Richards signing keeps Blackhawks’ cup hopes alive

The Chicago Blackhawks have reassured their chances at another Stanley Cup run next season with the acquisition of center Brad Richards.

Likely to play on the second line, Richards is another all-star caliber name added to the Blackhawks’ roster.

More importantly, the 34-year-old center relaxes pressure on top centerman Jonathan Toews and spreads the Blackhawks’ offensive attack.

Richards is most remembered for winning the Conn Smythe trophy in 2004 after leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to their first Stanley Cup in club history, but even in his mid-30s Richards was able to help guide an underdog New York Rangers team to the Stanley Cup Finals last season.

Richards has only logged less than 60 points in a season once times in his 13-year career when playing a full season, while producing over 90 points twice. Not only does Richards still provide a credible offensive threat, but his veteran status may prove even more valuable to Chicago.

With young forwards like 21-year-old Brandon Saad and 22-year-old Andrew Shaw beginning to reach their potential, Richards is a player Chicago wants to help them bloom over the next season. The former Rangers assistant captain is a known leader in the locker room who has over 20,000 minutes of ice time in his career.

With his on-ice skill to help guide young players and the off-ice responsibility to mentor with, (Richards also won the 2004 Lady Byng Trophy for being the NHL player to show the most gentlemanly conduct) the former all-star is a fitting answer to the looming issue of the Blackhawks’ lack of centers going into the 2014-15 season.

Chicago is able to keep both feet in the water for next season while making sure they have more years to dangle them off the boat.

In Richards, there’s immediate reward and security. With a one-year, $2 million contract, the Blackhawks also hold on to the ability to go back on their trust in the former Stanley Cup champion if things don’t pan out in the next season.

But there should be little worry about the former Rangers assistant captain. This was the right move for Chicago and for all he can be worth, Richards came cheap.

Sean is a senior in Media. He can be reached at spneuma2@dailyillini.com or @Neumannthehuman.