At long last, there is finally an end to the Mike Richards saga, at least as far as the Los Angeles Kings are concerned. They may have caught a break, but there will be associated dead cap space for a long, long time to come.
By now, we’re all familiar with the tale. Following years of declining production culminating in a demotion to the AHL last January, Richards was on treacherously thin ice with the Kings. Having failed to use a compliance buyout to exorcise his $5.75 million cap hit in 2014, general manager Dean Lombardi was preparing to utilize a standard buyout — one which would have cost them roughly $15 million spread out over ten seasons — to get the job done.
And then, fate struck. Richards was detained at the Canadian border for allegedly being in possession of oxycodone without a prescription. Upon hearing the news, Lombardi immediately pulled out of trade discussions with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames and subsequently terminated Richards’ contract, citing a “material breach”. The NHLPA filed a grievance within 30 days, with both sides agreeing to a settlement one week ago. In short, the Kings will absorb about $17 million in cumulative cap hits spread out over the next seventeen years.
After the settlement was reached, the Kings released the following statement:
The Los Angeles Kings have reached an agreement with Mike Richards to resolve the grievance filed in relation to the termination of his NHL Standard Players Contract. The terms are agreeable to all parties. We will not be commenting further on the terms (Yahoo)
Next, the NHLPA:
The National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) have reached a settlement agreement regarding Mike Richards’ standard player contract. The settlement amicably resolves the grievance filed by the NHLPA on August 10, 2015 in response to the Los Angeles Kings’ termination of Richards’ contract. Richards is an Unrestricted Free Agent (CBS Sports).
Finally, the league — clearly mindful of the unique nature of the agreement and the potential negative reactions of other franchises — responded. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly defended the settlement with the following comment:
In our view, the Kings had a ‘Bona Fide’ opportunity to win this grievance. In that case, they would have no cap hit at all. This way, there’s some penalty (The Score).
He also emphasized in no uncertain terms that the settlement did not represent cap circumvention:
If the settlement was simply a disguised way to get favorable Cap treatment, we certainly would have considered it to be a circumvention and acted accordingly. But this wasn’t that. Far from it. There is absolutely zero concern that anything that transpired here could in any way be considered a `circumvention’ of the CBA. Anyone who believes to the contrary is clearly not privy to the facts (Yahoo).
Was reaction from the league’s other GMs negative? According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:
Privately, other teams are screaming bloody murder and are threatening to make an issue about it at December’s Board of Governors’ meeting.
Reportedly, agents weren’t happy about it, either. One asked:
What’s to stop other teams from trying this?
Reportedly, the NHLPA received written assurances that the settlement could not be used as precedent in any future grievances.
What was the reaction on Twitter? First, a breakdown of the cap hit/recapture penalty per season:
— theScore (@theScore) October 16, 2015
Next, a sampling of comments and reactions:
So Mike Richards settlement saves Kings roughly $5-million on the cap the next five years compared to a buyout. https://t.co/DMN3kbA2oT
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 16, 2015
ICYMI: On the Mike Richards settlement and the little it does to prevent players’ ‘destructive spirals’ http://t.co/s7gtslElSD
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) October 13, 2015
The LA Times reveals Dean Lombardi's deepest thoughts on Mike Richards. Powerful. http://t.co/stpoNAGo8C
— John Shannon (@JShannonhl) October 10, 2015
I still cant wrap my head around the fact that the kings will be paying mike richards until im 40
— 🌯 (@scoobadee) October 16, 2015
With the settlement, Richards is now a free agent. What are your reactions? Is the agreement fair, or did the Kings just dodge a bullet? Where will Richards land? Leave your thoughts below, or send a message to @McLaughlinWalt.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.