"It's really out of my control," Richards told NHL FanHouse. "There's so much uncertainty right now. If you don't know who you're going to be playing for, there's little point in worrying about it."
The No. 1 center, of course, is referring to the unstable ownership situation in Dallas. Owner Tom Hicks has the team up for sale and on a budget, of which Richards has a salary cap hit of $7.8 million on the final year of his contract. Even in February, Richards' number would be difficult for a contending, cap-crunched team to absorb, and he has a complete no-move clause in his contract. This could explain why the 30-year-old Richards, who tied a career-high last season with 91 points, finds it easy to talk only of the Stars.
"I'm not thinking about playing anywhere else," he said. "I'm very happy in Dallas. It's a great city to play in and I love the youthful energy we have this year with guys like (James) Neal and (Jamie) Benn and Loui (Eriksson). This is where my focus is."
Dallas coach Marc Crawford believes the departure of elder statesmen Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen and Marty Turco has resulted in Richards and captain Brenden Morrow symbolically taking over the locker room.
"Those three guys were incredible for this franchise," said Crawford. "To use a local football analogy, they were our Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. But there's always a changing of the guard with any sports franchise. In the past, maybe Richie and Brenden were hesitant to speak up when something was on their minds because we had such strong personalities with Mike, Marty and Jere. Now, when something needs to be said, Richie or Brenden or Stephane Robidas or Steve Ott stand stand up and say it. It's their time, and I think you'll see that reflected in their play."
Still, the immediate future of the franchise depends on re-signing Richards. The Stars could never get back in a trade what they would be losing. If you want to know if Richards is going to be available next July 1, just follow the saga of Tom Hicks' sale.
NHL FanHouse All-Access
To warm up before games, Richards and Eriksson play a unique game of nerf tennis. At Nassau Coliseum on Saturday, the teammates squared off in a grueling set. How seriously do they take it? As Richards explains in this one-minute clip I shot, they must change sides on the odd games -- as per USTA rules, and out of fair play.
McGuire's Players on the Verge
NBC and TSN analyst Pierre McGuire shares his list of five NHL players he believes deserve more press, or are about to start getting some.
Nathan Horton, Boston: "The talent is matching up with the expectations for Nathan in Boston," says McGuire. "The chemistry he has with David Krejci is very, very strong."
Jeffrey Skinner, Carolina: "Everyone's talking about Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in Edmonton for the Calder Trophy, for good reason. But keep an eye on Skinner. Exceptional ability."
T. J. Oshie, St. Louis: "He made steady progress from year one to year two, but now I feel T.J.'s ready for his breakout season with the Blues. Not a big guy (5-10, 170), but the kind of relentless, talented player every team wants."
Jack Johnson, Los Angeles: "Drew Doughty gets all the attention, but Jack has developed over the last year into one of the league's top all-around defenseman. He's going to have a great season for the Kings."
Corey Crawford, Chicago: "He's been under-the-radar for the Blackhawks, after five years in the minors. The other night in Buffalo (a 4-3 win) he had a rough start but never gave up. He had a better game than Cristobal Huet ever had in Chicago."
Heroes of the Week
New York Rangers forwards Alex Frolov and Derek Boogaard hosted twenty children from the the Loisaida Community Center on a special tour of New York on Wednesday. As part of MSG's Garden of Dreams Foundation, Frolov and Boogaard took the children on a double-decker sightseeing bus around Manhattan, ending with a pizza party at a Build-A-Bear Workshop. This is the best kind of community initiative by an NHL team, combining players with deserving children for a day none of them will ever forget.
-- The New Jersey Devils, dressing 15 or 16 instead of the usual 18 skaters, have at least temporarily become the NHL's gong show. Who ever thought that would be the perception of a Lou Lamoriello-run team? Give credit to New Jersey's boss for publicly taking the hit for his team's troubles and putting all the pressure on himself to solve them. As the architect of three Stanley Cup winners, Lamoriello has earned the benefit of the doubt.
-- Nevermind the passionless performance in Europe; the Minnesota Wild look like a franchise devoid of direction, or hope for the near future. No longer selling out all home games, the Wild need an injection of life that may only come with a change behind the bench or in the front office. Owner Craig Leipold guided a steady ship in Nashville with David Poile and Barry Trotz. Will he have the same patience in the State of Hockey?
-- Respected workhorses Jed Ortmeyer and Dean McAmmond are so far on the outside looking in for NHL employment, they accepted tryout contracts at Islanders training camp just so they could play a few exhibition games. The move didn't pay off. Neither have contracts. The 37-year-old McAmmond is just four games shy of 1,000 in the NHL.
NHL Elite Four -- 1. Washington 2. San Jose 3. Philadelphia 4. Detroit. NHL Bottom Four -- 27. Ottawa 28. Minnesota 29. Florida 30. Anaheim.
Today's Three Stars -- 1. Curtis Leschyshyn 2. Mike Palmateer 3. Claude Lapointe.