Neither Brad Richards nor his agent said the Lightning will have an edge if it wants to pursue the former Tampa Bay star in free agency. But both indicated Thursday that Richards, who has spent three-plus seasons with the Stars and will be an unrestricted free agent July 1, will listen if the Lightning comes calling. "I never really wanted to leave Tampa," Richards told the St. Petersburg Times. "So, obviously, on July 1, if they talk to me, it's going to be something I'll listen to because of my history there." Richards' preferences became a major issue Thursday with word that Dallas, which will not have a new owner in place by the time free agency begins, will not make an offer to the center, who is at the end of a five-year, $39 million deal signed with Tampa Bay before the 2006-07 season. "There's really no point because we know he's not going to sign without an owner," Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk told ESPN.com Dallas. The question then is will Richards waive the no-move clause in his contract so Dallas can trade his negotiating rights before July 1. That is to be seen. But if Richards, 31, becomes a free agent, interest will be keen. A third-round draft choice in 1998, Richards played seven seasons with Tampa Bay, with 150 goals, 489 points in 552 games. He was MVP of the 2004 Stanley Cup run, with 12 goals, including seven winners, and 26 points in 23 games. Under pressure from incoming owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie, the team traded Richards in February 2008 to the Stars for goalie Mike Smith, center Jeff Halpern, wing Jussi Jokinen and a draft pick. Richards still spends the bulk of his summers in Tampa (he no longer owns a home but rents), trains in Saddlebrook in Wesley Chapel, is close with former teammates Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, and took great interest in the team's resurgence. "Obviously, it's back on the map," Richards said. "It's going in the right direction." "Brad is going to examine all his options, but it is clear and is publicly known that he didn't want to leave Tampa," his agent, Pat Morris, said. "If Tampa likes him, he's certainly going to listen to what they have to say, among many, many other teams, I'm sure."
Brad Richards says he'd listen to Tampa Bay Lightning if former team interested during free agency
Tampa Bay Times | Jun 3