Mike Richards won't be bought out by Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings will not buy out veteran forward Mike Richards according to general manager Dean Lombardi.
This probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, but Mike Richards will not be bought out by the Los Angeles Kings. General manager Dean Lombardi confirmed that decision to Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times. Richards was ripe for buyout speculation due to the six years remaining on his 12-year, $69 million deal.
Richards’ contract comes with a $5.75 million annual cap hit until 2019-20, which is pretty high for a guy who essentially became a depth center for the Stanley Cup champs this year. The 29-year-old is certainly not the point-producer he was when he signed the deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, but that probably doesn’t matter much to the Kings.
"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.
"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."
With the team winning another Stanley Cup and Richards playing an integral depth role, it seemed less and less likely Lombardi would use the buyout. Additionally, the Kings have 18 players under contract for next season with plenty of cap space to re-sign restricted free agent Dwight King and possibly even keep pending unrestricted free agent Marian Gaborik if they choose to.
Where the Kings may run into trouble is the season after next when they’ll have to draw up new deals for gifted youngsters Jake Muzzin, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli , while also watching Stanley Cup hero Alec Martinez, Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams and depth center Jarret Stoll all become unrestricted free agents.
There will be some maneuvering to do, but Richards remains an effective player, if only in a diminished role. He is a versatile forward who can put up points here and there and take on some of the tougher defensive assignments as well. Having the depth the Kings do and having Richards possibly in the lower portion of the lineup is a big part of what makes them so good.
Richards had 41 points last season while averaging nearly 17 minutes a night. He can be utilized in a variety of situations and is part of the Kings power play and penalty kill. This deal may look worse and worse as the years go by, but if the Kings are looking for another Stanley Cup next season, and you’d have to believe with such little turnover they are, Richards could help them in that regard.
Lombardi may have to get creative over the next few years to keep the core of this team intact, but it is likely worth avoiding getting rid of a player that helped bring two Stanley Cups to Los Angeles if you can. The Kings absolutely can.
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