Mike Richards Was Bound To Fail

Mike Richards
Mike Richards (Photo by Bridget Samuels).

Mike Richards’ time with the Los Angeles Kings has come to an end. The Kings announced yesterday that the organization will buyout the remaining five years and $22 million left on Richards’ contract. Once Richards clears waivers he will become an unrestricted free agent.

After the buyout is complete, Richards’ buy out influenced salary cap will count towards the Kings’ salary cap until the 2024-25 season. Courtesy of General Fanager, Richards’ cap hit over the next ten years will be $1.22 million in 2015-16, $1.72 million in 2016-17, $2.72 million in 2017-18, $4.22 million in 2018-19, $4.22 million in 2019-20 and finally $1.47 million through 2024-25.

The departure of Richards is a bit of a messy divorce. After Dean Lombardi missed out on buying out Richards last season, when it wouldn’t have counted against the Kings’ salary cap, it had to be done this year for several reasons. The biggest reason being the Kings’ money situation, via the Orange County Register.

In the short term, the buyout would help the Kings. It would give them approximately $9 million in cap room this summer, which they likely would use to sign at least one veteran defenseman and a backup goalie.

The bottom line was Richards was not producing at the level his salary suggested. While in Los Angeles, the former Philadelphia Flyers captain never played at the level that got him the ‘C’ and a 12-year $69 million contract with the Flyers. Richards actually never got close to a level of play that suggested he make that kind of money.

Since the Kings’ Stanley Cup championship in 2012, Richards’ play dropped dramatically, each season dropped more and more. Last season was the exclamation point on Richards’ exit from relevance. On top of being demoted to the AHL, in 53 games with the Kings last season Richards found the back of the net only five times. That’s about $1 million a goal based on his $5.75 million cap hit.

Now the two-time Stanley Cup champion will be on the move and likely find himself in a new sweater once the puck drops on the 2015-16 season. Richards will probably never lace up the skates for the Kings again and he will always be sitting on the visitors bench. But Richards’ time with Los Angeles shouldn’t be met with groans.

When Lombardi pried the Flyers captain from Philadelphia it was the blockbuster move of the offseason. Lombardi shipped off fan favorite Wayne Simmonds and then coveted prospect Brayden Schenn to bring Richards to Los Angeles. This was the trade that showed the Kings were moving forward and going after a Cup and going after it now.

The Kings won their first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history the very next season. Richards put up 18 goals and 44 points in 74 regular season games. In the post season, Richards found the back of the net four times on his way to 15 points in 20 games. Not great, but not horrible numbers.

During the off-year, when the Kings didn’t win the Cup and stalled out in the Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, Richards put up 12 goals and 32 points in a shortened 48 game regular season and recorded 12 points in 15 playoff games.

The next season, the Kings won their second Stanley Cup in three seasons.

Again, Richards put up numbers that were respectable. A 11 goal and 41 point regular season put together with 10 points in 26 post season games is not a horrible turnout. Mixed in those numbers are three game winning goals during the regular season and one during the post season.

For those counting that’s two Stanley Cup championships, 117 regular season points and 37 post season point brought in during a three season span for Richards.

Looking back Richards was doomed from the start. The numbers mentioned above are respectable numbers, but not for Richards. The contract that was tied to the 2003, 24th overall pick was too much to live up to. Richards couldn’t live up to the numbers and pay he earned back when he put up 75 and 80 points in 2007-08 and 2008-09 with the Flyers.

If Richards wasn’t getting paid over $5 million a season would he be in the same situation? No way. But along with Richards came a huge cap hit and thats the situation that had to be dealt with. Richards cashed in at the right time and made a lot of money because of it. Can you blame him?

In the end Richards and his time with the Kings will forever be paired with “what if?” Who knows what could have been if Richards found the game he had back in Philly. How many more Cups would he have won with the Kings? How much longer would he have had in Los Angeles?

Unfortunately those are all questions that will never be answered.