In a surprise move Monday, the Los Angeles Kings placed centre Mike Richards on waivers.
Richards is a proven winner with two Stanley Cups, an Olympic gold medal, a Calder Cup, a Memorial Cup and a world junior gold attached to his resume.
It’s not often a player of his calibre hits the waiver wire.
However, since winning his first Stanley Cup with the Kings in 2012, his production has tailed off and when you couple that with his hefty price tag, it’s not necessarily a guarantee a team will claim him.
Richards has an annual salary cap hit of $5.75 million that will be on the books for the next five seasons should a team choose to add the 29-year-old.
The Kenora, Ont., native has long been a rumoured target of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it’s unlikely he ends up in a blue and white jersey.
According to Sportsnet’s Daren Millard, the Leafs and Kings had been discussing a potential trade that would have sent Richards to Toronto, but it never materialized. Meanwhile, Sportsnet’s John Shannon says the Leafs aren’t interested in grabbing him off waivers. Shannon also adds the Calgary Flames won’t be making a claim for the centre either.
We’ll find out Richards' fate at noon ET on Tuesday, but until then here are five teams that should consider making a claim for Richards.
Nashville Predators: Richards had success in 2009-10 and 2010-11 under current Predators coach Peter Laviolette when both were with the Philadelphia Flyers and Richards’ style lends itself well to how the Preds like to play.
With centres Mike Fisher, Mike Ribeiro, Matt Cullen and Olli Jokinen all slated to become unrestricted free agents following the 2014-15 season, David Poile should take a long, hard look at Richards.
Ottawa Senators: The Sens are thin down the middle and have cap space to burn. Throughout his career, Richards has played better when he averages 16-19 minutes of ice-time per game and he’d likely get that in Ottawa.
He’s only averaging 13:41 through 47 games this season with the Kings. He would also take pressure off Kyle Turris and be an upgrade over David Legwand.
Arizona Coyotes : With pending UFA Antoine Vermette’s future with the team uncertain, and the fact the Coyotes rank 28th in goals per game, they could use all the help they can get at forward. Their penalty killing is also atrocious – killing off just 76 per cent of power-plays – and Richards has always been effective when a man (or two) down.
He has 28 career shorthanded goals, three of which while killing a 5-on-3. Only Marian Hossa (30) and Martin St. Louis (29) have more shorties among active players. Also, Richards would be solid support for Sam Gagner and an appropriate mentor to Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel should the plummeting Coyotes secure a top-two pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are the worst five-on-five team in the league, they have the worst power-play, the worst penalty killing and own the worst record in the NHL at the all-star break.
They’ve got nearly $11 million in cap space according to NHL Numbers and Richards is as good or better than any forward set to hit the open market in the summer.
Edmonton Oilers: With Nikita Nikitin, Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot not quite living up to their $4.5-, $4.5- and $4-million cap hits respectively, picking up Richards’ contract would be a risky move, but one with the potential for great upside.
If the Oilers are ever going to have success, they need to play a more structured game and Richards does exactly that. Depending on who they get in the draft, it’s looking more and more likely that the Oilers would be willing to trade one of their skilled forwards, which could free up some cap space in the off-season to ease the burden of Richards’ salary.