Mike Richards (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
Mike Richards’ contract termination settlement with the Los Angeles Kings will see him paid $3.12 million this season and he will remain on the Kings’ books until 2031-32. Richards, 30, had his contract terminated in June following an incident at the U.S.-Canada border.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Kings will be paying Richards out until the end of the 2031-32 season. During that final season, Richards’ settlement will be at its lowest point with a payout of $400,000.
As Richards’ contract was terminated so early in a long-term deal, the Kings will still be responsible for a cap recapture penalty of $1.57 million over the next five seasons, with an additional $1.55 million to be paid out in 2015-16.
The Kings’ salary cap will be hit with the $3.12-million figure this season, meaning the club now has less than $2.1 million in available cap space. Once the initial recapture penalty is gone, however, things will get easier for Los Angeles. From 2020-21 until the end of the payout in 2031-32, the Kings will pay Richards $7.7 million — an average of roughly $641,700 per year. That would be the equivalent of a bottom-roster player or AHL calibre talent. By 2031-32 it could very well be below the established league-minimum salary.
When the settlement was first announced, Friedman reported that other teams were “screaming bloody murder” about the Kings being able to terminate Richards’ contract and not have to pay a long-term buyout. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Friedman that had the issue gone to arbitration — and the NHLPA had filed a grievance on Richards’ behalf — Los Angeles could have very well won the case.
Had that happened, the Kings would have had no additional cap penalty at all. In a sense, this settlement is the middle ground. Richards remains on the Kings’ books, but at a cut-rate from what a normal buyout would have cost the club. And as Friedman aptly points out, Richards could have been the one with the most to lose. Had he lost his case, he could have walked away with nothing.
There shouldn’t be concern about this being a tactic used by GMs to get out from under contracts, however. Friedman reported the NHLPA was assured Richards’ termination and subsequent settlement “could not be used as precedent in any future cases.” And Richards’ case was unique in that the 30-year-old center was arrested and subsequently charged with a crime which led to the “material breach” and the termination of his deal.
With all the details now out in the open, the Kings and Richards may be able to finally put this issue behind them.