Montreal radio station CKAC sent hearts aflutter yesterday when it reported that the Montreal Canadiens, in an effort to replace injured center Robert Lang, "may be interested in acquiring center Brad Richards and defenseman Matt Niskanen" from the Dallas Stars according to Lyle "Spector" Richardson. (Please do remember that our rumors and innuendo chat is at 1 p.m. this afternoon.)
Forgetting for a moment the glorious vagueness of the rumor ("...interested in acquiring!") and the fact that something like this hitting the media usually means a hockey scuttlebutt death sentence ... a Richards trade to the Habs might be just crazy enough to work. If you ignore the obvious, debilitating obstacles in its way.
Q. Why would the Dallas Stars deal their leading scorer when the team is sixth in the West and rising?
Excellent question, thanks for asking. Not only is he tied for the scoring lead on the Stars, he's been an offensive engine for their revival with 23 points in his last 20 games.
And yet they have 7.8 million reasons to trade him.
Sure, it's just one more year on the contract that made the Tampa Bay Lightning look insane years before Brian Lawton did. But take a look as some of the holes that Dallas needs to address in the upcoming off-season. Dealing Richards and completely re-imagining Sergei Zubov's deal as a UFA would create a wealth of possibilities for the Stars; and some of them might actually work out now that Brett Hull isn't allowed to use the phone anymore.
Q. But how do you replace a Brad Richards?
This season, maybe you don't. But if the whispers about the "good 'ole boy" network finally breaking down this off-season with a flurry of RFA offers are true, then $7.8 million can get you someone just as good plus another player. Say, Boston has a few players it needs to sign, doesn't it?
Q. Ah, but what about his no-trade clause?
'Tis a sticking point, obviously. From Mike Heika's coverage on the Dallas Stars Blog:
Now, this doesn't make sense for a lot of reasons, most of which because Richards retains his no-trade on his contract. He waived it to go from Tampa Bay to Dallas, but my guess is he will not waive it to move from the Stars. He's just getting comfortable here, and the team is playing well with him in the lineup.
That said, Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period (which also covered the trade) has it on good authority that Richards would have accepted a trade to Montreal when his Lightning career appeared over. Take that for what it's worth.
Q. OK, say Richards waives his NTC and Dallas actually wants to trade him: Why would the Habs add that salary?
Keep in mind his cap hit is pro-rated for the rest of the season, and Montreal has enough space (or could easily create it) to absorb it for 2008-09. This summer, the team is going to clear Lang's $4 million, Francis Bouillon's $1.87 million and has no less than nine other UFAs. Crazy as it sounds, it could afford Richards next year.
Q. But wouldn't Montreal have to give up a huge package for Richards?
This depends on two factors: Dallas's willing to deal him, and the rather insane notion that Matt Niskanen would be part of the deal. One name that could sweeten the pot: Jaroslav Halak, who at 23 would be the understudy for Marty Turco the team so desperately lacked when Turco was doing his Lincoln Tunnel impression for three months.
Q. Wow, this actually all makes a ton of sense from both perspectives! Why won't it happen?
Because it was on a Montreal radio station. And because of what Spector said, because he's really smart when it comes to this sort of thing:
Sorry, Habs Fans , but I don't see the Stars doing this. In just over two months they've climbed from dead last in the West to a tie for sixth overall, Richards after a slow start has regained his scoring touch while Niskanen has made significant improvement himself. Gainey is in the market for another experienced defenseman and in a couple of weeks could be in the market for a second line center if Plekanec fails to regain his offensive touch, but if so don't expect it to be a big name like Richards or his former teammate Vincent Lecavalier. Simply ain't happenin' without Gainey selling the farm.
So it won't happen ... even if it should.