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Richards picks Rangers for nine years, $58.5M

Brad Richards sat in the office of his agent in Mississauga, Ontario, on Friday listening as suitors from teams pitched woo to him for roughly 10 hours.

Rangers general manager Glen Sather called his agent, Pat Morris, by phone. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was there in person, and so was an eight-man delegation from the Kings.

"I'm just flattered that people would even show up to talk to me," said Richards, the biggest prize of the free agency period that opened Friday, as he went home to consider the offers.

Saturday, Richards announced his decision: to sign with the Rangers for nine years and $58.5 million. The deal reunites Richards, 31, with John Tortorella, his coach with the Lightning when it won the Stanley Cup in 2004 and he was the playoff MVP, and gives the Rangers the elite center they have sought to set up sniper, Marian Gaborik.

"I was going back and forth every hour in my mind. That's the problem. They were all good fits," said Richards, who also rejected offers, some for more money, from the Maple Leafs, Flames and Flyers.

He told the Lightning on Friday that its offer wasn't in the running. The Sabres withdrew from the bidding Friday night.

Richards said he thought about joining the Rangers in May when it was clear he wouldn't return to the Stars, with whom he spent three-plus seasons after the Lightning, under owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie, traded him in February 2008.

Among the reasons he said he chose New York: He wanted to be closer to his family — he is a native of Canada's Prince Edward Island — he feels comfortable with Tortorella and the ownership is stable. "(Unstable ownership) bit me a couple times," said Richards, traded during the chaotic reign of Koules and Barrie, and whose Dallas exit was due in part to the Stars being for sale.

Said Tortorella, "There were some things we needed on our club, and he brings quite a few of those things. He just fits."

Capitals: The team made one of the biggest free agency splashes by signing All-Star goalie Tomas Vokoun, 34, to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Washington had faced entering the season with Michal Neuvirth, 23, and Braden Holtby, 20. Friday it traded restricted free agent Semyon Varlamov, who split time with Neuvirth last season, to the Avalanche after reports surfaced he was going to return to Russia's KHL. Vokoun chose to not re-sign with the Panthers.

Jagr speaks: Jaromir Jagr said he rejected richer offers to sign with the Flyers for his NHL comeback because he likes what they are "trying to do" to win the Cup. The former league MVP and scoring champion who won two Cups with the Penguins also said that contrary to reports, he never led Pittsburgh to believe he would sign with it after three years in the KHL. "The Penguins seem like I did something wrong or something bad, and I don't think I did something bad," Jagr said. "I was a free agent, and I had my chance to pick wherever I think is best for me." Jagr signed a one-year, $3.3 million deal. He didn't name the teams he said offered more money. The salary cap-constrained Pens' offer was one-year, $2 million.

Richards picks Rangers for nine years, $58.5M 07/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 2, 2011 10:26pm]
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