Luke's luck running out

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

Years ago, Luke Richardson would have no qualms about making such a trip on a smaller bike, minus all the bells and whistles.

But when he and a buddy took a 7-8-hour drive to celebrate Independence Day with friends in Philadelphia, Richardson went in the style that is his Harley Davidson "Road King".

"The older you get," he said upon his return home, "the more comfortable you want to be."

As far as his NHL career is concerned, the 39-year-old Richardson is not at all ready for a rocking chair.

With 1,415 games played, the big, Ottawa-born defenceman is 23rd on the NHL's all-time leaders' list. Chris Chelios and Brendan Shanahan are the only two active players who have suited up more, and they both have Stanley Cup rings. Richardson does not.

Hence, when asked yesterday if he had any plans to retire, the unrestricted free agent, who last season played in a surprising 76 games for the Senators, did not hesitate.

"I don't," Richardson said, chuckling. "But that doesn't mean someone else doesn't have them for me."

Few folks have more interest in Bryan Murray's designs for the Senators' blue line than those who spend their summer 10 km from Shawville on Richardson Lake -- aptly named as the birthplace of Luke's grandfather and the main focus of cottages owned by Luke and, two doors down, his father Glen.

Currently secure in their positions are Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov. Rookie Brian Lee is expected to get one of the jobs, while Christoph Schubert will likely be shifted back to the position he prefers from his old spot as the fourth-line left winger. Lawrence Nycholat, a 29-year-old with 31 games of NHL experience, is almost guaranteed a promotion from Binghamton because of a one-way contract. Probably deserves it, too. In 77 games with the Baby Sens last season, Nycholat had 12 goals and 37 assists while establishing himself as a team leader.

Then there's Andrej Meszaros, a restricted free agent believed to be asking for around $3.5 million US a season. Eventually, he'll be signed or dealt, and if it's the latter, you can be sure Murray will be looking to get another defenceman in return.

That's six spots spoken for, with Murray currently burning phone lines trying to find a smooth-skating, puck mover to help fill the void left by the departure of Wade Redden.

Depending on what happens with Meszaros and whoever else is brought in, Richardson's days as a Senator are either over or numbered. He'd happily take the numbered -- as in play when needed as the organization's seventh or eighth blueliner, and help the coaching staff when he's not in the lineup. Just as he did in 2006-07, skating in 27 games for the Lightning and assisting coach John Tortorella the rest of the time.

"I'd work out before the game then go upstairs as the 'eye in the sky,' " said Richardson. "I'd practise with the guys then play some time. That was a great experience.

"I think at some point I'm capable of moving into that role as coach, but I just don't know that I'm done playing yet. Once it's gone, it's gone."

There are fans who think Richardson is done right now. They see him as slow and error prone. They think the game -- which was sped up with the clamping down on holding and hooking -- has passed him by. But the fact is, Richardson is the type of "good person" Murray is trying to put in the dressing room. He's a positive influence on younger players in need of direction. Two-plus months before training camp, he's already working out hard.

Will it translate into a contract offer? Richardson says he'd probably go elsewhere if he was called, but his first choice is to stay with Ottawa.

"They know I'd like to play," he said. "Not that I'm a cap buster, but sometimes you only have so many contracts, and you've got to bring some young guys along. If there is an opportunity, I know Bryan would throw my name in there for a good look. I've got that on my side."

ICE CHIPS

The Senators yesterday signed F Greg Mauldin to a one-year, two-way contract. The 26-year-old, Holliston, Mass., native had 15 goals and 18 assists in 71 games for Binghamton last season.


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