Mike Richards (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings are going to need to free up salary cap space and one way would be dealing Mike Richards. Richards, 30, has struggled in the past couple of seasons, but sweeting the pot could help the Kings move the veteran center for some much needed cap relief.
The 2014-15 campaign wasn’t the best of Mike Richards’ career, but the Los Angeles Kings are hoping there are still some potential buyers who would be willing to swing a deal for the four-time 20-goal scorer.
According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, any trade the Kings try to complete involving Richards, who has five years at a $5.75 million cap hit remaining on his deal, will also need to include a player, prospect or pick that will entice Los Angeles' trade partner. Because of the risk with Richards – if his game doesn’t recover, he’s an extremely expensive fourth-line center – any team acquiring him and his contract will want some insurance that the deal won’t completely blow up in their face.
Richards, 30, played only 53 games in the NHL last season, being demoted to the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs for a 16-game stint around the all-star break of this past season. It was the lowest scoring season of Richards’ career as the former 80-point scorer notched a mere five goals and 16 points with the Kings. In the AHL, he managed three goals and 14 points.
An interesting note, however, is that according to LeBrun a few teams have interest in Richards because of his leadership ability. As a former captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, Kitchener Rangers and Canada’s World Junior Championship squad, Richards has won in just about every destination and is one of few players to capture a Stanley Cup, Memorial Cup and World Junior gold medal. He also has a Calder Cup, coming in 2004-05 as a member of the Philadelphia Phantoms. The only trophy Richards hasn’t captured is a World Championship.
Since arriving in Los Angeles from the Flyers in 2011-12, Richards’ point totals have been in steady decline. He went from scoring 18 goals in his first season as a King, to 12 in the lockout-shortened campaign, 11 in 2013-14 and five this past season. His role with the Kings has also diminished in a big way.
Early in his career, Richards averaged at least 20 minutes of ice time for three consecutive seasons in Philadelphia, but logged less than 17 minutes for three straight campaigns with the Kings before this season’s career low of 13:21 per game.
There were some during the regular season who felt Richards to Toronto in a potential trade for Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf would make sense, but nothing materialized. In Winnipeg, speculation was the Kenora, Ont., native might consider joining the Jets.
With the Kings in salary cap trouble and having only $9 million in cap space to re-sign restricted free agents Tyler Toffoli, Nick Shore, Martin Jones and unrestricted free agent Andrej Sekera, moving Richards without having to take back any of his salary would afford Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi some much needed flexibility.
The Kings also need to make sure they have room to sign Anze Kopitar to a new deal next season. Kopitar, one of the Kings’ brightest stars, is due for a new contract before the 2016-17 campaign.