USATSI_8182337_154158418_lowresThe Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards have reached a settlement that may well finally put a conclusion on the seemingly endless saga between team and player.

“The settlement amicably resolves the grievance filed by the NHLPA on August 10, 2015 in response to the Los Angeles Kings’ termination of Richards’ contract,” said the NHLPA in a statement. According to the release, Richards is now an unrestricted free agent.

The Kings confirmed that the settlement was “agreeable to all parties.”

Richards had five years remaining on the deal with the Kings and would have been paid $22 million, but it’s definitely for the best to have this situation decided for good.

Not much is known about the actual terms of the settlement, but Los Angeles will be in the hook for an annual recapture penalty of $1.32 million and a small cap hit for the time remaining on the contract. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly says that the latter is an “additional cap charge for (a) cash amount of settlement.”

The NHLPA had initially hoped to take the process to arbitration, which could have turned out one of two ways. If the arbitrator ruled in favour of the Kings, Richards would have been out $22 million. If the arbitrator ruled in favour of Richards, the Kings would’ve been on the hook for the remaining coinage.

Richards was initially signed to a 12-year deal worth $69 million and the Kings had some serious buyers’ remorse after his production took a dip. He never scored more than 44 points in a season with Los Angeles, although he did play a depth role on two Stanley Cup-winning teams.

The Kings had been looking for a way out of the massive contract and opportunity knocked when Richards was charged with possession of a controlled substance after being stopped at the Canada-US border four months ago. The Kings terminated his contract in June for what they called a “material breach of the requirements” and the NHLPA filed its grievance after that.

In all honesty, this was a mess for both parties. The Kings looked like hypocrites for trying to rid themselves of Richards while enabling Slava Voynov, while Richards had his reputation tarnished both for diminishing returns and for the controlled substance charges.

Now that he’s a free agent, he can test the open market. There may not be many opportunities for him given his history and the current charges, but at least Richards has a chance to work things out for himself.

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