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Report: Brad Richards chooses Rangers

Brad Richards is off the market. The big fish among this year's crop of free agents has reportedly agreed to a nine-year contract Saturday to play for the New York Rangers.

TSN's Darren Dreger is reporting Richards' deal has an average annual value of $6.5 million.

Richards spent Friday at his agent Pat Morris' office in Mississauga, Ont., listening to pitches from several teams both in person and via conference calls. He decided to sleep on it and come to a final decision Saturday.

The Rangers were not one of the teams that showed up at the offices of Newport Sports Management, Inc. on Friday, but Larry Brooks of the New York Post tweeted that James Dolan, Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, personally spoke to Richards. The Rangers also held off from making any big deals throughout Friday in order to land Richards.

New York signed Mike Rupp for three years and $4.5 million and re-signed Ruslan Fedotenko for one year and $1.4 million.

Richards, who had 77 points in 72 games with Dallas last season, immediately becomes the Rangers' No. 1 center and will likely open training camp with Marian Gaborik on his right wing. New York's depth at center also looks much better with Richards now ahead of Artem Anisimov, Erik Christensen, Brian Boyle and Derek Stepan.

Richards has 716 points in 772 games over his NHL career, which began in 2000-01 with the Lightning. He spent seven-plus seasons in Tampa Bay, winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 2004, before being traded to Dallas late in the 2007-08 season. He had 91 points in 80 games two seasons ago.

Other teams believed to have made contract offers to Richards or at least discussed the possibility include Los Angeles, Toronto, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Calgary.

The Flames reportedly got in the race late, but made a strong push and had captain Jarome Iginla make a phone call to Richards to try to sell him on Calgary. Richards was believed to be intrigued in part because of his relationship with Flames GM Jay Feaster, who was the general manager in Tampa Bay for part of Richards' tenure with the Lightning.

The Kings, Maple Leafs and Lightning showed up at Newport Sports Management, Inc. to talk to Richards and Morris about why their teams and cities would be his best destination.

Los Angeles' contingent, including Governor Tim Leiweke, GM Dean Lombardi and coach Terry Murray, left feeling good about their 90-minute pitch to Richards. They reportedly showed Richards a video that included Wayne Gretzky and Kobe Bryant talking about the merits of being a professional athlete playing and living in Los Angeles.

It obviously didn't persuade Richards enough to sign with the Kings, who now have to turn their full attention to re-signing defenseman Drew Doughty to a new contract. He is a restricted free agent and open to signing an offer sheet from another team.

"This was a high priority for the Kings and a high priority for AEG and ownership," Leiweke told Rich Hammond of the L.A. Kings Insider blog on the Kings' website. "We spent a lot of time on it in the last few weeks. We were well-prepared. We were well-organized. We were well-briefed. He was shocked as to how much we knew about him."

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman went in thinking he might be able to sell Richards on coming back to Tampa Bay, where he won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 2004. Yzerman, though, told local reporters in Tampa later Friday evening that the Lightning pulled out of the Richards' sweepstakes because the gap between what Tampa Bay was offering and what Richards wanted was too wide.

Similar to Lombardi, Yzerman now has to focus on re-signing Steven Stamkos, who, like Doughty, is a restricted free agent and open to signing an offer sheet from another club.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren admitted he spoke to Morris "a few times" Friday, but never sounded too optimistic he would get him signed. Philadelphia signed Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot and also traded Kris Versteeg to Florida on Friday.

Toronto reportedly sent Senior V.P. of Hockey Operations Dave Nonis, Assistant GM Claude Loiselle and Special Advisor Cliff Fletcher to the office with the Maple Leafs' pitch as GM Brian Burke is in Afghanistan visiting with Canadian troops. They were said to have met with Richards and Morris for an hour.

The Leafs are in the market for a No. 1 center to play with Phil Kessel and Richards would have filled that void, but now Burke and Co. might have to go the trade route as none exist on the free agent market.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl