Brad Richards hopes for a smooth transition with Hawks

Written By BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Reporter Posted: 07/20/2014, 02:31am

Brad Richards’ first taste of life with the Blackhawks was opening night of the fan convention Friday at the Hilton Chicago, with some 10,000 fans lining up just for a glimpse and an autograph.

So the last thing he was thinking about was whether he might be the long-awaited answer to the Hawks’ long-standing question at second-line center.

‘‘I’m trying to find a place to live and meeting a thousand people every day,’’ Richards said.

Hell, he didn’t even know what to call captain Jonathan Toews.

‘‘I should call him Jonathan. Does anybody call him Jonathan?’’ he said. ‘‘It’s pretty official. Tazer and Kaner?’’

Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t have such concerns. And, yes, he has given it plenty of thought. And Richards — the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner with the Tampa Bay Lightning and a nine-time 20-goal scorer who twice has posted at least 67 assists — is his man between Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane.

For now, at least.

‘‘Yeah, we’ll see how long it lasts,’’ Saad said with a grin. ‘‘He’s a great player, so we’re happy to have him. He’s a good addition for our team. Regardless of what the line combinations are, it definitely helps our team out a lot.’’

At 34, Richards might not be the same player who twice posted 91 points. He struggled in 2012-13 with the New York Rangers, then tumbled to the fourth line during their run to the Stanley Cup Final this spring before being bought out of his nine-year, $60 million contract.

He could have cashed in and earned a longer-term contract with another team, but he signed with the Hawks for one year at $2 million for a chance to chase another Cup and to prove he still can play at an elite level.

‘‘When I first came in the league, the Detroits and Colorados were getting all the free agents because they were winning and they were relevant every year,’’ Richards said. ‘‘When you get a chance at this stage of my career, where I can come in and try to fit and make it work in the group, it’s an obvious location where a lot of people would like to play. It’s a team that’s relevant every day, and every year they seem to be making a run. That’s all you can ask for as a player.’’

Playing alongside Saad and Kane can’t hurt.

‘‘I’ve only watched [Kane], and he’s exciting to watch,’’ Richards said. ‘‘All of that is played out when you get on the ice. It’s so hard to talk about it now because it might or might not work. . . . There are so many different players you can play with when you play here. It’s a great opportunity, no matter who [it is]. If that’s the case, I’d be thrilled. If not, there are other options that are very enticing, too.’’

If it doesn’t work, Andrew Shaw will be waiting. Shaw fared well in that spot during the Western Conference final, and Quenneville said it was ‘‘inevitable’’ he’d see time there again.

‘‘I’ve just got to keep pushing myself and keep working,’’ Shaw said. ‘‘And hopefully one day I can reach that goal.’’

For now, Richards’ goal is to get his bearings. In this day and age, nearly every player has played with at least somebody on all the other teams at some point. But Richards doesn’t know any of the Hawks beyond an All-Star Game setting.

‘‘It’s overwhelming trying to think of all these names I’ve got already,’’ he said. ‘‘I guess if you’re going to come to a new team, [the convention] is a way to meet the whole organization. It’s been a lot of fun. You can tell the Blackhawks are a big part of this town.’’


Twitter: @MarkLazerus

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