TORONTO - Brad Richards has made it clear that his focus remains with the Dallas Stars. But he couldn't avoid looking ahead to an uncertain future during a rare visit to Toronto.
The veteran centre has found his name attached to trade rumours because he's earning US$7.8 million in the final year of his contract and the team's uncertain ownership situation has kept the sides from negotiating an extension.
There has been some speculation that the Leafs have interest in Richards, who holds a no-movement clause and seems open to the idea of playing in Canada.
"When the time comes, if that's an option, Toronto's always a No. 1 hockey destination," Richards said before Monday's game. "It would be great being a Canadian playing in Toronto, but we're not even close to that bridge yet. And like I said, I'm focused here.
"I have so much respect for (Stars GM) Joe Nieuwendyk, and to even talk about other teams is not even close to being fair."
Richards has spent his entire career playing in the NHL's sunbelt—first with the Tampa Bay Lightning and as a member of the Stars since March 2007. He had 91 points a year ago, matching his career best, and finds himself on an even better pace this season with nine goals and 24 points in 18 games.
The 30-year-old from Murray Harbour, P.E.I., has maintained an open dialogue with Stars management about his status and the team's search for a new owner to replace Tom Hicks.
"I'm not going to lie to you, the situation is what it is," said Richards. "It's not something that isn't talked about, and it's not something that Joe and I haven't talked about. We know the situation is not ideal for the time being to (sign a new contract).
"But obviously, we're open and talking about it and giving the chance for ownership to come in. I'm a Dallas Star and that's where my focus is right now."
Rumours will persist leading up to the Feb. 28, especially if the Stars remain in a state of flux.