Shortly after after Los Angeles acquired center Mike Richards in a trade with Philadelphia in June, 2011, they turned their attention towards signing that summer’s top free agent, former Dallas and Tampa Bay forward Brad Richards. Brad Richards ultimately signed a nine-year deal worth 60 million with the New York Rangers, and the two sides hardly converged until the Kings and Rangers met in this month’s Stanley Cup Final, won in five games by L.A.
On Friday it was reported that Brad Richards would be bought out of the remaining six years of his contract, while Mike Richards will not have his contract bought out, as expected. The news on Mike Richards was reported by Lisa Dillman of the LA Times.
But Lombardi’s loyalty to his players runs deep and he heard what he needed to hear from Richards in meetings this week. Richards greatly underperformed in the second half of the regular season and was dropped to the fourth line.
“The biggest thing in the meeting with Michael – the important thing – is that he realized he’s going to have to make some adjustments in his offseason training,” Lombardi said on Friday in an interview with The Times.
As Dillman noted, Lombardi’s loyalty towards this group of players is immense, and such a drastic change (with a heavy price tag for ownership) of the composition of the room with nothing in return is not an ideal situation.
Each NHL team is allowed two compliance buyouts before the start of the 2014-15 season. The current compliance buyout window ends on June 30 at 2:00 p.m. PT. Click here for more information and to see whose contracts have been bought out.
Richards has six years remaining on a 12-year, 69-million dollar contract extension he signed with the Flyers in December, 2007 and carries a 5.75 million dollar cap hit. It is expected that next year’s salary cap will rise to the ballpark of 69-71 million, and the Kings have just under 58 million dollars worth of cap space allocated to 18 players.
Mike Richards has won 26 playoff series between junior and professional hockey, and has won the OHL Championship, the Memorial Cup, the Calder Cup. a World Junior gold medal, and Olympic gold medal, an Eastern Conference championship and two Stanley Cups. For a team that has played an NHL record 64 playoff games over the last three seasons, Richards’ fiery and competitive disposition – described well in 2012 by Dustin Penner, who said “he arrives at every part of the ice in ill humor” – is a vital part of the team’s postseason performance. He is 7-0 in Game 7s, and though his postseason numbers were down from previous years, he contributed with several standout performances despite a decrease in minutes from earlier postseasons. He registered eight shots on goal in a 5-1 Game 7 win over San Jose, and had a goal and an assist in a 6-2 Game 7 win over Anaheim one series later.
He also experienced a drop-off in the second half of the season and played the final 22 games of the season without recording an assist. Richards’ 11 goals in 82 games marked the lowest goals-per-game rate in his NHL career, though a paltry 7.0% shooting percentage indicates that he could be headed for a rebound next season. As Lombardi noted, there are elements of his off-season preparation that the team would like to see improved; similar concerns had been expressed in advance of the 2012-13 season. Interestingly, Richards got off to a fast start in 2013-14 with 17 points (5-12=17) in his first 18 games despite the concerns expressed over his training regimen.
Richards has played in 179 consecutive games since December 22, 2011.