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.”
KINGS AT DEVILS
Faceoff: 4 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM
The Kings on Sunday recalled center Mike Richards from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., in an attempt to bolster their roster for the final 11 regular-season games. The Kings (34-23-14) practiced Sunday and Richards joined his teammates for the workout. He is expected to play against the Devils (31-30-11), two months after he cleared waivers and was assigned to the minors after recording five goals and 15 points in 47 games with the Kings. He had 14 points in 16 games for Manchester. The Kings desperately need depth at center, with Jarret Stoll sidelined by a concussion and Nick Shore failing to record a goal in 25 games and Andy Andreoff scoring only once in 17 contests. The Kings play their next five games on the road and finish with only three of their final 11 at Staples Center. The Devils are 10-4-2 in their last 16 games. They also are 10-4-1 in their last 15 home games. They lost 3-0 to the New York Islanders on Saturday, however.
The Kings on Sunday recalled center Mike Richards from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., in an attempt to bolster their roster for the final 11 regular-season games. The Kings (34-23-14) practiced the day before starting a five-game trip in Newark, N.J., and Richards joined his teammates for the workout.
He is expected to play Monday against the Devils (31-30-11), two months after he cleared waivers and was assigned to the minors after recording five goals and 15 points in 47 games with the Kings. He had 14 points in 16 games for Manchester. The Kings desperately need depth at center, with Jarret Stoll sidelined by a concussion and Nick Shore failing to record a goal in 25 games and Andy Andreoff scoring only once in 17 contests. Stoll had only six goals in 67 games before he was hurt March 12 He hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 14 against the Capitals.
“You’ve got to produce,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of his centers after Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the team’s third defeat in four games. “At the end of the day, the guys (Shore and Andreoff) have played 20-some games and we’re into the stretch part and they have one or no goals. We’re having trouble scoring. The guys have to produce. That’s just being honest.”
The Kings have scored only six goals in their last four games.
Here’s some of what Kings forward Jeff Carter had to say about teammate and friend Mike Richards clearing waivers and being assigned to Manchester of the AHL on Tuesday: “It’s tough, obviously. We’ve got a pretty close team here. Any time anybody leaves it’s always tough. We understand those things happen.
“He brought a lot to this room and a lot of stuff, unless you’re in this room, you don’t see. It was tough on him, too. It’s an opportunity for others to step up. It’s an opportunity for some of the young guys to become leaders. …
“I saw him last night. … I think he’s all right. Nobody wants to get sent down. It’s a (lousy) part of the game. I think he’s handled it well. He’s been around a long time. He knows how it works. I’m sure he’ll work hard and we’ll see him here again soon.”
The Kings assigned forward Mike Richards to their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., after he cleared waivers earlier Tuesday. None of the NHL’s other 29 teams claimed Richards, so the Kings held onto his rights. They can recall him in the playoffs, if they believe he can help them. Richards had only five goals and 10 assists in 47 games with the Kings. He last played in the minors in 2004-05, when he played in the AHL playoffs for the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers’ top affiliate. He joined the Kings in a June 23, 2011 trade from the Flyers.
Struggling forward Mike Richards cleared waivers Tuesday morning, as expected, and the Kings will assign him to their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H. They expect him to report later this week and to improve his game with the idea that he could return to the Kings for the playoffs in April. Richards had five goals and 10 assists 47 games before the Kings put him on waivers Monday. The 29 other teams in the NHL had 24 hours to claim him, but none did.
“The way the schedule is in Manchester, you’re able to probably work on some things you don’t have the time to up here,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. “So, if he goes down there and attacks this, there’s no reason he can’t come back, because our cap is the same in terms of the numbers right now. … There’s time for him to easily clean some of this up and be what he usually is in the playoffs. But if he says he doesn’t want to report, then that’s not an option.We’re not going that route.”
Coach Darryl Sutter had this to say about the Kings’ move to place struggling forward Mike Richards on waivers Monday morning:
“From a personal standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, Mike’s been a really good player for us, obviously. He’s had a really tough year. It’s natural for people on the outside to want to have all the answers. Mike’s still got lots of game left. He’s been frustrated with it, too. I think he’s got lots of game left. That’s how I feel. …
“This is hockey and some of you guys don’t get it, period. In terms of lots of players go on waivers and lots of players clear waivers and still have great years in front of them. It’s just people in media who want to continue to beat people up because they can’t do it themselves. … I think Mike’s still go lots of hockey left.”
Here’s part of a question-and-answer session between Kings beat writers and general manager Dean Lombardi on Monday afternoon …
Question: How did it get to this point?
Lombardi: “It’s a process you work through. It’s not like all of a sudden it dawns on you. You’re starting to think about and you work through the process. I think it’s fair to say we made a final decision that we were one way our another deal with it after the All-Star break.”
Question: How did he take it?
Lombardi: “You can ask him. The process isn’t done because he’s still got to clear. I’ll probably talk to him a little more tomorrow. I’m sure it’s not easy on anybody. These are the tough decisions you’ve got to make.”
Question: You could have bought him out last spring, did you hope that would get him going?
Lombardi: “It was a combination of that and I think it’s … we expect loyalty from our players and it’s a two-way street. I think under the circumstance and what he’d done for us, I thought he deserved a chance to get back to what he’s capable of. That’s a hard balance. Obviously, I’ve thought about that a lot. There’s a new wave thing out there that players are commodities and passion and loyalty, those values made sports so special, the commodities guys will tell you that don’t matter. Well, that’s been a big part of the success of this team, I believe. And that’s how I came down on it. If you’re going to expect loyalty from your players, you have to at times show loyalty to them. Then the issue becomes, where’s that line.
“So, when I step back now, I’m never going to lose my belief in those values being critical, but as we see in the cap area … the cap is designed to eliminate those types of emotions. Fortunately, I still believe they’re a critical part of a good team. In retrospect, if you the commodities angle, you say, well, it should have been easy. If you use the belief in the intangibles it’s not. It is what it is. In the end, I felt he deserved that chance for all he’d done for us. I mean, I don’t think there’s any question that we don’t win that first Cup without what he did for this team. Obviously, you don’t win the second one. But you’ve still got to be at a certain level here that has to get done.”
Question: What about the financial standpoint …
Lombardi: “That’s what we’ve got to work through. Mike in his career, he’s shown he can be a .300 hitter and get you 80 RBIs and be an All-Star player. So, maybe at this stage, it’s not there. I still think he’s capable of being a .280 hitter and do a lot of those things for you that only he can do. Let’s face it, right now, he’s batting .200. But I don’t see any reason why he can’t get back to that. He’s got to do what he’s got to do. There’s a lot of things that remind me of where Teemu Selanne was at this stage. Remember when he had fallen off the map in Colorado and it looked like he was done? Then he started changing some things and went on to have 10 great years, for crying out loud. It’s up to Mike. In my mind, I believe if he wants to, he can get back to that. I see no reason why not. But it’s going to be up to him.”