Brad Richards recalled the talk he had with Joel Quenneville last summer, the one on which the Blackhawks coach kept interrupting his soon-to-be center.
“The last thing Joel said when I hung up was, ‘Come to Chicago. We’ll win a Cup.’ He said it like three times in that conversation,” Richards said a few minutes after lifting the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career. “I kept thinking, ‘How does he know that?’ I don’t know how he knew, but he knew we had a chance and here we are.”
Richards came to Chicago for one year and $2 million. It wasn’t about the money; it was about another chance at winning that Cup. Now he’s got it, he’s enjoying his time here and he won’t rule out the possibility of coming back.
We already know the Blackhawks have to part with several players, be it unrestricted free agents due a raise they can’t afford to give or those whose contracts will no longer fit under the upcoming salary cap. But what about the other side: Which players could the Blackhawks possibly bring back?
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The Blackhawks will work to re-sign Marcus Kruger, who has now been here for two Cups. Andrew Desjardins and Richards could also be on the radar. Obviously it all depends on where the salary cap falls — most forecasts have it settling around $71 million — but the possibilities are there.
For Richards, it’s a thought he won’t completely rule out right now.
“I haven’t talked about anything. My attitude is, everything’s wide open now,” Richards said. “I know the situation here. I knew it before I signed here. But obviously it was an amazing year. So if they want to discuss something I’m obviously going to discuss it.”
It won’t be about money for Richards. It’s more a chance to return to this successful team, on which he eventually found his niche and had a very nice postseason.
“I’m in a fortunate position, financially, where I’ve done all that stuff and hit my big contracts. Now it’s really all about what just happened this week. You can’t replace that with anything, so we’ll see,” Richards said. “It’s a lot different feeling than last summer, I tell you that. I won’t care who calls right now. I’m just enjoying this every day.”
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Patrick Kane, who was Richards’ line mate for some of the regular season and again in the postseason — Richards set up Kane’s goal in Game 6 against Tampa Bay — Richards possibly returning was a nice thought.
“He’d be a guy you’d love to see come back here and play in that second-line center role,” Kane said. “He’s a good player. He’s a good guy but a good hockey player. You’ve seen what he’s done in the past; his numbers speak for themselves. It was a pleasure playing with him. I hope we can do it again.”
That situation is up in the air. So let’s go back to the fairly certain part of this story: The Blackhawks will find a way to sign Kruger. The center has been an important part of this team for two Cup victories now, and general manager Stan Bowman has re-signing him near the top of his list.
“Absolutely, we want to bring him back, make it known he’s going to be a part of this going forward,” Bowman said. “He’s another one of those guys who doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. He’s a penalty-kill guy who matches top centers on other teams, face-offs; he does all the important details that coaches appreciate. Joel would tell you he’s a big part of why we win.”
There was little fanfare when the Blackhawks picked up Desjardins at the trade deadline. More of the focus was on Antoine Vermette, who also wouldn’t mind returning to Chicago but probably won’t be affordable. Desjardins, who made $750,000 this season, was a great addition, giving the Blackhawks a dependable fourth line with Kruger and Andrew Shaw. Desjardins talked on the Cup-winning night of the chemistry he had with Shaw and Kruger. Bowman liked it, too, and would like to see Desjardins here again next season.
“We would love to bring him back. That’s a discussion we’ll have,” Bowman said. “It’s up to him and his agent; hopefully he wants to come back. We were pleased with his contribution.”