PHT Morning Skate: It’s not all bad for Mike Richards


PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Gauging how recent estimations may impact the always-relevant salary cap concerns for the Chicago Blackhawks. (

The value of versatility in players like Dustin Byfuglien. (Boston Globe)

Is a slap shot the best way to deal with a loose tooth? *Grabs mouth* (Puck Daddy)

Editor’s Note: Pro Hockey Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $20,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Tuesday’s NHL games. It’s just $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Starts Tuesday at 7pm ET. Here’s the FanDuel link.

The late, great Jean Believeau scored his first NHL goal on this day back in 1951. A great find from the Montreal Gazette’s Dave Stubbs:

Hey, the 2015 All-Star break wasn’t all bad for Mike Richards, as he seemingly got engaged:

Lombardi on waiving Richards: ‘These are the tough decisions you’ve got to make’


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.

L.A. Sorry? Kings waive Mike Richards


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.

Voracek’s points lead is surprising even to him


How many people’s preseason predictions included Jakub Voracek winning the Art Ross Trophy this season? The list probably isn’t that long and wouldn’t have included Voracek himself.

Still, that’s the situation we’re in as he entered the All-Star break with 17 goals and 56 points in 48 contests, which gives him a four-point edge over Tyler Seguin.

“I would be lying if I said I knew I was going to be leading the points by January,” Voracek conceded to “I’ve really worked hard for it. But it doesn’t mean that I was on top for 45 games and now I just let up. I’ve just got to keep working hard and try to get better.”

Part of Voracek’s success comes from his pairing with Claude Giroux, but he’s become a talented forward in his own right.

“He’s putting the work in now and he’s simplified his game,” Flyers coach Craig Berube said. “He’s shooting pucks, getting to the net, things like that. A guy with that skill, and he does the right things all the time, he’s going to produce.”

The 25-year-old forward’s rise isn’t exactly a sudden development as he had 45 goals and 108 points in 130 contests over the previous two seasons. Still, his current career-high is only 62 points, which is a mark he’s set to obliterate.

His success has been a silver lining in what has been a rough campaign for the Flyers and has made the Jeff Carter to Columbus trade look like a steal. In addition to getting Voracek, Philadelphia also got two draft picks, which became Sean Couturier and Nick Cousins. The Blue Jackets certainly didn’t get the better end of that deal, but of course the loss of Carter itself is a more complicated matter given that he went on to win two championships with Los Angeles after being reunited with fellow ex-Flyer, Mike Richards.

Carter and Richards have to be pleased with how things worked out, but the two of them have combined to score 17 goals and 48 points this season. That doesn’t match Voracek’s production.

Leafs and Jets reportedly had conversations with the Kings regarding Mike Richards


In an attempt to gauge interest in Mike Richards the L.A. Kings reportedly had conversations with both the Winnipeg Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs.

According to hockey insider Pierre LeBrun, talks stalled as a result of the money remaining on Richards’ deal.

The 29-year-old still has five years remaining on his 12-year, $69 million contract, which carries a cap hit of $5.75 million.

Richards has five goals and 15 points to go along with a minus-8 rating in 44 games this season. He’s also seen his ice time drop from nearly 17 minutes a night to under 14.