So begins the legal wrangling over Mike Richards’ terminated contract.
The NHLPA tweeted that it filed a grievance to contest the Los Angeles Kings attempt to terminate Richards’s contract for a “material breach.”
Los Angeles did not give any official reason why it took such a drastic step, but the belief is it has to do with a reported border issue involving the prescription pain drug oxycodone. And Richards’ declining numbers off a 12-year, $69 million contract that ran through 2019-20 probably (no definitely) also played a role.
Richards hadn’t hit the 20-goal mark since 2010-11 with Philadelphia. His highest point total in his four seasons with the Kings was 44.
The Kings announced the termination of the deal on June 29, and it was widely expected NHLPA would contest.
From a Forbes article in late July:
You can bet that the NHLPA will not accept the termination of Richards contract and will challenge it by way of arbitration. For the NHLPA, it simply cannot allow this precedent to stand as it could adversely impact its members. By allowing the termination to go unchallenged, the floodgates risk opening with teams terminating problem contracts. ‘He’s fat, cut him. He’s slow, cut him.’
That sounds a little extreme, but the crux of the argument makes sense. The NHLPA had no choice but to contest, otherwise the precedent would be terrible for its members.
The Kings said they would not comment on the matter when reached via email by Puck Daddy.
And as for the next steps:
As per Article 17 of the CBA, the NHLPA would take this case to arbitration. Paragraph 17.5 calls for an “impartial arbitrator”, which means Commissioner Gary Bettman would not hear this case.
The CBA calls for arbitration, which means it is mandatory. Richards, or the Kings for that matter, cannot simply bypass it and head to court. When terms are collectively bargained like an arbitration process, judges don’t want to see you skip it and head to court. Most of the time, they will very politely, but pointedly, ask you to leave.
The Kings currently have $6.3 million in salary cap according to General Fanager, though not counting Slava Voynov’s $4.167 million hit, which is not being counted as he continues to serve his suspension for domestic violence.
With the termination, the Kings would only be on the hook for $1.32 million per-year over the next five seasons. With a traditional buyout, LA would have to pay a cap hit peaking at $4.2 million at 2018 and 2019. Though it would be lower than what the Kings would have to pay Richards if he played out the length of the deal. Here is that full breakdown via General Fanager again.
When and how will this end? Currently it’s quite unclear. When it comes to the Kings and the law, everything and anything is possible.
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