Chicago could have just been a footnote in Brad Richards’ career, a one-year blip in an otherwise stellar and memorable career in which he was a cornerstone piece for three other franchises.
Instead, his name will be etched in silver beneath the Blackhawks name for all time.
“I got everything I wanted and more,” he said. “I’ll never forget. No matter what happens, where I go, the Chicago Blackhawks are part of my heart forever. … Could have been just a quick stop. But now, I’ll enjoy coming back to this city forever.”
Richards’ future is uncertain, and though he took a cheap one-year, $2 million deal to sign with the Hawks after being bought out of a massive contract by the New York Rangers, it seems unlikely that the Hawks will be able to keep him given their looming cap crunch. Richards came to Chicago to chase the Stanley Cup after falling in the Final last spring, and to resurrect his career after stumbling a bit with the Rangers. He also came to play alongside Patrick Kane, and the two were fast friends.
“He was unbelievable from Day 1,” Richards said. “I ended up moving into the same building as him, and we chatted from Day 1. It was good that we kind of grew together a little bit off the ice. I think that helped us on the ice, because we could talk and not feel uncomfortable or anything like that, talking to each other about stuff on the ice. It really helped me. I knew if I’m going to play with him, I better get my things in order. It kind of rejuvenated me a little, too.”
Richards’ presence also helped Kane to the best season of his career, before a broken collarbone derailed his run at the scoring title.
“I thought our chemistry was great,” Kane said. “He’d be a guy that you’d love to see come back here and play in that second-line center role. … He’s a good guy, but he’s a good hockey player. You saw what he’s done in the past with his career, his numbers and everything speak for itself. But more than that, I think living in the same building with him, driving around with him, getting to know him really well —I call him a really good friend and probably someone, if he’s not back here, that I’d stay in touch with. It was a pleasure playing with him. I hope we can do it again.”
Johnny in a spot
Johnny Oduya is an unrestricted free agent, and considering he made $3.375 million a year on his current deal and is coming off another terrific postseason, it’s highly unlikely that the Hawks will be able to keep him. Oduya, who will be 34 when next season starts, hopes to stay, obviously, but he acknowledged the reality of his situation all season.
“There’s possibilities for everything,” he said. “I don’t really know exactly what the plan is from the management here. But I’m sure there’s going to be some conversations. We’ll see what happens here. It’s probably going to develop within a couple of weeks.”
Bryan Bickell played just one game in the Stanley Cup Final as he continues to battle vertigo, which he started experiencing in Game 7 of the Western Conference final.
“It’s still there right now,” he said. “I don’t think the last couple of days really helped, celebrating.”
Bickell makes $4 million a season, but didn’t score a single goal in the postseason. He’s another potential cap casualty, if the Hawks can find a taker. Bickell, naturally, hopes it doesn’t happen.
“I consider Chicago my second home,” he said. “Getting drafted here, working my way up the system to have the ultimate goal and be successful like we have been. It’s part of the business. There’s a lot of friends and people that get moved and things like that, but it’s out of my control. What [happens] happens. I want to stay —it’s a good spot to be in.”
Michal Rozsival wheeled himself around the press room at the United Center on Wednesday, his left knee on a tricycle of sorts with his ankle in a bulky cast. Despite breaking his ankle in gruesome fashion in Game 4 against Minnesota, Rozsival said another Stanley Cup was more sweet than bitter.
“It was a tough end to my season, [but] it’s an unbelievable end to the team’s season,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier for this team to end the season with a championship.”
Rozsival also is an unrestricted free agent. He’ll be 37 in September, but doctors have told him he’ll be able to play again, and he plans to do just that. He could be a cheap option for the Hawks for a sixth or seventh defenseman, and he certainly hopes that’s the case.
“Of course, I hope it can be here,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen. Definitely hoping. This is definitely the place to play. I won two Cups here. I waited a long time to get my first one, and all of a sudden I have two in three years playing here. I’d definitely like to be here, if it’s at all possible.”
Joel Quenneville said Andrew Shaw’s back locked up on him at the morning skate before Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
“He didn’t go to the hotel that day,” Quenneville said. “They stayed here all day. They worked on him all day. Didn’t know if he’d be able to play; couldn’t even move after practice. His back completely seized up on him. I knew he’d find a way to play.”
Kane is just 26 years old. But even he’s feeling the effects of the relentless Cup crawl throughout the city.
“I’ve felt better,” he said with a wry smile.
It’s hard for Kane to fathom how much he’s accomplished in his still young career.
“It’s amazing how fast these years go by,” he said. “Going into next year, I’ll be in my ninth season, which is crazy to think about. You see the guys getting drafted this year, I think they’re ’97s or something. Here you are, you thought you were young as an ’88. To be 26 years old and have three Stanley Cups right now, I think is pretty unbelievable for me. It’s something you can dream about and look forward to when you’re younger, but to say that it would actually happen three times, you’d probably be fooling yourself. Very happy with where I’m at in my career.”
Brandon Saad joked that he’s having a little more fun this time around with the Cup, now that he’s 22 instead of 20. Teuvo Teravainen, alas, is still just 20 years old. How has that worked out with the Hawks popping into seemingly every bar in Chicago?
“It’s an interesting question,” Jonathan Toews said with a laugh. “You can put beer and champagne in there, but you can also put Coca-Cola or Gatorade in there. Whatever. I’m not trying to plug anything. Fruit juice, whatever he likes to drink, he can throw that in there. We’re keeping a good eye on him.”
Brent Seabrook and Antoine Vermette both were on baby watch this week. Vermette’s wife, in fact, was due on Wednesday.
“I’ve got to give my wife credit,” Vermette said. “I hope you guys write this — she’s awesome.”