After winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, the Los Angeles Kings faced a difficult decision regarding Mike Richards. He played a big role in them winning the Cup back in 2012, but he had clearly taken a step back in 2013-14, which was dangerous because the Kings had committed to him through the 2019-20 campaign at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million.
Los Angeles had an out though in the form of a compliance buyout. Stemming from the lockout, that special type of buyout would have freed Los Angeles from his contract entirely from a cap perspective, but that option was also nearing its expiration date. In the end, Kings GM Dean Lombardi called Richards a “special ingredient” and held onto him. That didn’t work out as hoped.
Richards declined further this season and while the possibility of a trade can never fully be dismissed, no team wanted his contract when he was put on waivers earlier this season. In the end Los Angeles might resort to buying him out after all and Lombardi does admit that’s “a possibility,” per LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen.
Lombardi isn’t committing to that course of action though and even if he does, buying out Richards would come with a cap penalty now, in contrast to what would have happened if he had done it last summer.
Perhaps, in the end, Lombardi will stay the course when it comes to Richards in the hopes that he will once again become that special ingredient.
“Hockey ain’t my first love. My first love is team,” Lombardi said, rejecting the idea that players are “commodities.” He continued, “Because they care so much and their loyalty to each other, we can fix this and become stronger.”