WASHINGTON — In need of centre depth, the Washington Capitals agreed to a $1 million, one-year deal with two-time Stanley Cup winner Mike Richards on Wednesday.
— Washington Capitals (@washcaps) January 6, 2016
Richards had been a free agent after a tumultuous off-season. He was arrested at a Canadian border crossing in June and charged with possession of a controlled substance, and the Los Angeles Kings bought out the remaining five years of his contract.
The Capitals said Richards met with the NHL earlier in the day and was given clearance to resume his career immediately. Washington visits the New York Islanders on Thursday night, and Richards is scheduled to speak to reporters at Barclays Center prior to the game.
Richards had been skating with his former junior team in Kitchener, Ontario, to stay in shape while not playing games. His legal situation is still pending in the province of Manitoba.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said that having a strong organization in place and people around Richards who know his situation will help the 30-year-old.
“I think now that everything’s out in the open and the team can work with him without things being hidden, I think he’s got a great shot,” Lombardi said on a conference call. “This is a great opportunity for him. … I think he’s got a great chance, and I’ll be pulling for him now that hopefully he gets through all those issues. But I think he’s got a great chance when the people who are with him every day can now work with him and help him instead of being kept in the dark.”
In his career with the Philadelphia Flyers and Kings, the Kenora, Ontario, player has 179 goals and 303 assists in 710 regular-season games. He won the Cup with the Kings in 2012 and 2014 and won a gold medal with Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Lombardi, who acquired Richards in 2011 and bought him out last summer, credited him with setting the tempo in the Kings’ first playoff series on the way to the Cup in 2012. The Capitals also signed former Los Angeles winger Justin Williams in the off-season.
The Capitals have an all-star centre in Nicklas Backstrom but wanted to add some more help down the middle in light of an injury to Jay Beagle. The team said Beagle had hand surgery last week and was expected to be out six weeks.
Washington coach Barry Trotz put Marcus Johansson at centre in Beagle’s absence but said earlier in the week the organization would look at all possible options to fill the void.
The Capitals lead the NHL with 61 points in 39 games.