Would trading Richards secure Boyle?
This is a difficult question, but If the Lightning is going to sign defenseman Dan Boyle, and it seems as if the team wants to, it will have to trade one of its top players to clear some salary space, and right now the most logical part to move might be center Brad Richards.
Think about it. If Boyle is worth about $6.5-million to $7-million a season, that's just about a wash with Richards' $7.8-million annual salary. Also, Richards has underperformed when it comes to his salary; he will make $2.8-million less next season than Marty St. Louis, who could have his second straight 100-point season this year.
The market for Richards also probably took a jump when Peter Forsberg decided his ankles are still not up to NHL readiness. That means teams looking for front-line help have to go elsewhere. Richards, still young and with lots of upside and with a Conn Smythe Trophy under his belt, might be attractive.
His name apparently is floating all around the GM Meetings in Naples. How much of this is grounded information? Hard to tell. Stories out of Naples don't quote sources. Is Tampa Bay serious about trading Richards before the deadline or is GM Jay Feaster just on a fact-finding mission to see what he might get in the summer when the team must sign or trade for a No. 1 goalie?
Feaster declined to comment and Richards said, "I am not paying attention to it. I am focused on helping my team make the playoffs.''
Richards' agent Pat Morris said his client has not been asked to waive his no-trade clause. Asked if Richards would, Morris said, "We haven't bridged that or talked about that yet. There's no sense in having him distracted. He's a very focused man. I don't react to rumors. I don't react to speculation. I don't want to waste my client's time. If there's something necessary to bring to him, if it gets serious, we'll talk about it then.''
As for Boyle, the rumor floating around is Boyle has asked for an eight-year deal worth an average $6.5-million a season. The money seems about right stacked up against some of the league's other elite defensemen, but that kind of length will not fly with the Lightning because Boyle will be 39 by the time it runs out.
More likely what has happened is Boyle's agent George Bazos, who declined comment Monday, has jaw-boned several different scenarios with Feaster. The eight-year number probably was an extreme, but it's probably not unreasonable by Boyle's standards. The Ottawa native is 31. If he signs, say, a four-year deal, he's 35 when it runs out, and that is a tough age to sign another multi-year contract. That's an age when bumps and bruises can turn into more, and that is why clubs might be wary of signing a longer-term deal. Since there are no options in the CBA, a good guess is they might try to work out something between four and eight years.
Asked about all this, Boyle said Tuesday, "I don't want to get involved.''
Feaster also declined to comment about Boyle, though he told reporters in Naples he would neither confirm nor deny anything.
Bottom line: Feaster isn't trading Vinny Lecavalier. He probably wants to keep Boyle. To do that, he has to cut salary somewhere. Richards has underperformed, Forsberg seems out of the equation, so it seems logical Feaster wants to see what Richards' market is like before deciding if he can sign Boyle, because if Tampa Bay can be out from under Richards' salary, that makes Boyle's contract doable.
Feaster also could free up salary by by moving players such as Vinny Prospal, Jan Hlavac even Johan Holmqvist. You don't think a playoff team would like a guy who would be a fabulous backup?
So, is it worth losing Richards to save Boyle?