The Los Angeles Kings couldn’t afford to take the decision of whether or not to keep Mike Richards lightly. This summer represented their last chance to use a compliance buyout on him and entirely shed his $5.75 million annual cap hit through 2019-20.
Richards is coming off a rough season and spent some time on the fourth line during the playoffs, so if the status quo persists, then his contract will become an obstacle. All the same, Kings GM Dean Lombardi decided to keep Richards, in part because Richards’ self-analysis following the season was accurate, but also because it wasn’t that long ago Lombardi saw firsthand what Richards can bring to the table.
“We don’t win the first Cup without him,” Lombardi told ESPN.
When Richards joined them, the Kings hadn’t won a playoff series since 2001, but he played a pivotal role in the Kings beating the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2011 postseason. As Lombardi put it, Richards taught the Kings how to win in the playoffs and since then, they have been one of the best postseason squads in the league.
“You’re loathe to ever give up on that kind of player, it’s very difficult to find that special ingredient,” Lombardi said. “Even through his negatives this year, who rises to the occasion in the end? Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”
The Kings would rather have a guy who steps up in the playoffs rather than a regular season star. That speaks to the way the team operates as they’ve won the Stanley Cup twice in three years without so much as earning a division title in the process.
Richards wasn’t particularly good in either situation in 2013-14 and now Lombardi has to hope his continued trust in him isn’t misplaced.
As if the Colorado Avalanche needed another miserable element to 2016-17: Nikita Zadorov suffered a season-ending injury during the same practice that Erik Johnson returned.
Zadorov injured his ankle after being tangled up with Mikko Rantanen during a Monday practice, according to the Denver Post.
Update: The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers reports that it’s a fractured ankle. Yikes.
Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.
He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.
At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.
LA Kings Insider provided a mostly positive update about Jonathan Quick‘s gradual recovery from what’s been a season-long injury. Still, it’s difficult to get a truly concrete idea about the team’s plans.
Quick told Jon Rosen that “everything’s coming along really well,” but they didn’t give a hard date on when he may suit up again for Los Angeles.
(NHL.com and Rosen’s report remind us that the general aim is for “the first half of March.”)
The Kings were mulling over the possibility of recalling former Stars first-round pick Jack Campbell to attempt to ease the surprisingly large burden on journeyman goalie Peter Budaj, but Rosen reports that such discussions have been “tabled.”
Jeff Zatkoff has been a mixture of inactive and ineffective for the Kings, so what about getting help elsewhere for Budaj? That part’s a little fuzzy, though it’s clear that Budaj – Zatkoff is the duo for the moment.
Darryl Sutter backs that up, via Rosen:
But, according to a source, Campbell’s recall has been tabled, as it appears as though Budaj and Zatkoff will be the duo until Quick is able to return, and that no cut-off will be necessary as Quick is “on that path” towards being game-ready, according to Sutter.
None of this explicitly shuts down at least the thought of trading for goaltending help, though it doesn’t give you the impression that such a move is pressing for the Kings. They’re not laying out a deadline, whether it be a self-imposed one or the trade deadline itself.
Some of this seems a little unclear, though it currently follows the pattern of this season: it falls on Budaj, at least until Quick is back. Whenever that may be.
Jets blueliner Jacob Trouba has been suspended two games for his headshot on Ottawa forward Mark Stone, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced on Monday.
“Trouba steps up and delivers a high, forceful blow that makes the head the main point of contact, on a hit where such head contact was avoidable,” the DoPS explained. “The onus here is on Trouba to deliver a full body hit through his opponent’s core. Instead, Trouba takes a poor angle of approach, picking Stone’s head.”
The incident occurred in Winnipeg’s 3-2 win over Ottawa on Sunday. Trouba was given a two-minute minor on the play, much to the displeasure of Ottawa head coach Guy Boucher.
Stone didn’t return to the game following the hit but, according to the DoPS, “suffered no apparent injury.”
Trouba will now miss tomorrow’s game in Toronto, then Winnipeg’s next game following the bye week — on Feb. 28, against Minnesota. He’s eligible to return on Mar. 3, when the Jets host the Blues.
Trouba will also forfeit $33,333.34 in salary to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
Ottawa made a minor move on Monday, agreeing to terms with d-man Fredrik Claesson on a one-year extension worth $650,000.
The deal is of the one-way variety.
Claesson, 24, has appeared in 19 games for the Sens this year, scoring five points. He’s averaging just 10:27 per game but has been a more regular lineup fixture regularly, having played in five of Ottawa’s last six games.
The Swedish rearguard has also appeared in nine games for AHL Binghamton. Since coming over from SHL outfit Djurgardens in 2013, Claesson has been up and down between Bingo and Ottawa frequently, though this latest deal would suggest he’s in line for a more permanent NHL gig.