Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Richards strikes Lightning in Tampa

(CP) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning signed their top playmaker to a long-term deal Monday -- and he didn't come cheap.The Lightning inked centre Brad Richards to a $39-million US, five-year contract extension, making him the second-highest paid player in the NHL. The 26-year-old made $3.4 million this season, and could have taken the team to salary arbitration in the off-season. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season, but said he had no intentions of leaving Tampa."I didn't want to put in a long summer dealing with this," Richards said Monday from Tampa, Fla. "I had my mind pretty much set that I wanted to be here. I didn't want to start a war. It just went really well."The slick passer will average $7.8 million over the course of his new deal. Only New York Rangers forward Jaromir Jagr ($8.36 million) draws a bigger paycheque -- heady company for a player with just five NHL seasons under his belt.

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