The Los Angeles Kings will not buy out former top center Mike Richards despite having six years remaining on the 12-year, $69 million deal he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers, according to Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times.
Richards, 29, was relegated to the fourth line during the postseason which culminated with the Kings hoisting the Stanley Cup for the second time in the last three seasons, but the dip in production will not result in him looking for a new home, but rather concentrating on his offseason training to get back to his past level of production.
“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,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said on Friday in an interview with The Times.
“He’s 29. In his prime. So it’s not as though the dropoff should be related to age. But players need to realize when you start getting 27, 28 — you can’t train, can’t prepare like you use to when you were 22 or 23.”
Richards recorded 41 points and 16:59 minutes per game last season so he does bring value to the lineup and has been on the Kings power play and penalty kill units as the veteran brings some versatility to the talented Kings roster who will look to repeat as Cup champions next year with Richards playing a role, albeit a diminished one that he was accustomed to prior to his trade from the Flyers.
Lombardi and the Kings have 18 players under contract for next season and have the necessary cap space to try and re-sign postseason goal leader Marian Gaborik, but Richards’ contract may tie his hands two years from now with players like Alec Martinez, Justin Williams and Tyler Toffoli, Jake Muzzin and Jaret Stoll scheduled to be unrestricted free agents.
You can never have too much depth in the NHL, especially down the middle so retaining Richards in an effort to win a third Cup in four years is absolutely worth it for the Kings.