The Rangers bought out the contract of veteran forward Brad Richards on Friday, creating much-needed salary-cap space and parting ways with New York's de facto captain one week after the club was eliminated from the Stanley Cup finals.
Both the Rangers and Richards' agent, Pat Morris, confirmed the move. The team had no further comment.
The 34-year-old Richards had six years remaining on the nine-year, $60 million deal he signed in 2011, and this move will remove his $6.67 million salary-cap charge.
Richards will receive two-thirds of the remaining money to be paid out over 12 years – a total of $12.6 million.
Richards will also be paid $8 million in signing bonuses over the next three seasons. He didn't have to clear waivers before the buyout because his contract had a no-movement clause.
The Rangers used their second and final compliance buyout on Richards after using the first on former defenceman Wade Redden last year. They had to be used before July 1.
New York has numerous unrestricted and restricted free agents this summer, and will need as much cap space as possible to bring back key players and perhaps add others on the market.
"We're going to work on putting a good team on the ice, but every year is different,'' Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Monday when the Rangers cleaned out their lockers. "Next year's team is going to be different, and you've got to go through the same process. It's going to be a challenge to make the playoffs, and then you take it one series at a time.''
Richards, demoted to the fourth line in the finals against Los Angeles, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He didn't speak to reporters on Monday when the team broke up for the summer.
"I am a big fan of Brad Richards,'' Vigneault said. "He is a classy, classy individual. If you look at Brad's overall season he had a real good year.
"I am very happy with what he brought to the table. A veteran player from Day One that was a real good extension of the coaching staff in the dressing room. He should walk away from this season very pleased with how he played and how he contributed to our team.''
Richards had 20 goals and 31 assists in 82 games this season – the lowest point-per-game average of his career – and added five goals and seven assists in New York's 25 post-season games. He had only one assist in the five-game finals loss to the Kings.
Richards took on a bigger leadership role after captain Ryan Callahan was traded to Tampa Bay for St. Louis in March. His voice carried in the room even as his play declined as the playoff run got deeper.
In 210 regular-season games with the Rangers, Richards had 56 goals and 95 assists. He was benched in last year's post-season by former coach John Tortorella during New York's second-round loss to Boston.
Richards earned his contract when he hit the free-agent market after having 28 goals and 77 points during the 2010-11 season with Dallas.