Los Angeles: The NHL’s Drama Kings

Many thought the Los Angeles Kings not making the post season meant a quiet summer. Most thought it would be a summer where Kings general manager Dean Lombardi would be the one in the headlines making the deals and moving players.

The players were expected to utilize their long summer break, keep a low profile and recharge for next season.

It was supposed to be a quiet summer.

The Kings didn’t win the Stanley Cup, they didn’t even make the playoffs. Everyone expected the Kings to fall into the shadows and take a break from a summer of being examined at every turn and watched every second because they came up short. If only the Kings got that memo.

Instead, since season’s end, the Kings have been in the headlines almost as frequently as summers past but for all the wrong reasons.

The summer to be forgotten all started back in April with Jarret Stoll and a season ending party in Las Vegas. Originally reported by TMZ, Stoll was caught trying to sneak illegal drugs into a Vegas pool party at the MGM Grand.

Stoll was reportedly caught with the drugs when he was pat down by a security guard going into Wet Republic. It was later announced that Stoll had several forms of illegal narcotics in his possession. Since being arrested Stoll has had his felony charges reduced to two misdemeanors.

As if Stoll’s legal problems wasn’t enough for a team to deal with during their summer break, fast forward to the Kings’ most recent chapter in the drama that is Mike Richards. Richards’ situation has been a drawn out process for some time now. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has been on the decline since he came to Los Angeles from Philadelphia. Tied to Richards was a contract he could never live up to. Richards’ cap hit of over $5 million and his numbers didn’t match up.

Last summer Lombardi opted to give Richards a chance and another season to get his groove back. Lombardi’s faith ultimately backfired and Richards found himself spending time last season in the AHL, where he also hardly produced.

Now in this offseason, a buyout of Richards’ remaining contract seemed like the only choice. This seemed to be the action set in motion when the Kings placed Richards on waivers. Richards cleared waivers and everyone thought he was on the fast track to being bought out. Until the Kings released the following statement.

“The Los Angeles Kings today have 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,” the team said in a statement. “We are not prepared to provide any more detail or to discuss the underlying grounds for the contract termination at this time.”

This statement sent the NHL community into a frenzy. Countless insiders and fans went into speculation mode as to what exactly the “material breach” could be. Since the statement was released some information has slowly started to leak out, via Katie Strang at ESPN.com.

Mike Richards, whose contract has been terminated by the Los Angeles Kings, is part of an ongoing investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for an off-ice incident, a source told ESPN.com on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for the RCMP in Manitoba told ESPN that, as of Tuesday, no charges have been brought against Richards but declined to comment further.

The source said that Canadian Border Services is also involved in the investigation, but a spokesperson declined comment, citing Canadian privacy laws.

It is wrong to speculate and make accusations before all the details are finally out, but one can’t help to think something very significant had to have happened or have been found in order for Richards to be investigated by Canadian Border services.

Now Lombardi and the Kings are in the midst of a first of its kind process in trying to terminate Richards’ contract. This process has freed the Kings of the remainder of Richards’ contract, about $22 million, and given them about $11 million in cap space.

The NHLPA is reported to be looking into the case and weighing their options on possibly filing a grievance which would set a trial process in motion.

On top of these two summer incidents, the Kings have the ongoing drama that surrounds Slava Voynov and his domestic violence troubles.

That’s a whole lot of news not involving hockey.

Over the last season the Kings’ image has completely flipped from the hard-working, blue collar organization that promotes loyalty and family, to an organization with players getting arrested and regularly in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Obviously no general manager wants any team, let alone his own, to go through troubles like those mentioned above. But Lombardi has a known love for all of his players, staff and their families. The recent events have to have Lombardi’s emotions in shambles and his judgement being questioned by not only others but himself.

Although Stoll’s situation seems to be settled, Voynov’s and Richards’ look far from over. Hopefully, for Lombardi and the Kings’ sake, this is the last bit of off ice news for a while.