TORONTO - How would you like to hear this coming over the PA system at the Air Canada Centre someday: Goal by No. 81 Phil Kessel, assist by No. 91 Brad Richards?
Well, donít get too excited, nothing is imminent yet, but rumours were once again swirling down at the ACC on Monday morning that the Maple Leafs would be interested in acquiring Richards, one of the best set-up men in the league.
And why not? With the team averaging just 2.26 goals a game, Toronto is in desperate need of a centre who can put the puck on the stick of sniper Kessel, a potential 40-plus goal man given the right circumstances.
Judging by the media feeding frenzy in the Stars dressing room after their warmup skate for Monday nightís game against the Leafs, plenty of people seem to think there is some meat to the rumour.
ďIím not going to lie to you. Itís not something that isnít talked about and itís not something that (general manager) Joe (Nieuwendyk) and I havenít talked about,Ē the 30-year-old Richards said when asked if he thinks about the trade rumours. ďWe know the situation isnít ideal for the time being Ö but obviously weíre open and talking about it and giving the chance for ownership to come in. But Iím a Dallas Star and thatís where my focus is right now.Ē
Richards is in the final year of a contract that pays him $7.8 million US, and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July. The Stars reportedly want him back, but with team ownership up in the air, there is speculation he might be moved.
ďWhen the time comes, if thatís an option, Torontoís always a No. 1 hockey destination. It would be great being a Canadian playing in Toronto, but weíre not even close to that bridge yet. And like I said, Iím focused here. I have so much respect for Joe Nieuwendyk, and to even talk about other teams is not even close to being fair,Ē the P.E.I native said when asked if Toronto would be a place he would like to play.
Richards, who had the most points of any Star (9-15-24) heading into Monday's game, has twice recorded 91 points. He first did it in the 2005-06 season with Tampa Bay, recording 23 goals and 68 assists, and he equaled that number last season, scoring one more goal.