It would be an understatement to say that things haven’t been going well for Mike Richards in Los Angeles. First, in January of this year, we reported that the Kings put him on waivers.
Now, this stemmed from trying to figure out what to do about his contract the season prior. They considered buying him out and hoped that putting him back in the lineup would “motivate him.” That didn’t work. After he was put on waivers, he cleared them and was sent to the AHL Manchester Monarchs.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist noted that he could “only go up from here” in the American Hockey League, but apparently that hasn’t been the case.
On Monday, the Kings announced that they have “terminated” Richards’ contract. That’s right, terminated.
Richards and his massive 12-year deal has been a thorn in the side of the Kings for a while now. In March, they even called him back up to the bigs and tried to give him the chance to crack the lineup permanently. That obviously didn’t pan out either. So now…
“The Los Angeles Kings today have exercised the team’s right to terminate the contract of Mike Richards for a 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’s right, “material breach of the requirements of his Standard Player’s Contract.”
What does this mean? It means things could be about to get ugly.
When Richards cleared waivers again on Monday, the thought was that the Kings would just absorb a portion of his cap hit and buy him out once and for all. But then again, that was the thought last summer. And last summer, the Kings didn’t use a compliance buyout on Richards when they could have. They could have put all this ugliness behind us, but no.
But make no mistake about it, the Kings know what they’re doing. General manager Dean Lombardi is, like, a lawyer and stuff. Los Angeles is effectively free of the $5.75 million cap hit, though they’ll pay the recapture penalty of about $1.32 million a year.
The nuts and bolts of the case are clear, but the NHLPA and Richards’ agents are expected to go the legal route on this. The Kings have expressed “concerns” over his conditioning in the past and that’s likely where this whole “material breach” thing comes into play. They can and likely will state that Richards wasn’t living up to his end of the agreement. In other words, he wasn’t obeying the “club’s rules governing training and conduct of players.”
“We are in the process of reviewing the facts and circumstances of this matter, and will discuss the situation with the player in order to determine the appropriate course of action,” NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said.
If this thing does go through the legal paces, this could be quite an ordeal and the ugliness between the Kings and Richards could come to light. What also could and should come to light is the ridiculousness of such massive contracts, but that would require ownership groups to take responsibility for shelling out “guaranteed” money and that would be a long shot.