Dean Lombardi showed up for Round 1 of the NHL Draft in a good mood. Los Angeles was the proud, new employer of Milan Lucic, with the GM excitedly discussing the various ways his lineup could utilize the power forward.
But something happened later that lacked complete context until the Kings terminated Mike Richards’ contract on Monday afternoon.
Midway through the opening round, the emotion changed at the team’s table. According to several sources, that was the moment the organization found out about something that occurred on or around June 17, further muddling Richards’ situation.
Lombardi was discussing possible trade scenarios with Calgary and Edmonton, so he got up to personally notify GMs Brad Treliving and Peter Chiarelli. From what I understand, no transaction was close, but this ended any chance of a move.
In their release, the Kings announced they "exercised the team's right to terminate the contract of Mike Richards for a material breach of the requirements of his Standard Player's Contract" and would not have any further comment.
In a brief filed to the NHL and the NHLPA, the team referenced Section 2(e) of the SPC, which states a player agrees "to conduct himself on and off the rink according to the highest standards of honesty, morality, fair play and sportsmanship, and to refrain from conduct detrimental to the best interest of the Club, the League or professional hockey generally."
Without full details, I’m not going to guess who has the better legal footing. All we know for sure is the situation is far from finished.
Richards, the NHLPA and his agency (Newport), have 60 days to appeal the Kings’ manoeuvre to a neutral arbitrator. There is a mechanism for an expedited hearing, but the timeline is uncertain. In a statement, NHLPA spokesperson Jon Weatherdon said, "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."
It would be a major surprise if this went unchallenged.
From a salary cap perspective, the move (at least temporarily) frees the Kings from most of the five years and $5.75 million remaining on Richards’ contract. Because he had one of the "backdiving" deals the NHL banned in the new CBA, there is a $1.32-million hit that does not get erased as a "cap recapture" penalty. So, it’s a benefit of approximately $4.43 million. (Philadelphia, which signed Richards, is unaffected because he was traded prior to the new CBA’s existence.)
It’s been a hard year for both the player and the team. Richards, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and Olympic gold medallist with 834 NHL regular season/playoff games played, was temporarily demoted to AHL Manchester. The Kings, champions in 2012 and 2014, missed the post-season and had two players arrested.
Jarret Stoll, a free agent, had his felony charge of cocaine possession dropped last week in Las Vegas. He pled guilty to two reduced charges. Slava Voynov is scheduled to go to trial next week on a felony domestic violence charge. People asked on Twitter why his contract has not been terminated. The team and league are waiting for this to go through the courts.
And, we’ll wait on Richards until his appeal process plays out, too.