John Tortorella scratched a fourth liner for Game 4 against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night.
Granted, it’s a fourth-liner signed through 2021, whose contract was valued at $60 million when he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent.
Granted, he was their No. 1 center to start the season.
Granted, he’s a former Conn Smythe winner who is now a healthy scratch in his team’s most important playoff game of the season.
Such is the disastrous season for Brad Richards of the New York Rangers.
“I’m surprised, I guess,” said Richards, who turned 33 on May 2 and is still owed $36 million through 2020. “I’m disappointed.”
… Richards said Tortorella called him this morning at home with the news. “Nothing’s over,” Richards said. “Work harder and try my best to never let it happen again.”
It's the beginning of the end, according to Rick Carpiniello:
The next step is then obvious. The Rangers will use their one remaining compliance buyout within the new CBA to end Richards’ relationship with the team this summer. Richards, who received $12 million in 2011-12 and most of his $12 million for the lockout 2013 season, will get a $24 million going-away present this summer (spread out over twice the remaining seven years), removing his contract from the books and his salary from the decreasing salary cap.
Richards will then be an unrestricted free agent, able to strike a deal with any of the other 29 teams, but not with the Rangers. And he surely will resurface after a summer of conditioning, and sign somewhere at a much smaller salary.
Torts has handled the rapid decline in Richards’ game with kid gloves, never torching his former No. 1 center publicly.
The demotion couldn’t have been easy for the Rangers coach, who won a Cup with Richards as his playoff MVP in Tampa Bay. To scratch Richards shows what a non-factor he’s become in the semifinals, skating 8:10 in Game 3 and getting benched in the third period.
Richards came to the Rangers because the money was right and he felt they could challenge for the Cup. But he also signed because of Tortorella. He believed in Torts; and Torts believed in Richards as a veteran leader in that room who could act as his proxy.
Now, Richards is scratched in what could be Tortorella’s last game as Rangers coach.