The signing we’ve all been waiting for has happened: Brad Richards has a new team and it’s the one most of us have been expecting (sorry Toronto fans.)

Richards signed a LONG nine-year contract with the Rangers today that will pay him an average of $6.5 million per season. That means he’ll be playing in the Big Apple until he’s 40 years of age. He made an average of $7.8 million on his last contract.

Of course, the contract is front-loaded. He’ll make $50 million of the contract’s $58.5 million in the first five years of the deal.

Richards was by far the biggest name in this year’s free agent pool and several teams including the Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning, Calgary Flames and others were after Richards. In the end he signed where he could get the biggest contract for the longest term.

Many teams backed off as the offers began to soar.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post remarked on Twitter that the “Rangers did exactly what they said they wouldn’t do, get into a bidding war and give an excessive deal.”

It’s not unexpected at all that Richards would hit the jackpot this summer. It was the perfect storm of conditions for him. The free agent pool is very shallow, especially at forward, and the salary cap rose by quite a lot. That meant there was a lot of money to be spent on a small number of players.

Richards’ agent literally had general managers lining up outside his office in Mississauga to make their pitches. Much like a real estate agent in a hot market, Richards’ team created a multiple offers scenario and used the offers against once another to drive the price up. However, management from the Rangers didn’t appear in person. It feels like they made their best offer and then waited to see if other teams could match. Obviously they couldn’t.

The $6.5 million cap hit puts Richards in the upper echelon of NHL players. He’ll fall somewhere around number 27 in the highest cap hits in the league, right alongside Dion Phaneuf, Daniel Briere and -yes- Wade Redden.

The signing reunites Richards with coach John Tortella. The two won a Stanley Cup together in Tampa Bay.

At least now the rest of the league can move on. Several teams have been keeping cap space open in hopes of signing Richards, so at least they’ll be able to turn their attention to plan B now. We would expect to see a few more dominoes fall now that the biggest fish in the small pond has been caught.

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