NEW YORK — The Rangers bought out Brad Richards with six years still remaining on his contract Friday, three weeks after he helped lead them to the Stanley Cup final.
The buyout was widely expected — the terms of the former Lightning forward's contract were too expensive and too long for general manager Glen Sather to carry.
And what are the chances of Richards, 34, returning to Tampa Bay, where he won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in the team's Stanley Cup run in 2004?
It's unlikely there's a fit for a reunion with Richards and the Lightning, as of now, considering the team's depth at forward.
"Brad would certainly respond positively to interest from Tampa," agent Pat Morris told the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rangers will pay Richards $20.67 million over the next 12 years. Starting July 1, he can sign with any other team and still receive the Rangers' buyout payments.
"Tough last few days … I loved being a Ranger and living in New York and playing at MSG in front of great fans," Richards said in a statement released by the team.
Richards had 51 points this season plus 12 in 25 playoff games. But his deal meant a $6.67 million salary cap hit.
Lightning: General manager Steve Yzerman said he has had "really good discussions" with Ryan Callahan's camp and hopes he can sign the veteran forward before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. "We still have some time," Yzerman said.
Winter Classic: The Blackhawks will be the Capitals' opponent when the Winter Classic comes to D.C. on Jan. 1, the Associated Press reported. The venue has not been chosen.
Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.