Mike Richards is done with the Los Angeles Kings. This much we know for sure.
The remainder of his contract was terminated Monday for “material breach,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to Sportsnet, which means that his salary no longer counts against the Kings cap and the 30-year-old centre is officially a free agent.
However, this matter is likely far from over.
It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if the NHL Players’ Association and Richards’ agents at Newport Sports filed a grievance against the action taken by the Kings, although that hasn’t yet been decided.
“We are in the process of reviewing the facts and circumstances of this matter, and will discuss the situation with the player in order to determine the appropriate course of action,” NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said in a statement.
A message to agent Pat Morris wasn’t immediately returned.
As of Monday evening, it was unclear why the team believed Richards was in violation of his contract. In a statement, the Kings said they were “not prepared to provide any more detail or to discuss the underlying grounds for the contract termination.”
Paragraph 14 in the Standard Player’s Contract stipulates that the deal can be terminated if any player shall “fail, refuse or neglect to obey the Club’s rules governing training and conduct of Players.”
Even if the contract termination is held up, the Kings will face a cap recapture penalty of $1.35-million for the next five seasons, according to war-on-ice.com. That’s slightly less than what they would’ve been charged annually for 10 years had it been bought out.
Richards signed his $69-million, 12-year deal with Philadelphia in 2008 and was dealt to Los Angeles three years later. He helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup on two occasions before the team openly expressed concerns about his conditioning last summer.
Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi met with Richards at his offseason home in Kenora, Ont., at that time and elected not to use a compliance buyout on the remainder of his deal.
The former Canadian Olympian ended up splitting this season between the Kings and the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs and was shopped heavily to rival teams in recent months. During the NHL draft over the weekend, Los Angeles was believed to be offering to retain a portion of Richards’ salary and include a prospect in any trade for him.
Since nothing materialized, it was widely expected that Richards would receive a regular-course buyout after clearing unconditional waivers on Monday. He had five years and $22-million in salary remaining on the contract.
Instead, the contract was terminated.
It’s been a trying year for the Kings organization, with defenceman Slava Voynov getting charged for allegedly beating his wife in October and sitting out the majority of the season on a paid suspension while dealing with the accompanying legal issues.
The case remains unresolved.
Not long after Los Angeles missed the playoffs in April, forward Jarret Stoll was arrested in Las Vegas for carrying drugs. A felony cocaine possession charge was reduced to two misdemeanours last week, and he’ll be required to perform 32 hours of community service as a result.