Mike Richards wants to reward Dean Lombardi for showing faith in him.
In a conversation with ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the 29-year-old Kings forward spoke about his general manager’s decision to keep him, as opposed to buying him out of the last six seasons of his $69 million contract.
“I really didn’t want to become a free agent and leave,” said Richards. “I want to be part of the Kings for a long time. So I was a little nervous from that point, even though I didn’t think Dean would do it, there’s always that chance that it could happen if he thought I couldn’t be the player I was before. If he thought I was on the downward track, maybe he would have done what was best for the team and bought me out.
“But it’s good to see he has confidence I can be back to being that player. It’s not easy working out every day and pushing towards it, but I’ve done it before and I felt I could do it. I gave him my word I would work towards being the player I was before.”
Certainly, Richards is under pressure to get back to being more than a fourth-line center. Lombardi defended his decision to keep the player by saying, “Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”
But Lombardi also said this: “The biggest thing in the meeting with Michael – the important thing – is that he realized he’s going to have to make some adjustments in his offseason training.”
And that’s something with which Richards couldn’t disagree: “I think before, not that I didn’t work hard, but I think I just took it for granted, where stuff was going on and you could skip a workout a day or two and not think it would be problem … and then at the end of the summer, you’re probably not in the best shape you need to be in going into a season.”