Richards, who spent the 2015-16 season with the Detroit Red Wings, ends his career with 932 points in 1,126 regular season games. He’s also been part of two Stanley Cup championship squads, winning a Conn Smythe award as playoff MVP in 2003-04 while a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Drafted originally in the third-round (64th overall) of the 1998 entry draft (the same draft that saw Vincent Lecavalier go #1 overall to Tampa), Richards formed a deadly tandem down the middle with Lecavalier, and helped to elevate the team into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. He would spend the first six-plus campaigns of his career with the Lightning before being shipped to Dallas at the 2008 trade deadline. With Lecavalier in the midst of an 11-year, $85MM deal and Richards under contract at $7.8MM annually, the Lightning decided they could no longer afford both centers and executed the trade with Dallas.
Richards spent parts of four seasons with Dallas, averaging better than a point-per-game and helping the Stars to a berth in the 2007-08 Western Conference Finals, where the club lost to eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit in six games. Unfortunately that would be the highlight for Richards during his tenure with the team as the Stars failed to again make the postseason.
Richards would leave the Lone Star State following the 2010-11 season and as one of the marquee free agents that summer, would go on to sign a lucrative, nine-year contract worth $60MM with the New York Rangers. As was typical with big money free agent contracts of the day, Richards’ deal was heavily back-loaded in an effort to drive down the AAV and subsequently the salary cap hit. Richards was to collect $57MM of the money in the first six seasons, with each of the final three years coming with salaries of just $1M each.
While perhaps not quite living up to that price tag with the Rangers, Richards did help the club make it to the Eastern Conference Finals his first year with the team. He was also part of the squad that lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013-14 Stanley Cup Finals.
After three years with the club and in desperate need of cap space as they continued their pursuit of a championship, the Rangers exercised a compliance buyout on Richards following the 2014-15 season. Under terms of the new CBA, the Blueshirts would have faced stiff cap recapture penalties had they not gone that route and Richards retired prior to the end of his contract.
Richards would move on as a free agent, signing with Chicago and winning another Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. But the writing may have already been on the wall as Richards tallied just 37 points that season, the lowest full-season total of his career to that point.
Following his one year in Chicago, Richards signed with Detroit where his offensive production continued to wane. In 68 contests with the Red Wings, Richards scored just 10 goals and 28 points.
The announcement comes just weeks after former Lightning teammate Vincent Lecavalier also stepped away from the game. It’s also quite possible Dan Boyle joins in to make it a trio of former Lightning players walking away from the NHL this summer. One year ago, Martin St. Louis, who played with Richards, Boyle and Lecavalier in Tampa and again with Richards and Boyle as members of the Rangers, announced his retirement.
Richards was a free agent, profiled recently on Pro Hockey Rumors here, but after apparently not finding the right fit, has elected to hang up his skates and move on to the next phase of his life. Those of us here at Pro Hockey Rumors would like to congratulate Richards on his wonderful career and wish him the best in his future.