Tampa Bay Lightning among several teams to make a pitch for free-agent C Brad Richards
As expected, Brad Richards is getting lots of attention from several teams hoping to sign the free-agent center, including the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman was one of several teams that made the trip to Toronto to meet with Richards and his representatives at their Newport Sports offices. That actually worked out well for Yzerman, who also was there to speak to agents for All-Star center Steven Stamkos, who became a restricted free agent and is represented by the same firm though by different agents.
Teams making proposals included the Kings, Rangers, Maple Leafs, Flyers and Flames. The Sabres also were thought to have interest but apparently bowed out after signing left wing Ville Leino for six years, $27 million.
Yzerman isn't kidding himself. He knows Richards, 31, would have to agree to take way less than market value to return to the Lightning, with which he was the MVP of the 2004 Stanley Cup run. But Richards' ties to the Tampa Bay area are strong. Two of his best friends are Tampa Bay forwards Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. Richards no longer owns a home in the area but rents a place and uses it as a base to train at Saddlebrook Resort in neighboring Pasco County. The Lightning, which drafted Richards in the third round in 1998, also offers two things Richards deems important, stable ownership with Jeff Vinik and a chance to win.
Will that be enough to compensate for less money? Richards, who, before he was traded in February 2008 to the Stars in the Mike Smith deal was believed to be a future Lightning captain, has said he will be "flexible" in evaluating each team's situation individually.