30 Thoughts: Kings risk recapture on Richards

Mike Richards. (Matt York/AP)

As we wait to see if Mike Richards is claimed on waivers, NHL teams are measuring the risk of taking him. There are the two obvious discussions, the first about his contract (five more years at a cap hit of $5.75 million, although a decreasing salary drops his actual cash payout to $22M).

The second conversation would be about his fit. How much do clubs think he can help them? But, there is another, lesser-known concern: cap recapture.

Cap recapture penalties were added to the 2013 CBA, punishment for the league-despised back-diving contracts handed out to Ilya Kovalchuk, Roberto Luongo and Richards, among others. Basically, teams benefitting from these “friendly” deals would face financial penalties if the players retired before the term of their agreement expired.

For example, if Luongo walks into the Fort Lauderdale sunset in the summer of 2019, the Canucks will lose slightly more than $3M in cap space for three seasons, while the Panthers (who didn’t benefit as much) are hit for almost $1.1M per year over the same span. The older a player gets, the more severe the punishment becomes.

The first thing to recognize is Philadelphia, the team that originally signed Richards, is immune. Because he was traded before the existence of the new CBA, the Flyers’ involvement is irrelevant (although their pain would have been minor, because the highest-paid years came after he was sent west.)

Here is how to calculate the penalty:

To this point, Richards played three full seasons in Los Angeles, for a combined salary of $22.6M. This year is a little trickier; he’s been on the Kings’ roster for 47 games, which is 57 per cent of an 82-game season. Richards is making $7M, so he’s already been paid $3.99M. Fifty-seven per cent of his cap hit is $3,277,500.

Add his total earnings so far in Los Angeles and you are just under $26.6M. His total cap hit during that time is slightly above $20.5M. (Numbers rounded for math simpletons like myself.) Therefore, the Kings benefited by approximately $6.1M during the time Richards played for them. This number is not relevant now, but “banked” for later, if necessary.

Let’s say, for arguments’ sake, Arizona picks him up. Richards plays three more seasons and retires in July 2018 to his apparently outstanding summer home, despite two years remaining on his contract. That $6.1M savings would be divided by the two remaining years, meaning the Kings would lose $3.05M in each of 2018-19 and 2019-20. It’s worse if he leaves with just one year to go.

Now, what about the Coyotes, in our imaginary scenario? Not bad at all. In 2016-17, Richards’ salary starts creeping below his average annual value. Teams do get credit for seasons where that number exceeds cash. Including the amount leftover from this year, Arizona would pay Richards around $700,000 less than his total cap hit.

The risk here is LA’s.

Richards will only be 35 at the end of this contract, so age is not a factor. He could also go on long-term injury, collect the $6M due to him in those final two seasons and not play.

But the cap recapture issue shouldn’t scare a team wanting to take a chance.

30 THOUGHTS

1. Calgary and Toronto were reported to be the two teams most involved in a Richards trade. I do believe the Dion Phaneuf-Richards idea was seriously considered, although other pieces were going to be involved. I don’t know which team asked, or how the overall package was going to look, but word is the Kings ultimately said no to any deal because they were unwilling to include either Tanner Pearson or Tyler Toffoli.

2. Last season, one King said GM Dean Lombardi met with his leadership group when the team played poorly before the Olympic break, asking “Do I need to change the core?” They said no, believing strongly in their ability to put it together.

It was really something to see Lombardi on the ice after the Cup victory, emotionally thanking all of the players. (He must have been with Alec Martinez for more than five minutes, proudly telling the defenceman he knew he had it in him.)

He’s getting criticized for not making Richards a compliance buyout, but don’t forget Lombardi was in Philadelphia with the centre and they have a long history. It’s hard to be ruthless with a winning lineup. You wonder if this move is similar to last season’s warning, an attempt to rattle his group and see where this goes.

3. More conversation to come between Martin Brodeur and the St. Louis Blues. GM Doug Armstrong is at scouting meetings, but plans to talk with the future Hall-of-Famer over the next day or so.

4. A new name coming up in trade rumblings is Colorado defender Jan Hejda. Left-hand shot, 36 years old, about to be unrestricted, still plays 21:38 a night, second on the team behind Erik Johnson.

Hejda doesn’t spend much time on power plays, so those tend to be harder minutes, as only Johnson starts in the defensive zone more than he does. This information did arrive before the Avalanche announced Johnson may miss two months.

5. Two other blueline situations to watch: Anaheim, with the Ducks like Daniel Negreanu at the poker table, pushing in all the chips. Bob Murray’s GM brethren will be surprised if he doesn’t add someone at that position, again.

The question is if Murray subtracts anything first to make room budgetarily. Dallas added a desperately needed right-hand shot in Jason Demers, but the Stars are believed to be looking for another.

6. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Wild are in the market for goalies, and not just at the NHL level. American Hockey League, too.

Sounds like GM Chuck Fletcher is making it a priority to re-stock the organization after injuries and illnesses wreaked havoc at the position the last few years. Add them to the list of teams watching NCAA free agent Matt O’Connor of Boston University.

7. Senators’ 2011 first-rounder Matt Puempel is off his 2013-14 pace of 30 goals for AHL Binghamton, with 11 in 41 games so far this year. But he’s got a fan in Ottawa: Bryan Murray.

“We’re getting more chances, but they aren’t resulting in goals,” Murray said last week. “All (Matt) does is score. We have no space at the moment, but his time is coming.”

8. Steven Stamkos said “the plan” is to re-sign in Tampa, adding he envisioned similar contracts to the eight-year, $84M deals inked by Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Not sure Tampa would want a $11.375M cap hit, does anyone else see Stamkos’s salary matching his jersey number?

9. Working on some other stuff about the Islanders, but what an ugly injury to Kyle Okposo — gone 6-8 weeks with an upper body injury.

One of the great stories of Okposo’s draft is Islanders owner Charles Wang supposedly stepped in when the team considered not taking him, even though he was atop their list. GM Garth Snow would not confirm that, but admitted a major reason behind that selection was Okposo scored impressively in the team’s personality tests.

What does the organization ask or look for? Snow wasn’t going there, either. Trade secret.

10. If Brian Elliott didn’t come back from Turks and Caicos, the next phone call was going to Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson. Elliott deserved to be all-star MVP simply for reminding everyone that being there is supposed to be mean something.

I’m torn on this issue. It’s a hard season. You can’t fault them for resting, and it’s tough when vacationing teammates are posting bikini-filled photos to twitter. But, selling the game should matter to everyone.

11. Obviously, the biggest absence was Sidney Crosby’s. There’s a legit injury here, and, as any player will tell you, a five-day break is the best time to get a shot for it.

There’s also Evgeni Malkin’s unavailability, making the captain’s health even more important. But a few of the all-stars admitted it surprised them, since he came when injured before the 2009 event in Montreal and handles meet-and-greets so well. They suspected it may have had to do with his not being selected as one of the draft captains.

Don’t know if Crosby was upset, or it was someone from the Penguins or his entourage, but it caught the NHL and NHLPA by surprise. They had no idea. Think about it: announcement he won’t be there, followed less than 24 hours later by a detailed explanation of his injury? Didn’t add up to the players.

12. Another player opinion happily shared: “You guys in Toronto are ridiculous with Phil Kessel.”

13. The game was as cringeworthy as ever, but the draft and skills competition were the best I’ve attended.

“Hydration” was a factor Friday night, but it was funny, not sloppy.

Maybe the Breakaway Challenge could be shortened from three turns to two, but those were some of the most creative ideas we’ve seen, especially Ryan Johansen wearing the Braxton Miller jersey.

Another wrinkle to consider: Mike Gartner’s fastest lap (13.386 seconds) was broken by Carl Hagelin (13.218) in 2012. But, Hagelin used a different route than Gartner’s once-around the perimeter. Maybe the person who wins fastest skater gets one shot at beating that record? With the new tracking system, you could probably superimpose Gartner’s pace against the challenger’s.

14. Johnny Gaudreau’s fire-stick idea was to stop on his breakaway, have Mark Giordano coat the blade with lighter fluid and set it ablaze. If he hadn’t waited until hours before to let the NHL know, it might have happened.

Jakub Voracek was supposed to peel off his Flyers jersey to reveal a Rick Nash Columbus sweater, but called an audible when Johansen used seven-year old Cole Vogt as a helper, hilariously grabbing Gaudreau instead. Unconfirmed rumour: it was Ryan Suter’s idea.

15. I have never seen a player as angry about an all-star game performance as Marc-Andre Fleury. He was seething after being lit up for seven goals and getting the Bronx cheer from the Columbus crowd.

Fleury asked both Roberto Luongo and Carey Price about leaving before his period ended, and gritted his teeth during a third-period bench interview. He was a good sport about it, and remember, opponents don’t get booed because they are bad.

16. In the post-game handshake, Johansen admitted he apologized to John Tavares about winning the MVP.

Yes, it’s a glorified scrimmage, but does his strong performance, both as a player and a showman, elevate him even higher? Two weeks ago, GM Jarmo Kekalainen said, “People look at the points, but we want him to become a complete player.” He’s got to see after this weekend he belongs.

17. Did my first-ever on-camera interview with Vladimir Tarasenko, who still isn’t 100 per cent comfortable in English.

After it was over, he turned and asked, “On a scale of one-to-10, how was that?” “Really good,” I replied, “an eight.” He said, “If it was in Russian, it would have been a 12. Next year, it will be a 10.” Pretty impressive guy.

