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For NYR, shadow of No. 1 target looms over draft

From today's Newsday:


MINNEAPOLIS---After a Flyers trading-and-signing frenzy yesterday and the latest news about Brad Richards, things could very well remain in flux by the time the Rangers are on the clock with the 15th pick in the first round of the NHL draft here tonight. 

But there is no doubt;  the spectre of Richards---the top free agent center---looms over the future plans of the Rangers and other teams who will joust with them for the right to pay Richards about $50 million. 

The 2011-12 salary cap was announced yesterday---climbing from $59.4 million to $64.3 million---and the sense is that more pre-draft trades are being discussed among club executives gathered here. The consensus is that after the first eight or nine youngsters are selected in the first round, the next tier of players is large and similarly-talented, and therefore, some teams---including the Rangers---could possibly trade down.

Throw this into the overall situation: Joe Nieuwendyk, the general manager of the Dallas Stars, said he has been unable to persuade Richards to waive his no-trade clause, and he will hit the open market next Friday, July 1. Nieuwendyk also stated that he is strongly considering a move by trading the No. 14 pick, just above the Rangers.

Before yesterday’s blockbusters---with the Flyers trading captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings and 36-goal scorer Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets--- the Rangers, Kings and Maple Leafs were expected to make multi-year offers to Richards, 31, a legit No. 1 center who was 28-49-77 in 72 games last season.

But the Kings have their No. 1 center now and the Flyers could be in the hunt, although they will be close to the cap after yesterday’s signing of free agent goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51-million contract and would have to shed more salary. It is unclear whether the Leafs remain in the mix. That all could bode well for the Rangers, if they can find common ground with Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with coach John Tortorella in Tampa and who is seeking a lucrative deal.

So, even more can change before 8:30 ET Friday, when the Rangers are due to pick at No. 15. The Flyers now have the No. 8 pick from Columbus. The Rangers have no second, third, sixth or seventh round selections, and may try to add one. If they stand pat, they are believed to be interested in a center or right wing, and there are numerous candidates in that range, including centers Mark Scheifele, Mark McNeill, Boone Jenner and right wings Joel Armia and Tyler Biggs.


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