I just wanted to fill you guys in on some info regarding the Maple Leafs and Brad Richards. It turns out the Leafs were never seriously considered at all. There were quite a few problems that Richards had with the Leafs:
The first problem: The team, to put it bluntly, was just not good enough. The stuff about the "not wanting to play in the media spotlight" was very much overplayed by his agent as a way to "soften the blow" but the reality was it was all about the team itself. Brad felt that even with him in the lineup they were unlikely to be a playoff team. The only way he would have taken the Maple Leafs seriously is if they had secured Tomas Vokoun or Ilya Bryzgalov's rights before free agency started and signed them to a contract. Richards felt strongly that he wanted to go to a team that was already a lock to make the playoffs and make them even better. Toronto's goaltending and lack of scoring depth was a massive concern to him.
The second problem: Ron Wilson. Wilson's reputation around the league isn't the best, and Richards simply didn't want to play for him. Richards had heard some stories from people who had played for Wilson in the past that made Richards not interested in joining a club that Wilson would be coaching. Specifically, Richards had heard about Wilson being "stubborn" and not willing to adapt game plans during a game, that frankly seemed trivial, but Richards felt he was not a post-lockout coach and he was still using strategies that have been known to fail.
The third issue: Brian Burke. Richards said he felt that Brian Burke's change of course last season was "distressing". He said that he didn't want to be part of an organization that appears to be "adrift at sea." Burke deals 1st rounders to get a player, then he signs some free agents, and then he trades those same free agents away to get draft picks. He acquired Kris Versteeg, then less then a season later he trades Versteeg away for draft picks. Beauchemin and Versteeg were name-checked. Richards didn't know what the plan was: Is Burke building the team? Is he re-building? Is he re-tooling? Is he starting over?
Richards also had an issue with Tomas Kaberle having his name in trade rumors for such an extended period of time. Richards felt that a player with his long-standing track record as a loyal Maple Leaf deserved a lot more respect than he was receiving from Burke, who would leave Kaberle hanging out to dry and wouldn't just come out and tell reporters he wasn't available (even if he was shopping him). This in addition to Richards feeling that Burke has a bit too much of a love for the spotlight. Essentially, he was extremely wary of being part of a Brian Burke organization because he felt that over the last few years it's been clear there really wasn't much of a plan in place and way too often Burke seems to change course on a whim.
The fourth issue: Not showing up for a face-to-face meeting. This ultimately was the final straw, though the Leafs weren't really in serious contention to begin with, Burke opting not to show up for the face-to-face meeting. Richards indicated that if he were to consider Toronto, there were a lot of questions he wanted answered: What do the Leafs plan on doing with their goaltending situation? What's the plan in terms of when this will be playoff team? What's the plan for this summer? Is Ron Wilson the long-term coach, etc. Then Burke doesn't show up. Richards felt slighted by that and opted not to ask Nonis any of the questions, essentially eliminating the Maple Leafs before they were even in the running.
On a related note, people were quick to dismiss Calgary (myself included), but amazingly they were very much in the thick of the running for Richards' services. Brad was ready to sign in New York, but he had a good feeling about Calgary and wanted to sleep on it. The Flames, amazingly, were very, very close. Credit Jay Feaster and Jarome Iginla for almost being able to pull off the coup.