May 10, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Eric Fehr (16) shoots the puck in front of New York Rangers center Brad Richards (19) in game five of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Richards: A Need or a Want?

What do you think the odds are that Brad Richards will be playing in a New York Rangers uniform next season? I say — slim to none. That begs the question, “Is he someone that the Tampa Bay Lightning needs or wants?”

With the salary cap dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million next season, it’s pretty obvious that the Rangers can’t absorb Brad’s $6.67 million salary-cap hit. If they buy him out to the tune of $24 million over the next 14 years, none of that counts against their salary cap. You do the math.

Emotionally, you’ve got to give Richards his props. He’s a character guy. Lightning loyalists loved him in ‘04 and they still do now. Not only was Brad an integral part of the Stanley Cup Champions, he was the Conn Smythe winner as the playoff MVP. But that was ten years ago. Being scratched for Game 4 in the playoffs this year against the Bruins isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of your work.

Does Richards have any gas left in his hockey career tank? Can he be the playmaker he once was? How do the Lightning benefit from acquiring a 33 year-old center? At his press conference in New York, Richards said, “I’m playing hockey next season, no matter what.” I hope so.

If I’m Yzerman and Cooper, not only do I want Brad Richards on my team, I need him — and for these three reasons:

CHARACTER: You can’t put a price tag on what it’s worth to have this guy in your locker room. Sure, we’ve got Vinny and Marty, but having Richards for the kind of money he’ll be available for makes sense. And don’t you think he’d jump at the chance to come to Tampa if given the opportunity? You bet he would.

SKILL: How quickly we forget. Last year he scored 25 assists and 41 goals in the regular season; in the playoffs, six goals and nine assists. His mistake this year was not playing overseas during the lockout. That hurt him.

DESIRE: Brad Richards has too much personal and professional pride to have a repeat of 2013. Redemption is his mission and nothing would be sweeter for #19 than to do it in a Lightning uniform.

Come home, Brad. We want you and we need you.

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