The Los Angeles Kings and former player Mike Richards have reached a settlement after the team terminated the remaining five years on the forward's contract earlier this summer. Richards had $22 million remaining on the deal before it was canceled by the Kings in late June.
The two parties avoid a hearing with an arbitrator, after the NHLPA had filed a grievance. In that scenario, Richards was at risk of losing all of the $22 million he was previously owed, or the arbitrator could have ruled the Kings were on the hook for the entirety of the contract.
Here is the official statement from the Kings:
“The Los Angeles Kings have reached an agreement with Mike Richards to resolve the grievance filed in relation to the termination of his Standard Player Contract. The terms are agreeable to all parties. We will not be commenting further on the terms.”
The statement from the NHLPA on the matter.:
“The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have reached a settlement agreement regarding Mike Richards’ standard player contract. The settlement amicably resolves the grievance filed by the NHLPA on August 10, 2015 in response to the Los Angeles Kings’ termination of Richards’ contract. Richards is an Unrestricted Free Agent.”
By reaching a settlement, the Kings will still have to pay Richards what is, at this point, an undisclosed amount of money. However much the Kings pay Richards annually will count towards the Kings' salary cap on top of the cap recapture penalty (about $1.32 million annually for the next five years) the Kings have already been absorbing according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. It is believed that this figure will create an annual cap hit less than what Los Angeles would have absorbed in a routine buyout of the deal, but that is unconfirmed.
The Kings will be on the hook for the cap recapture penalty for the next five years. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that whatever the amount of the settlement payment the Kings pay Richards will be on their salary cap through 2031.
Considering the Kings are escaping the burden of Richards' daunting $5.75 million cap hit by using a method rarely seen, it is bound to make a lot of NHL teams unhappy. The player had been underperforming on his deal and now the team has made a good portion of it disappear. However, under the CBA, the team had the right to terminate the contract.
The Kings terminated the contract after it was revealed that Richards had been detained and questioned at the United States-Canada border in mid-June. He was charged with illegal possession of a controlled substance while trying to enter Canada on Aug. 25. When the team announced its decision, it cited a "material breach of the requirements of his contract" as cause for the termination.
The Kings also were able to make Slava Voynov’s $4.16 million cap hit disappear after the player voluntarily chose to leave the country following his pleading to no contest to a domestic violence charge last summer and serving a short jail sentence. They have not terminated his deal, but will not have to pay him.
These are just about two of the most unfortunate ways a team can uncover extra cap space, but Los Angeles does have a new contract to get done with Anze Kopitar. It appears it is going to be a little easier to fit their star center under the cap now, even if the team will have a little piece of Richards' contract on their books for potentially the next 16 years. It's morbidly convenient.
Richards is now a free agent and should be able to sign with any team, though it is unclear if any club will take the chance on him now. Additionally, the veteran forward still has a court hearing scheduled for Dec. 8 to address the possession charge.
A veteran of 710 NHL games, the 30-year-old center won two Stanley Cups with the Kings. He also captained the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010.
Richards has 482 career points.