L.A. Kings’ general manager Dean Lombardi pointed to loyalty as one of the reasons it took until Monday to place Mike Richards on waivers.
“If you’re going to expect loyalty from your players, then you, at times, have to show loyalty to them,” Lombardi told reporters. “Under the circumstances, with what he had done for us, I thought he deserved a chance to get back to where he knows he’s capable of.”
Richards still has five years remaining on his 12-year, $69 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $5.75 million.
“You think about it and you work through the process,” said Lombardi. “I think it’s fair to say that we made a final decision on this, that we were one way or another going to (make a move) after the All-Star break.”
“I’m sure it’s not easy on anybody, but these are the tough decisions you’ve got to make.”
The 29-year-old’s production has dropped off significantly in recent years.
However, Lombardi pointed to Richards being a crucial element of the 2012 Stanley Cup victory as a reason for hanging on to the Ontario native.
Richards scored 18 goals and 44 points to go along with a plus-3 rating and an average of 18:53 in ice time in 74 games during the 2011-12 regular season. He added 15 points in 20 games as the Kings captured their first Stanley cup in franchise history.
“I don’t think there’s any question, we don’t win that first Cup without what he did for this team,” said Lombardi.
Last season, Richards scored 11 goals and 41 points in 82 games while registering a minus-6 rating and averaging 16:59 in ice time.
In 47 games this season, he has five goals, 15 points and a minus-7 rating while averaging a career-low 13:42 in ice time.
“Mike, in his career, has shown he can be a .330 hitter and get you 80 RBIs and be an All-Star player,” said Lombardi. “So maybe at this stage, maybe it’s not there, but I certainly think he’s capable of being a .280 hitter and do a lot of those things that only he can do. Let’s face it, right now he’s batting .200.
“It’s up to Mike. I believe that if he wants to, that he can get back to that. I see no reason why not, but it’s going to be up to him.’’
The Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs have expressed interest in Richards previously; however, he is expected to clear waivers on Tuesday. According to the Orange County Register, Lombardi believes Richards will report to the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
Richards has never appeared in a regular season AHL game in his career.
He played 14 playoff games with the Philadelphia Phantoms during the 2004-05 season following his final year of junior with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers.