The Rangers have heard through the grapevine that Brad Richards will be seeking a long-term contract worth a minimum of $7 million per when the free-agent market opens on July 1, and they've heard it more than once and they've heard it from more than one source.

This means that, a) general manager Glen Sather will not be sending an asset to Dallas for the right to try and convince the 31-year-old center to sign before he hits the market; and, b) the Blueshirts already are pondering a Plan B to bring a first-line pivot to Broadway.

We're told by well-placed sources Richards has no intention of signing for a discount in order to reunite with coach John Tortorella, with whom he won the Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. That's fine. If five years at $6.5 million per -- that's the number -- doesn't represent enough green to get Richards into a Blueshirt, then that's that.

The Rangers are well past trying to bribe an athlete to wear their uniform. If every nickel is that important to Richards, who has earned around $50 million in his career, then he can collect them all elsewhere.

Maybe Richards would take less to return to Tampa Bay, maybe living a life with less daily stress than everyone of us who lives in New York routinely encounters just isn't for him. That doesn't make him a bad person any more than Cliff Lee taking less to play for the Phillies rather for the Yankees makes the lefty pitcher a bad guy.

Signing Richards to a five-year, $32.5 million contract would have represented a risk/reward move anyway, given both the history of such free-agent signings here and the matter of the concussion the pivot sustained last winter.