In a moment of candor, Lombardi released a long statement to the Los Angeles Times, where he said Richards was caught in a “destructive spiral.”
Earlier in the day the Kings and Richards settled on a deal in regards to the team’s attempt to terminate Richards’ contract for a “material breach.”
Los Angeles ended the Richards’ contract on June 29 but never gave a reason as to why.
The decision came after Richards was reportedly stopped while crossing the border from the United States into Canada on June 17 and was questioned about the prescription painkiller Oxycodone. Later the RCMP charged Richards for possession of a controlled substance.
The NHLPA filed a grievance on Richards' behalf to try to push the case to arbitration.
The Kings are on the hook for the $1.32 million recapture penalty of Richards’ salary cap hit for the next five years plus an undisclosed amount as part of the settlement. Richards' deal was for 12 years at $69 million and he had five years and $22 million left on his contract. While the recapture penalty will last for the next five seasons, the settlement will reportedly run until 2031.
Below is the long statement by Lombardi to Lisa Dillman, the LA Times’ Kings beat reporter:
"Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career," "At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now-and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.
There was a belief the reason the Kings terminated Richards due to a drop in production. He had gone from a player with career highs of 31 goals and 80 points with Philadelphia to a player who only had five goals his final season. Los Angeles traded for Richards in the summer of 2011. His best season came his first year with the Kings when he notched 44 points.
"Anyone close enough to me knows how much I loved Mike Richards. I believed that when I had acquired him, I had found my own Derek Jeter. But the fact is that he was never close to the player that he was after his best seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10 in Philadelphia. His production dropped 50% and the certain 'it' factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily. This is a player that in 2010 was instrumental in Canada's gold medal run and by 2014, while still in his prime, was not even in the conversation for making the team."
Lombardi met with Richards two summers ago at his home in Kenora, Ontario where Lombardi was convinced to not buy out the rapidly declining forward.
"I tried everything with Mike — meeting with him constantly, sending him to concussion specialists, traveling in the off-season to visit with him at his summer home — and everything failed," Lombardi wrote. "I heard the rumors that Mike might have some off-ice issues, but I refused to believe that they were true despite some obvious signs. The reality is that I was 'played.' My only regret, though, is that I wish Mike had been able to come to me with his problem — and that was the last message I left for him on his cellphone when I learned of the incident and all the history leading up to the incident."
Before this season, the Kings hired Chris Herren to talk to the team about the dangers of drug abuse. They also aligned with the group Peace Over Violence to discuss domestic violence.
"I believe that what happened to Mike Richards is a tragedy and I cannot let it go. My short-term goal is to win championships; my long-term goal is to eventually become more involved with groups studying the changing values that are becoming increasingly evident in sport and their root causes. I certainly believe that Mike Richards must be held accountable for his actions — but when a player who at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport can become caught in such a destructive spiral, then I believe the institution of sport must begin to examine its level of culpability."
Richards wasn’t the only off-ice problem for LA last year. Defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested and charged for domestic violence against his wife. Forward Jarret Stoll was arrested and charged for drug possession in Las Vegas after the season.
Voynov eventually pled no-contest and decided to depart the United States. Stoll signed as an unrestricted free agent with the New York Rangers.
Lombardi took the blame for Voynov and also said his conversation with Stoll after the arrest was one of the most "gut-wrenching" he'd had with a player.
The 30-year-old Richards is currently an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team. He has yet to publicly comment on the matter.
- - - - - - -
MORE FROM YAHOO HOCKEY