ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Mike Richard’s contract was terminated Monday by the Kings because of an off-ice incident earlier in June, possibly at the Canadian border. The website said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were investigating, but no charges were filed. The RCMP had no further comment.
Michael Futa, the Kings’ vice president of hockey operations and their director of player personnel, offered some background on Mike Richards during an interview before the team terminated the forward’s contract Monday. Here’s some of what Futa said of Richards on a Toronto radio station earlier in the day:
“That’s a tough one. Obviously, what makes (Kings general manager) Dean Lombardi special is relationships with the players and his loyalty. Obviously, coming off the Cup year (in 2014) and having a very small window there, as Dean said it was probably the most difficult incorrect decision he’s made and it’s cost us.”
Futa referred to deciding against buying out Richards last summer.
Futa then continued, “(Lombardi) flew into Kenora (Richards’ offseason home in Ontario) and looked Mike in the eye and felt he was comfortable that we were going to have him buy in a little bit better and things just didn’t work out (last season). Everything you said about Mike Richards in his career, sure, he’s been well-decorated for his incredible past. You know what? He’s the one who’s got to look into the mirror with regard to his decision.
“We clearly … (he was a) huge part of our Stanley Cup championships and we wish him well.”
The Kings terminated the contract of forward Mike Richards on Monday morning, saying in a rather terse statement posted on the club’s website: “The Los Angeles Kings today have exercised the team’s right to terminate the contract of Mike Richards for material breach of the requirements of his Standard Player’s Contract. We are not prepared to provide any more detail or to discuss the underlying grounds for the contract termination at this time.”
That could cover a good deal of ground, but it means the Kings did not buy out Richards of his contract as previously speculated would happen. This isn’t likely to be sorted out until the lawyers have their say and that could take a while.
It’s a stunning move, to say the least.
Here’s what the AP reported Sunday about Richards:
“The Kings placed Richards on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out the remaining five years of his contract, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Sunday. The source added that Ducks defenseman Mark Fistric and Montreal forward P.A. Parenteau have also been placed on unconditional waivers.
“The players will spend 24 hours on waivers. If unclaimed, they will have their contracts bought out and become unrestricted free agents.
“Richards is the most high-profile and priciest of the players hitting the market.
“He is in the midst of a $69 million, 12-year contract which runs out in 2020. By buying out Richards, the Kings partially alleviate the $5.75 million annual salary-cap hit, though part of his salary will still count against the team’s payroll through 2024-25.
“The move does not come as a surprise, even for someone who played a key role in helping the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.
“Richards’ declining production led to the Kings demoting the 10-year NHL veteran to Manchester, their American Hockey League affiliate, in January.
“The four-time 20-goal scorer finished last season with a career-low five goals and 16 points in 53 NHL games.”
Here’s more from Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, who talked at some length Friday afternoon about giving forward Tyler Toffoli a two-season, $6.5-million contract extension and how it enabled him to also trade for physical forward Milan Lucic, and what’s next on his summer to-do list:
“I have to say our first priority, in terms of signing now, is (signing Anze) Kopitar (to an extension). The other thing I’d say, that shows this team cares about winning, is what Tyler Toffoli did. It shows how everything ties together. With the threat of offer sheets and everything out there, the way he handled the situation was exemplary.
“This is a top young player. He could wait for an offer sheet (from another team). He could demand millions in a long-term deal. We talked to him, and it’s certainly a fair deal but it’s still a good deal for him, but in no way did he hold anybody hostage. If Tyler Toffoli doesn’t step up and do this, we can’t do this (Lucic) deal.
“Then we would have exposed ourselves to an offer sheet. It’s just exemplary for a young player, to realize his time will come and take a good deal, but not try to shoot for the moon. So the team is allowed to go out and make itself better. Once this (trade) got rolling, it was not doable without Tyler signing. If we had done this without Tyler signing, we were exposed to an offer sheet. It’s a great example of guys caring about the right things. They’ll get their money when the time comes.”
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi agreed with the conventional wisdom in fandom, but he also explained the team’s trade Friday afternoon with the Boston Bruins for physical forward Milan Lucic this way, “This deal, we gave up quite a bit, but I was very clear I would not give up that unless it was not only the player, but a fit. Is it the loss of the other player (Justin Williams)? Yeah, but that’s not what drives it. This isn’t done unless it’s that type of player (Lucic).”
Lombardi all but acknowledged the departure of Williams as an unrestricted free agent next week.
Milan Lucic had this to say Friday about leaving the Boston Bruins and joining the Kings, “I think that’s the most exciting thing, I’m moving to a team that already knows how to win. The possibility of playing with (Anze) Kopitar and (Marian) Gaborik is an exciting feeling. I get to be a part of a great organization.”
Boston general manager Don Sweeney told reporters at the NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla., that it was a tough call to Lucic to inform him of the deal. When told of Sweeney’s comments, Lucic said, “My emotions were there, too.”
The Kings traded their first-round pick in Friday’s draft, plus backup goaltender Martin Jones and a prospect to the Boston Bruins in exchange for physical forward Milan Lucic. The move continues the Kings’ commitment to big, rugged forwards but goes against the grain as the rest of a league moves toward faster and smaller lineups. Lucic is 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. He scored 18 goals and 44 points to go with 81 penalty minutes in 81 games last season with the Bruins.
Check back later for updates.
UPDATE: Kings confirm via Twitter
It’s not official yet, but reports Friday morning from NHL Draft HQ in Sunrise, Fla., indicate the Kings and Tyler Toffoli have agreed on a two-year, $6.5-million contract extension. Toffoli’s return was among the top items on general manager Dean Lombardi’s offseason to-do list. The 23-year-old Toffoli has scored 37 goals and 83 points in 148 career games over two-plus seasons in the NHL.
Check back later for more updates.
The NHL released its schedule for the 2015-16 season Thursday, and the Kings begin with a five-game homestand that starts with an Oct. 7 date with the San Jose Sharks. The Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche also visit Staples Center before the Kings play their first road game Oct. 22 against the Sharks at the SAP Center.
The schedule is top-heavy with home dates for the Kings, as per usual at Staples Center. The Kings have a seven-game trip to play Boston, the Isles, Rangers, Devils, Washington, St. Louis and Nashville in February.
Here’s a link to the complete 82-game schedule that you can download off the team’s website: http://kings.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=100458&navid=DL|LAK|home
The Kings suspended Slava Voynov several weeks ago because the defenseman suffered a non-hockey injury, a team spokesman confirmed Wednesday. Voynov was suspended by the NHL indefinitely in the wake of a domestic violence incident at his Redondo Beach home last October.
The 25-year-old Russian tore his right Achilles tendon, reportedly while playing tennis, and appeared at a pre-trial court appearance April 1 on crutches. His trial on charges of felony domestic violence against his wife, Marta Varlamova, is set for July 6 in Superior Court in Torrance.
The Kings’ move means his contract won’t count against the team’s salary cap. His contract would carry a $4.166 million salary-cap hit for the next four seasons. The league suspended him with pay after his arrest in the early-morning hours of Oct. 20.
A police officer testified Dec. 16 at Voynov’s preliminary hearing that Varlamova said her husband punched her in the face during an argument at a Halloween party. She also said he choked after the couple returned to their home, threw her to the floor and kicked her repeatedly.
Voynov also pushed her into a wall-mounted TV, which resulted in a gash above her left eye, which required several stitches to close. Voynov was arrested after he took Varlamova to an emergency room to be treated for her injuries, which included a 1 1/2-inch cut above her eye.
Voynov entered a not-guilty plea Dec. 29.