Richards and O’Reilly both face uncertainty

June 17, 2014, 1:52 PM

A lot of people expect the New York Rangers to buy out Brad Richards, but the most emotionally invested part of Pat Morris still isn’t convinced it will happen.

Morris, the Newport Sports Management agent who represents Richards, joined the Hockey Central at Noon panel Tuesday to discuss his client’s much-talked about future. He said nothing has been settled in his talks with New York GM Glen Sather but wouldn’t rule out a return to Broadway for Richards.

“Maybe that’s my heart rather than my head [talking],” said Morris, “but with the commentary from Glen Sather, he was pretty positive about Brad’s role, especially after [former captain Ryan] Callahan left.”

Richards commands a $6.6-million annual cap hit, and there’s been plenty of speculation the Rangers will get out from under a deal that runs through 2019-20 by using a compliance buyout on the 34-year-old, who was a highly sought-after free agent just three years ago.

As Morris noted, his analysis was coloured by emotion and the hard facts are New York has some key restricted free agents to sign—including leading scorer Mats Zuccarello—and a few prominent unrestricted free agents to make calls on, most notably defenceman Anton Stralman.

“Something has to give somewhere,” Morris acknowledged.

Another of Morris’s clients, Colorado Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly, has also been in the headlines lately.

It’s a situation worth keeping an eye on, both because of what’s already happened and what may occur in the not-too-distant future.

O’Reilly, you’ll recall, signed a two-year, $10-million offer sheet from the Calgary Flames in February of 2013, which the Avs opted to match. But any time business gets done that way it introduces the possibility of strained relations, and Colorado didn’t exactly improve the atmosphere when it decided, a couple days ago, to file for salary arbitration.

Theoretically, the two sides could still come together on a long-term deal, but there’s also the possibility O’Reilly could opt for a two-year award in arbitration later this summer, then walk as an unrestricted free agent in 2016.

Morris said O’Reilly, 23, wasn’t entirely unprepared for this development, but it certainly sounds like he and his client hoped they could avoid going down this path.

“We’re now preparing for an arbitration case we didn’t think we’d have to tend to,” he said.

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