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Brad Richards turns down Kings, signs with New York Rangers

July 2, 2011 |  9:04 am

Brad3 Free agent Brad Richards agreed to a contract with the New York Rangers on Saturday, turning down an offer the Kings had made during an elaborate presentation Friday at the office of his agent, Pat Morris.

A Kings spokesman confirmed that Richards was going East shortly after it was reported by TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Initial reports pegged the contract at nine years and $58.5 million, which was close to or identical to the Kings’ offer. Both offers were heavily front-loaded.

Apparently the comfort factor for Richards of returning to the East and playing for John Tortorella, who was his coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 when they won the Stanley Cup, was more important than other factors. The Kings tried to persuade him they would be a good fit strategically, were Cup contenders and offered a desirable lifestyle. They assembled a videotape pitch that included recruiting appeals from Wayne Gretzky and Kobe Bryant, among others, but in the end couldn't overcome geography or Richards' familiarity with Tortorella.

The Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs were also believed to be among the final few teams that Richards considered overnight before choosing the Rangers. Calgary reportedly offered him more than $60 million and included a personal call from Jarome Iginla to Richards in its pitch.

The Kings, who still need wingers — especially since they traded Ryan Smyth and Wayne Simmonds recently — are now likely to look at signing free agent Simon Gagne. Yes, another former Flyer to add to an orange-tinted list that includes Coach Terry Murray, General Manager Dean Lombardi, assistant GM Ron Hextall and Assistant Coach John Stevens.

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of AEG, the Kings’ parent company, led the delegation that journeyed to suburban Toronto to woo Richards on Friday. He said he was impressed with Richards and repeated that Saturday.

“We have a lot of respect for Brad and Pat Morris and the way they handled this,” Leiweke said via email. We understood his desire to play out East and did the best we could to overcome that.

“We wish him the best. Dean and his team did a great job. We are focused on other options and are certain this team is going to be very good next year.”

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-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Former Dallas Stars forward Brad Richards has signed with New York Rangers. Credit: Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press

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