L.A. Sorry? Kings waive Mike Richards

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Bit of a shocker out of Los Angeles this morning, as both Sportsnet and TSN have reported that the Kings waived veteran center Mike Richards.

Richards, 29, has struggled this season and recently saw both his role and minutes decrease, so the decision to put him on waivers won’t come as a huge surprise. What’s stunning, though, is L.A.’s been forced to go this route after opting not to buy out the remainder of Richards’ gargantuan 12-year, $69 million deal during last June’s amnesty window — which would’ve wiped out his $5.75M annual cap hit that goes through 2019.

“You’re loathe to ever give up on that kind of player, it’s very difficult to find that special ingredient,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi said last summer, explaining why he held onto Richards. “Even through his negatives this year, who rises to the occasion in the end? Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”

It’ll be very interesting to see if any team takes a flier on Richards. Though he’s struggled both this year and the last, he’s regarded for his work in the postseason and did have 12 goals and 32 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign. What’s more, his name has been bandied about in numerous trade rumors recently, and dialed-in Kings blogger Mayors’ Manor had this:

Both Toronto and Winnipeg have been tied to Richards in the past. It’s possible the Kings, who’ve had salary cap issues all season long, weren’t able to bring back salary in a trade (or retain some of Richards’), which could be why the waiver option was utilized.

The financials on this one are rough. If Richards goes unclaimed and is sent to L.A.’s AHL affiliate in Manchester, the Kings will get $925,000 in cap relief — meaning Richards would represent $4.825M of dead space.

And even if Richards does get claimed, the Kings could still face significant cap ramifications from his contract further down the road…

Stay tuned.