“I think it’s fair to say we made a final decision on this,” said the GM. “…that we’re going to do it one way or another…after the All-Star break.”
The Kings have been looking for a way out of their Richards problem since last season, when they thought about buying out his contract, but bringing him back into the line-up was seen as a potential motivator. It was not to be.
Richards has five years to go on a 12-year contract extension from his days on the Flyers. He inked that deal back in December of 2007 and is worth an annual dinger of $5.75 million. Right now for the Kings, he has just 15 points in 47 games.
This is one of those disappointing hockey stories. Richards, so integral for the Kings in the 2012 Cup run, has only scored once since November 22 and has essentially been a dud. Now they’re making every effort possible to dump the salary in anticipation of some tricky upcoming issues and it’s most likely that Richards will simply go unclaimed and drift off to the Manchester Monarchs.
What’s even worse here is that Richards is only 29. There’s plenty of time to find a groove and get back in it, but at his rate of pay it’s not likely any team will want to take a gamble in the next while. Not only does the money matter, but the length of the contract is too much to hedge bets on. Richards is too inconsistent right now. Period.
Last June was when Lombardi had his chance to bail and buy out Richards’ last six years. At that time, he thought he saw a little of that old magic and gave him a shot. Boy, is he kicking himself now.
One final note: if Richards decides to pull the pin and retire at the ripe old age of 29, the Kings will be hit with what’s known as a “recapture penalty” on their salary cap. That will be significant and they won’t like it, so they’ve got to be hoping that he’s picked up by some desperate and/or blind NHL general manager or sent down to the Monarchs.