With the Los Angeles Kings placing center Mike Richards, will a rival club claim him? Is this a precursor to a possible trade? Read on for the latest.
NBC SPORTS: Mike Halford reported yesterday on the reaction to the LA Kings placing center Mike Richards on waivers. The club had an opportunity last summer to employ a compliance buyout (the last opportunity to do so) on Richards but GM Dean Lombardi gambled on the 29-year-old regaining his previously stellar two-way form. Respected Kings blogger John Hoven of Mayors’ Manor claimed the club was working on multiple deals for Richards but the last one fell through over the weekend, prompting them to put the center on waivers (You can read more details of Hoven’s take here). Halford notes the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets were recently linked to Richards in the trade rumor mill, and notes TSN’s Bob McKenzie points out the Kings will get dinged with salary cap recapture penalties if Richards retires before his contract expires.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I recommend checking out Hoven’s blog on the Richards’ situation as he sums up the entire situation very well. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun yesterday tweeted the Leafs wouldn’t make a claim for Richards. No word about the Jets but I doubt they claim him. Too bad CapGeek is now defunct as they had a nice breakdown of how the salary cap recapture penalties would work for Richards. Fortunately, I did a brief breakdown of that scenario back in November.
TSN.CA: Scott Cullen notes there’s no easy fix cap-wise or statistically for the Kings with Richards, whose performance has eroded in recent years. Cullen suggests the Kings try swapping Richards for another player with a toxic contract and suggests several scenarios involving the Flames (for Mason Raymond and Matt Stajan), Carolina (for Alexander Semin), Philadelphia (for Vincent Lecavalier or Andrew MacDonald), Toronto (for David Clarkson) or Winnipeg (for Ondrej Pavelec and Grant Clitsome). He also suggests offering Richards to Edmonton for a late-round pick whilst retaining part of the center’s salary.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Of Cullen’s suggestions the only one which makes sense for the Kings is the Oilers scenario, though I doubt they will have much interest in Richards even if the Kings picked up part of his salary. The reason why the Kings want to move out Richards is they must shed salary for the remainder of this season if they hope to bolster their lineup before the trade deadline. They’ve also got limited cap space this summer and must re-sign Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Justin Williams this summer, plus Anze Kopitar is eligible in 2016 for UFA status and could command over $10 million per season. It makes no sense for them to swap toxic contracts with another team.
SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston lists the Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers as five clubs who should consider making a claim for Richards. He also cites colleague John Shannon claiming via Twitter the Calgary Flames don’t intend to put in a claim for the Kings center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: No NHL GM worth his salt should put in a claim for Mike Richards. I’m sorry, but Richards isn’t the player he used to be. His supporters try to say Richards isn’t getting a fair shot with the Kings, but that’s making the assumption that head coach Darryl Sutter has suddenly become incredibly stupid or has a grudge against Richards. The simple fact is Richards, who’ll turn 30 on Feb. 11, is clearly past his prime and has been for a couple of years now. Kings GM Dean Lombardi gambled on him last summer, hoping he’d regain his form this season if he improved his offseason conditioning. While every account I’ve read claims Richards did what was requested of him, it did nothing to improve his game. Richards played a strong two-way game for years, but that style takes its toll. His big contract also doesn’t help. I’ll be shocked if any team claims Richards off waivers and takes on that big, lengthy contract.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: Bruce McCurdy doesn’t believe the Oilers should make a claim for Richards. He also cites Sportsnet’s John Shannon who reports via Twitter the Oilers aren’t interested in Richards.
THE SPORTING NEWS: Ben Valentine believes it would be a mistake for any team to claim Richards, citing his declining production and expensive contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It’s possible this move could also be a precursor to a trade. We’ve seen in the recent past where a player who clears waivers ends up traded days or weeks later. Still, the only way I see the Kings trading Richards is if they agree to pick up a healthy chunk of his contract. Even then, finding takers will be difficult. They could try to swap toxic contracts with another team, but as I noted earlier, that doesn’t help the cap-strapped Kings in the short term when they have several key players who must be re-signed.