After a lackluster regular season, it was widely expected that the Los Angeles Kings would seriously consider buying out the last six years of center Mike Richards’ contract. Thanks to another big playoff performance and another Cup win though, it appears that Mike Richards will be in LA for the long haul.
Pierre LeBrun at ESPN.com writes, “the NHL’s last compliance buyout window of this CBA (buyouts that don’t count against the salary cap) will come and go with Richards staying put.”
Richards produced a paltry 11 goals and 41 points in 81 games played this past season after a promising 2012-13 shortened season when he put up 32 points in 48 games — a pace closer to the one Richards maintained in Philadelphia. The two-time 30 goal scorer came clean to GM Dean Lombardi in their exit meeting and as Lombardi put it, “His self-analysis was dead on.”
That talk appears to have saved Richards and binded him to the team. His contract bears a palatable $5.75M cap hit for the next six years — the third highest for a forward on the team.
Richards will only be 35 at the end of that contract so it’s not one of those albatross deals where you hope the guy can play until 40. Richards was dropped to the fourth line come playoff time, but he chipped in ten points in this latest Cup run and had some big games for the team.
If Richards can return to scoring points the way he did for the most part before this season, his contract will be a good deal. If he returns to being a defensive specialist with little upside though, the Kings could be overpaying Richards for a while. That’s fine with Lombardi, as long as Richards shows up when it matters most.
“You’re loath to ever give up on that kind of player,” Lombardi said. “It’s very difficult to find that special ingredient. Even through his negatives this year, who rises to the occasion in the end? Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”
Now it appears that Mike Richards will be around for plenty more critical moments in Los Angeles.