18. World Cup: one of the decisions still to be made with the North American Young Stars is if there will be some kind of quota. Is there a maximum number from one country? A minimum? You can’t have 17 Canadians and six Americans, or vice-versa. And, would a dual citizen like Jon Cooper be the right coach?

19. If the NHL does not go to South Korea, one of the rumoured replacement possibilities is putting the World Juniors there as a one-time phenomenon.

The United States is the host, with Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Tampa among interested bidders. While addressing the Professional Hockey Writers Association, USA Hockey executive director Dave Ogrean said the idea had been mentioned informally, but did not seem a likely scenario.

20. Love, love, love the Ryder Cup idea of Canada (or North America) versus “The Rest of the World”— potentially held in September 2018 in a big, non-traditional city like London.

The NHL says it is prepared to do that and the Olympics seven months apart, but it is a lot to ask of your elite players. There’s no question the ambitious international calendar is a warning to the IOC and the IIHF, that if there isn’t a willingness to play ball, the NHL will take its non-deflated pucks elsewhere.

21. Speaking of pucks, the NHL debuted its new tracking puck (and sweater chip) at all-star weekend.

It has the same injection mold as any other, but is two pieces with a chip in the middle instead of just one big slab. The league’s been testing these on-and-off for the last four years, and finally came up with a model some retired players were comfortable with. One of them (the league would not say who) played during the era of the FOX puck and was specifically chosen to compare the two.

A few of you asked on twitter if, like the FOX ones, fans would have to return them if shot into the crowd. Apparently, the answer is no. How far are we from seeing them in an actual game? Depends on the feedback from all-star weekend to determine the next step.

22. Some of you also asked if the chip-puck could eliminate any debate about whether or not a goal was scored. Right now, the answer is no, not with 100 per cent confidence. And, the impression is that they are not going to try it until they know it won’t fail.

23. So what does all of this new data mean?

NHL COO John Collins said last weekend we will see an overhaul of NHL.com beginning next month. It is the first of several phases intended to make the website a much more comprehensive place.

The plans are ambitious, from enhanced stats (Corsi, Fenwick, PDO) to a cleaner look to greater interactivity. The intention is also to make it easier to compare players, not only today, but era to era.

24. Mentioned last week how Washington (and Mike Green) will have a tough decision to make at the end of the season, as he is a UFA.

In the Capitals’ last game before the break, a 5-4 shootout loss to Edmonton, Green had just two shifts in the final 9:37 of regulation, a total of 56 seconds, as the Oilers scored twice to tie the game. He did play almost half the overtime (where it is very smart to ride him), but it will be interesting to see how he’s used on a much deeper blueline.

25. Bryan Murray on Erik Karlsson: “Defences are playing him so tight at the point.” Has he ever seen a defenceman handled like that? “Paul Coffey is the closest. Teams would try, but his lateral movement was so dynamic, they would end up shrinking back away from him.”

26. Murray said last week he was not interested in trading Craig Anderson, even though he is 10 years older than Robin Lehner. The latter has yet to snare the net, and now other teams, who assumed Anderson would be the one dealt (eventually), aren’t so sure.

Murray isn’t worried about age. “He’s a lean, fit, guy,” the GM added. “We don’t need him to play 65 games a year, but he probably could if we had to.”

Murray pointed out that, when Anderson was younger, he didn’t play a ton of games. From his pro debut in 2001-02 to 2008-09, he averaged 33 appearances per season, only once going higher than 39. “It’s hard to move him until Robin Lehner finds a consistently good level.”

27. The Blue Jackets asked Sergei Bobrovsky if he wanted to be introduced, getting a much-deserved ovation in the process. Heartbroken, he declined.

At a fan forum, Jarmo Kekalainen said the new injury is similar to one that kayoed him for month last season. Earlier, Kekalainen said he was never worried about getting Bobrovsky signed, even when it looked like there would be no in-season negotiations.

“He’s a proud athlete. He wants to be the best goalie, win championships… I was not worried about Russia. Going to the KHL, he can’t accomplish what he wants.”

28. The GM had a good quote about the injuries that have decimated the Columbus season: “Yeah, we had some injuries, but we should have played better, too. We took it for granted again after some success. Like the weather, you can bitch all you want, it’s not going to change anything.”

29. Asked the league if there was any issue with Eric Staal blasting the puck at Phaneuf when scoring an empty netter. Pretty fair answer: If a guy is trying to score, how can you penalize him?

30. Great weekend in Columbus.

Quietly, the Blue Jackets did something nice for a couple from London, Ont. The missus recently broke her ankle, and through a friend, reached out about going from their previously paid-for seats to something with a little more room. The team took care of it, moving her into a more accessible section. Seems like a small thing, but it made her weekend.

That’s a fan you never lose.