Asked about Richards, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer acknowledged that he’s spoken to Richards in recent months on a strictly personal basis.
“I’ve always been a fan, but also he’s [Richards] a guy that I’ve tried to stay in contact with over the years,” DeBoer told CSNBayArea.com Tuesday.
“I’ve always followed his career. Glad to see that he’s back and training and might come back, but beyond that, no other relationship,” DeBoer added.
Richards played under DeBoer and Sharks assistant coach Steve Spott in junior with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. The Rangers captured the 2003 Memorial Cup with DeBoer at the helm and Richards leading the team in regular season scoring with 37 goals and 87 points in 67 games.
DeBoer downplayed any rumblings of the Sharks having interest in signing Richards, reiterating that he's spoken to him on a purely personal level.
"I have had a conversation with him in the last few months just to check in on how he’s doing, and it seems like he’s in a really good place," DeBoer told CSN analyst Kevin Kurz. "Just from a personal standpoint, I had the conversation, not reaching out for any other reason other than just checking in on a guy I have a lot of respect for. I believe he will come back and play in the league again, I really do, based on what I know about him.”
Richards is currently awaiting a Jan. 28 court date in Emerson, Man. stemming from a June 17 arrest at a border crossing. The former Canadian Olympian was charged with possession of a controlled substance. Court documents indicate that Richards was in possession of Oxycodone, a prescription painkiller.
The Kings, citing a "material breach," terminated Richards' contract in June. Richards, who had five years and US$ 22 million left on his contract, settled a grievance with the Kings in October.
Richards has been skating and working out in an effort to return to the NHL.
“My goal is to get back into the NHL and I’m working out hard to do that,” Richards told Josh Brown of TheRecord.com in November.
Richards has scored 179 goals and totaled 482 points in 710 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers and Kings.