LA Kings terminate contract of Mike Richards; legal battle looms

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<span>LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 27: (L to R) Mike Richards and Kings President/ General Manager Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings address members of the media 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)</span>

Mike Richards

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 27: (L to R) Mike Richards and Kings President/ General Manager Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings address members of the media 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)

It’s never a dull moment with the Kings. On Monday, after Mike Richards cleared waivers and we all thought Los Angeles would just absorb a smaller portion of his cap hit on his massive contract, the team announced it was going to terminate the forward’s deal for breach of contract.

The release from the team please …

“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.  We are not prepared to provide any more detail or to discuss the underlying grounds for the contract termination at this time.”

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This seems like something neither Richards, nor his reps nor the NHLPA would be amenable to, depending on why the Kings decided to do this. Richards’ 12-year $69 million contract was supposed to run through 2019-20. LA acquired Richards in the summer of 2011. He won two Stanley Cups with the team, but never seemed to play to his prior level with Philadelphia where he was the team's captain. His highest point total with the Kings was 44. 

Last year, he spent part of the season buried in the minor leagues. The Kings did not use a compliance buyout on Richards last summer believing he had dedicated himself to a new conditioning program

LA general manager Dean Lombardi is a lawyer, a Tulane law school grad. The Kings also have Jeff Solomon on staff, who is the team’s VP/hockey operations and legal affairs. They don’t tread on these issues lightly without looking at all the legal facts.

Notes the LA Times’ Lisa Dillman:

Via Sportsnet, Kings director of VP of hockey ops/player personnel Mike Futa was on The Fan 590 in Toronto on Monday morning. The meeting in Kenora was in reference to the previous summer.

"(Dean Lombardi) flew into Kenora and looked Mike in the eye and felt it was comfortable we were going to have him buy in a little bit better, but it just didn’t work out…He’s the one who’s got to look in the mirror in regards to his decision.”

TSN’s Bob McKenzie said this frees the Kings of Richards and his $5.75 million salary cap hit, though there will be a recapture penalty of $1.32 million per-year. And this enables Richards, now an unrestricted free agent, to sign anywhere via the league and the Kings. McKenzie also said a grievance could be filed, though it could take months or years for a resolution. Basically...

“We are in the process of reviewing the facts and circumstances of this matter, and will discuss the situation with the player in order to determine the appropriate course of action,” NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said. 

Is this a way to just wriggle free of the team’s financial obligation to Richards? Or did Richards do nothing wrong? Stay tuned. 

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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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