Mike Richards (Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
Following Friday’s settlement regarding the contract termination of Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi said he believes what happened to the 30-year-old center is “a tragedy.” Lombardi said he did everything he could to help Richards and called the situation the most traumatic episode of his career.
Friday afternoon, the Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards officially reached a settlement regarding the termination of Richards’ contract. Late Friday evening, Kings GM Dean Lombardi released a statement to the Los Angeles Times saying he tried everything to help the now-former Kings center and that what happened to Richards was “a tragedy."
In the statement, Lombardi compares the situation with Richards to finding out ones spouse was committing infidelity. The Kings GM said he’s unsure if he will ever be able to recuperate from what happened between the club and Richards.
"Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career," Lombardi wrote to The Times. "At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now — and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment…Anyone close enough to me knows how much I loved Mike Richards. I believed that when I had acquired him, I had found my own Derek Jeter.”
Since being dealt to Los Angeles, Richards, 30, watched his production dip substantially. After scoring 23 goals and 66 points with the Flyers in 2010-11, Philadelphia dealt Richards, their then-captain, to the Kings in a shocking off-season move. What followed was an 18-goal, 44-point season from Richards, which would stand as his best mark in a Los Angeles uniform. In 2014-15, Richards had his career-worst campaign, scoring five goals and 16 points in 53 games and was demoted to the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs in January — the first AHL demotion of his career.
Richards’ situation in Los Angeles came to a head in June when he was stopped at the U.S.-Canada border-crossing in Emerson, Man. Following an investigation by Manitoba RCMP, he was charged in August with possession of a controlled substance, which was allegedly the pain medication Oxycodone.
When the Kings learned of the incident at the border, Lombardi reportedly nixed trade talks they had engaged in surrounding Richards, placed the veteran center on unconditional waivers and terminated his deal, citing a “material breach.” Richards had five years and $22 million remaining on his contract. Now, under the settlement, Richards will remain on the Kings’ cap until 2031 with Los Angeles also being forced to pay a $1.32 million cap recapture penalty for the next five seasons.
"I tried everything with Mike — meeting with him constantly, sending him to concussion specialists, traveling in the off-season to visit with him at his summer home (in Kenora, Ont.) — and everything failed," Lombardi wrote. "I heard the rumors that Mike might have some off-ice issues, but I refused to believe that they were true despite some obvious signs.
"The reality is that I was 'played.' My only regret, though, is that I wish Mike had been able to come to me with his problem — and that was the last message I left for him on his cellphone when I learned of the incident and all the history leading up to the incident."
Lombardi added that Richards should be held “accountable for his actions,” and that he became, “caught in such a destructive spiral.” Richards is now an unrestricted free agent and is free to sign with any team who may be interested in his services.
"I believe that what happened to Mike Richards is a tragedy and I cannot let it go,” Lombardi wrote. “My short-term goal is to win championships; my long-term goal is to eventually become more involved with groups studying the changing values that are becoming increasingly evident in sport and their root causes.”