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As good as he is, I don't think he was worth about the league maximum and it would have ben beneficial to his team if he had taken less. Now that's 3 hefty contract they have to juggle, and still no starting goaltender:

Lightning sign Richards to $39M deal

Canadian Press

5/22/2006 11:53:51 AM

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed their top playmaker to a long-term deal Monday - and he didn't come cheap.

The Lightning inked centre Brad Richards to a $39-million US, five-year contract extension, making him the second-highest paid player in the NHL. The 26-year-old made $3.4 million this season, and could have taken the team to salary arbitration in the off-season.

He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, but said he had no intentions of leaving Tampa.

''I didn't want to put in a long summer dealing with this,'' Richards said Monday from Tampa, Fla. ''I had my mind pretty much set that I wanted to be here. I didn't want to start a war. It just went really well.''

The slick passer will average $7.8 million over the course of his new deal. Only New York Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr ($8.36 million) draws a bigger paycheque - heady company for a player with just five NHL seasons under his belt.

''I'm just going to do what I do regularly,'' said Richards, who began negotiations with the Lightning after the team was eliminated from the first round of the playoffs. ''I'm going to try not to think about it too much.

''There's going to be bad days. But I have great teammates and a great organization that's going to help me through that stuff. That's why I feel so comfortable here, and that's why I wanted to sign back here.''

The Murray Harbour, P.E.I., native led the Lightning in scoring and finished 12th in the league with 91 points, including a franchise-record 68 assists. He's also in the mix to become the first repeat winner of the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the league's most gentlemanly player, since Paul Kariya did it in 1996-97.

The six-foot, 198-pound Richards came into his own two years ago, winning the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP after recording 26 points in 23 post-season games to propel the young Lightning to its first Stanley Cup championship.

''Brad Richards is a special hockey player and an even better person,'' Lightning vice-president and general manager Jay Feaster said in a statement. ''He has represented this franchise with class, dignity and pride since his first day wearing a Lightning sweater.''

Richards, drafted in the third round (64th overall) by the Lightning in 1998, is Tampa Bay's franchise leader in assists (261) and second in points (368). He was also a member of Canada's gold-medal team at the 2004 World Cup, and had two goals and two assists in six games at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Having captured Memorial Cup, Stanley Cup and World Cup titles in his career, Richards is used to winning - and this season's first-round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators was particularly frustrating for him.

''It was very disappointing,'' said Richards. ''We kind of stumbled through the year. We were still a young team when we won, and I think we learned a lot this year.''

The signing locks up Tampa's top three forwards long-term. Superstar centre Vincent Lecavalier inked a $27.5 million, four-year contract last August, and reigning Hart and Art Ross trophy winner Martin St. Louis signed a $31.5 million, six-year pact just over a week later.

Richards said having Lecavalier and St. Louis under contract had a significant impact on his decision to remain with the team.

''They kept our nucleus together, and that meant a lot to me,'' said Richards. ''We didn't win it this year, but we still have a really good nucleus and a lot of great players. I definitely want to be around here.''

The trio, which combined for 89 goals and 227 points this season, will eat up nearly $20 million of the team's salary-cap space in 2006-07. But Feaster doesn't believe the size of Richards' deal will be a hindrance to making necessary changes.

''There's no question it's going to be a long, hard summer,'' Feaster said. ''But I'm very optimistic about being able to do what we have to do.''

7 Posts
As good as he is, I don't think he was worth about the league maximum and it would have ben beneficial to his team if he had taken less.
Probably true. Richards + St. Louis + Lecavalier are a great combo but they do need a goalie and defense and some decent forwards (to give their team depth).

The 2006 team was half as skilled as the 2003 team - no Stillman, Nikolai Khabibulin, etc. By the looks of it the 2007 team will be LESS skilled (salary cap problems) now...
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