If it seems familiar, the Rangers spending an exorbitant amount of money to land the top free agent on the market, there is a reason for that. The latest reminder of how that has worked out was last week, when the Rangers bought out the final year of Chris Drury 's contract. This time, it should be different.

Brad Richards agreed to a nine-year, $60 million deal with the Rangers Saturday, cashing in at the age of 31 after scoring 28 goals with 49 assists for the Dallas Stars last season.

The most striking difference between Richards and most of the other big-name signings the Rangers have made under GM Glen Sather is that they did not offer the most money. The Daily News reported on Friday that the Calgary Flames offered a nine-year, $64 million contract.

The bigger reason to believe that this mega-deal will work for the Blueshirts, though, has nothing to do with the money involved. The Rangers wanted Richards not because he was the best player available, but because he was the one who fit their plans as a top-notch upgrade to a blossoming homegrown core.

After watching Marian Gaborik slump to 22 goals during an injury-plagued second season on Broadway in which John Tortorella never could find a line combination to get the Slovak sniper going, Richards fit the bill as a lefthanded center renowned for his playmaking ability. Richards also is a maestro on the power play, having tied for 12th in the NHL last season with 22 assists with the man advantage. His ability to run the attack made him perfect for a Rangers team that went 1-for-20 on the power play in its five-game playoff loss to the Washington Capitals .