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Blackhawks Sign Brad Richards, Central Bulks Up

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Stan Bowman didn't stay quiet on the first day of free agency, a very busy for the Central Division.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody expected Stan Bowman to make a huge splash on the first day of free agency, but he did fill the need for some depth at center. No, he didn't land the expensive Paul Stastny or Mikhail Grabovski.  Instead Bowman has inked veteran center Brad Richards to a one year/$2 million deal.  I really like this move.  It gives the Hawks some much improved depth down the middle at a really good price.  This also gives some of the young players like Teuvo Teravainen and Mark McNeill some more time to develop their respective games.

Richards was the subject of a lot of criticism during his time with the New York Rangers, who signed him to a 9 year/$60 million contract in the summer of 2011.  Despite what some Rangers fans say, he wasn't terrible but just wasn't worth that kind of money.  The Rangers used a compliance buyout after this season ended and Bowman was quick to bring two time Lady Bing winner aboard.  You can slot Richards right into the second line and pretty much pencil him in for 20 goals.  He only failed to hit the 20 goal mark three times in his 15 year career; one of those seasons was cut short due to injury and the other was the lockout shortened season of 2013.  Richards has a .88 point per game average in 982 career NHL games.  The Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup with Michal Handzus at second line center and Richards is an upgrade from Zus.

Bowman also gave a one year deal to Peter Regin reportedly worth $600K. The signing of Brad Richards puts the Blackhawks over the salary cap so we are store for at least one salary dump trade before this offseason is over.  Will it be Patrick Sharp? Could we see movement off the blue line like Johnny Oduya or Nick Leddy? We shall see.

The Blackhawks needed to add something to the mix because their fellow Central Division mates have been bulking up.  The St Louis Blues landed one of the prize UFA's when they signed Paul Stastny away from the Colorado Avalanche.  I think $7 million a year is a bit pricey for a player who has yet to have an 80 point season but the Blues were desperate for any kind of scoring.

The Avalanche answered quickly by signing future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla to a 3 year/$16 million deal.  I would have loved to see Iggy get his Cup here in Chicago, but that for that price over that many years.

The Minnesota Wild will pay Austrian goal scorer Tomas Vanek $19.5 for the next three years.  He could be a real good fit in St. Paul, but his he hasn't scored 30 in a season since 2011.  The Wild are hoping a reunion with Jason Pominville can bring Vanek back to his 40 goal days of his younger years.

The Stars and Predators have yet to sign a free agent but they have bolstered their lineups via trade.  Dallas acquired Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday for Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill and Nicholas Paul and 2nd round pick in 2015.  Spezza and Tyler Seguin are going to be fun to watch next year.  Don't forget that the Predators added some much needed scoring when they acquired James Neal from the Penguins on draft day.

Every July 1st we watch NHL general managers fall all over themselves to write up terrible contracts and overpay for talent.  And every July 1st I am reminded how important it is to draft well. I mean, Dave Bolland will make more money next season than John Tavares and that is just plain silly!

You can follow all the free agent transactions with SB Nation.