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Rangers remain in Richards chase, decision expected today

The Rangers, Kings, Maple Leafs, Lightning, Flames ---and possibly the Flyers---yesterday made lucrative multi-year offers to Brad Richards, the only elite forward in the NHL free-agent market, and the former center for Tampa and Dallas was mulling them over last night.  A decision is expected Saturday.

Richards told TSN late last night that there was no reason to extend the unexpected "sideshow" longer than it already had been.

While waiting for Richards, the Blueshirts added a rugged, physical veteran for the fourth line and re-signed forward Ruslan Fedotenko. Former Devils and Penguins center Mike Rupp, 31, signed a three-year deal worth $4.5 million. Fedotenko's one-year deal was $1.4 million.

Richards, a playmaking center who was the Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay with coach John Tortorella in 2004, will received far more, reportedly in the $50 million-$60 million range, including signing bonuses, in a front-loaded contract. The Prince Edward Island native, who scored 91 points in 2009-10 and 72 in 77 games last season in Dallas, rejected offers to be traded by management in order to test the free-agent waters.

Yesterday, a procession of executives trundled to Mississagua, Ontario, outside of Toronto, to the office of Newport Sports Management to woo Richards. The Rangers did not send a contingent; team and Garden officials weighed in on a conference call.

Richards and his agent, Pat Morris, received the presentations beginning at noon. The Kings, who sent the largest group, arrived first, the Leafs followed and Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made a pitch around 3 p.m. Morris also represents sniper Steven Stamkos, whom the Lightning have been unable to sign long-term. The Rangers reportedly made their initial offer by conference call about 4:30 p.m. and the Calgary Flames followed with a call at around 5 p.m. Yzerman later said Tampa was out of the running because the price was too high.

If the Rangers do not land Richards, they are expected to trade for a center, possibly Florida’s Stephen Weiss or Colorado’s Paul Stastny, and perhaps sign a depth defenseman.

Rupp, who was a rookie on New Jersey’s Stanley Cup team in 2003, played in Pittsburgh for the last two seasons, where he scored 22 goals and had 14 assists. The 6-5, 230-pound veteran, originally the Islanders-first round choice in the 1998 draft, has racked up 656 penalty minutes in 497 NHL games and will take some of the burden of dropping the gloves from Brandon Prust.


New York Sports