According to Lisa Dallman of the LA Times, Los Angeles Kings' forward Mike Richards will not be bought out by his club. There was speculation that the 29-year-old had already played his last game in a Kings uniform but according to Dallman's report, that will not be the case.
Here is an excerpt from Dallman's report via the LA Times:
But Lombardi’s loyalty to his players runs deep and he heard what he needed to hear from Richards in meetings this week. Richards greatly underperformed in the second half of the regular season and was dropped to the fourth line.
“The biggest thing in the meeting with Michael – the important thing – is that he realized he’s going to have to make some adjustments in his offseason training,” Lombardi said on Friday in an interview with The Times.
Some may have thought that Mke Richards would be bought out to give the Kings more room to make some important off-season transactions, including the potential re-signing of Marian Gaborik. Gaborik, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, made $7.5 million this past season and will most likely be requesting the same type of money for his next contract. Whether the Kings will be able to afford to keep Gaborik remains to be seen.
While I have never spoken with anyone who openly dislike him, there are fans who will be disappointed with this news due to the details of Richards' current contract. The former Flyer has six years and $36.6 million left on his current deal. While still a member of the Philadelphia Flyers, Richards signed a 12-year deal worth $69 million in December, 2007. But while he is scheduled to make $7 million next season, Richards's annual salary will decrease with each passing year. In the three years after next season, Richards will make $6 million, $5.5 million and $4.5 million before earning $3 million in each of the last two years of his contract.
As Lisa Dillman eluded to in her report, this is a decision strengthened by (Kings' GM) Dean Lombardi's immense loyalty to his players. When Lombardi acquired Richards from Philadelphia three years ago, he was looking to instill even more leadership into his team. While Richards has noticeably underachieved offensively in Los Angeles, Lombardi and company are not willing part ways with the native of Kenora, Ontario.
While the Kings, like every other team, are allowed two compliance buyouts before the start of the 2014-15 season, Lombardi decided against setting Richards free. As a benefit of a compliance buyout, whatever money is owed to the player will not go against the salary cap. However, the move would still leave ownership paying a heavy price tag for someone who would no longer be playing for the club. Plus, with as much as Mike Richards can contribute to a team, simply letting him walk away without receiving anything in return does not seem the greatest idea.
This past season, Richards netted 11 goals (his lowest total since his rookie year of 2005-06) and 30 assists to go along with a -6 rating. He also finished the season with a minute 7.0 per cent shooting percentage and, in the final 22 games of the season, was unable to record a single assist.
In terms of longevity, however, Mike Richards delivers. After competing in all 82 games this past regular season, the center is riding a streak of 179 consecutive games played dating back to December 22, 2011.
Overall, it's been a disappointing year for Richards even though he did finish it with another Stanley Cup. But Richards does bring a lot more to the table and everyone in Los Angeles knows that he is much better than his recent stats indicate.
Here's hoping for a rebound season in 2014-15. I'm confident. Are you?