small town, they’re proud of everything you do,” he said Wednesday following a skate with children as part of Garden of Dreams week. “They’re a lot happier that I’m playing in East.” No longer will they be bleary-eyed after watching late-night games from Dallas and the West, and he said, “my parents get to come here: There are direct flights in the summer.”
Murray Harbor folk are Original Six devotees, and Richards became a Blackhawks fan in the era of Jeremy Roenick, Michel Goulet, Chris Chelios, Steve Larmer and Eddie Belfour. “I was 10 years old when they started winning and went to the finals, and I loved their jerseys,” he said, while wearing his blue Rangers jersey with a favorite number, 19.
Richards, who wore an “A” with the Stars, isn’t a rah-rah guy. “I’m not going to come in and try to do anything spectacular that way,” said Richards, who never makes any effort to hide his affection for coach John Tortorella and winning the Cup with him in Tampa. “I’ll talk when something needs to be said. I can bring a little more experience on the winning side and maybe mediate with Torts and explain how things work with him if it gets a little antsy.”
The pressure will be different in New York, where the Rangers missed the playoffs in 2009-10, and squeaked in last season, only to be eliminated quickly, in five games by the Capitals. The spotlight and $60 million worth of expectations awaits.
“My last contract was a big contract, too (five years, $39 million),” Richards said, “and I struggled a little in the first part of that; I’m five or six years older now and had a lot more experiences. But this will be a different animal for sure.”
And the payoff? "The big thing," he said Tortorella told him, "is that winning here will be bigger than anything."
By the numbers: Ruslan Fedotenko surrendered No. 19 to Richards, with who he played in Tampa, and no money exchanged hands, they said. "I'll get his address and send him something," Richards said. Fedotenko will wear 26, his former number with the Pens, which will be relinquished by Erik Christensen, who is expected to wear 40. Another new Ranger, Mike Rupp, will wear 71.
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