Kings put Mike Richards on waivers; buyout likely

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 27: (L to R) Mike Richards and Kings President/ General Manager Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings pose for a picture during an introductory press conference for Richards on July 27, 2011 at the Toyota Sports Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 27: (L to R) Mike Richards and Kings President/ General Manager Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings pose for a picture during an introductory press conference for Richards on July 27, 2011 at the Toyota Sports Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Mike Richards era for the Los Angeles Kings is over. But his buyout salary cap hit shall last forever and ever and ever. Or At least through the 2024-25 season. 

Eh, the Kings got two Stanley Cups out of Richards, so that’s just the price you have to pay to win I guess. On Sunday the team put the 30-year-old center on unconditional waivers. The Canadiens also put P.A. Parenteau and the Ducks puck Mark Fistric on waivers as well with the intention of buying them out.

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But Richards is the big name on that list. He won two Stanley Cups with the Kings, but his numbers declined significantly once he came to LA in 2011-12 in a trade from Philadelphia. He never rediscovered the form that saw him become the Flyers captain and landed him a 12-year $69 million contract that kicked in during the 2008-09 season.

Richards never had more than 44 points in a full season for Los Angeles. He hasn't scored 20 goals since he was a Flyer, and last season he had five goals in 53 games. Look at that above photo. Those were happier times for Richards and the Kings. #stoicdeanlombardi.

That looks like an old family photo of a trip to Yellowstone before the kid became a teenager and shut out his parents until he needed money for college. 

Richards was also put on waivers earlier in the year, but nobody claimed him. 

Richards’ salary cap buyout per General Fanager is at $1.2167 million for 2015-16, $1.7167 million for 2017-18, $2.7167 million in 2018-19, $4.2167 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21 and then $1.467 million until the contract ends in 2024-15.

Last summer general manager Dean Lombardi didn’t use a compliance buyout on Richards, which would have led to no salary cap penalty, believing Richards re-dedication to physical fitness could bring him back to form. Alas … per the Orange County Register:

Unless Richards is claimed by another team -- which is highly unlikely -- the Kings are expected to buy out the final five years and $22 million of his contract on Monday. Richards would then become an unrestricted free agent.

Before we totally filet the Kings for not using a compliance buyout on Richards a year ago – again hindsight is 20/20 – this does save the team some sort of space again per the OCR:

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.

Also, the team had just won a Stanley Cup, and managers don’t like to completely dismantle Cup Championship teams. Though in recent weeks, Lombardi has reference legendary 49ers coach Bill Walsh as a model. And Walsh generally cut ties players right before their declines started – even if the moves were unpopular – in order to stay competitive.  

Lombardi talked about the possibility of buying out Richards or stashing him in the minor leagues after LA missed the playoffs. At that time he hadn’t figured out a course of action.

In a conference call in early June, Lombardi said he was looking at “a trade, a subsidy, a buyout, and all those would probably be reflected on how the other pieces fit.”

Where will Richards go? He’s set to be an unrestricted free agent, and he can play – albeit not for the same type of contract he had before. Maybe something like a one-year deal to prove he still belongs in the NHL. It’s still amazing that the dude has dropped that far that fast.

For a cheap deal, he’s not a bad investment for one season. 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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