Nothing like a major news item to start off the week. As reported earlier today by Elliotte Friedman, the Los Angeles Kings have placed center Mike Richards on waivers. We have since been inundated with questions, so let’s try to break down several issues and bring some clarity to what is going on and what might be happening in the future.
From what we have gathered via our sources, the Kings were actively involved with Richards trade talks over the past few weeks. When it became obvious to management earlier this season that things weren’t working out as planned, the original expectation was that they would hold on to Richards for a playoff push and then re-evaluate over the summer (read: likely deal him at the draft or in July). However, a number of factors – most notably the Kings’ salary cap situation, Richards’ lack of production, the team’s current standings in the Western Conference, and the development of prospect Nick Shore – led GM Dean Lombardi to explore trade talks sooner than once expected.
Three teams were most interested in trading for Richards. Yes, Dion Phaneuf had been discussed in talks with the Maple Leafs. However, the Kings were not that interested, despite their need for defense. There were two separate deals on the table from the Leafs at varying points. One involved Phaneuf, the other did not. Obviously, Lombardi was not agreeable to either. Thus, it never came to pass.
Previous discussions were believed to have taken place with the Winnipeg Jets; however that has not been solidly confirmed. One of the other teams involved was definitely the Calgary Flames. There appeared to be a deal in place between the Flames and Kings, until Calgary allegedly changed the parameters of the deal very late in the process. Again, Lombardi was not agreeable to what was presented and no deal was reached.
As we tweeted earlier today, up to three teams were still involved as late as yesterday, when the final deal fell apart. With no other trade options present, the Kings placed Richards on waivers this morning. All NHL teams now have a 24-hour window to claim him. Waivers work in reverse order – so Buffalo, Edmonton, and Arizona will have the first crack at him, and so on.
If any team claims him, they will be 100% responsible for Richards’ cap hit moving forward. The Kings would not be burdened with any of his cap hit, nor would they receive any compensation for losing him to waivers.
If no team claims Richards, he could still stay in Los Angeles. However, we’re told that is not the plan. He is expected to be sent to Manchester (AHL) under this scenario. As a matter of clarifying, though, if he was to stay in LA, the “10-game / 30-day clock” begins (similar to if he was just called up). Meaning, if he plays a 10th game or is on the roster for 30 days, he would need waivers again to be sent down to the AHL. If he goes to Manchester tomorrow, he would not need to clear waivers should Lombardi recall him at some point in the future. We should also note that the salary cap “cost” of Richards actually goes down each day. At the very least, we would assume there is a good chance he would be recalled for the playoffs, when his cap hit is not an issue anyway.
In previous articles and various radio spots, we have discussed in detail the heartfelt talks Lombardi and Richards had before the Kings won their second Stanley Cup last June. Basically, it was decided the Kings would not use their final non-cap buyout window to terminate Richards’ contract. If they had done so, he would have been paid the majority of his contract, but there would not have been a cap hit moving forward. The promise was, Richards would rededicate himself to conditioning and come into camp in September 2014 in phenomenal shape.
Now, if the Kings choose to buy him out this summer, there will be penalties involved. Richards could also end up going to another team in one of the scenarios above, and then perhaps retiring in a year or two, which will also come back to bite the Kings in penalties. We’ll deal with that potential issue at a later date. For now, here is a quick recap of what the cap impact would be should they buy Richards out this summer:
|All dollars in millions|
|salary||cap hit||savings||new cap hit|
|Buyout total (2/3)||14.67|
|spread over 10 yrs||1.47|
They can also trade him at any point after he clears waivers – soon or even over the summer – and chose to retain part of his salary. Looking at the table above, you could estimate how much they would probably prefer to retain versus directly buying him out.
Buckle up. The next 24 hours should answer many questions.
One final note, the Kings really don’t have much cap room to speak of at the moment. Sure, they could spend the cap relief they were given on the Slava Voynov contract. However, what happens if he is allowed to return this season? They’ll need that slot open. There is a growing sentiment that his situation could be resolved before the actual trial is set to begin on March 2. That process could begin quickly, as there is a pre-trial hearing set for later this week (January 28). Keep in mind, even if his legal situation is resolved before March 2, the NHL would need to reinstate him before he could play. Still, that could be a serious game changer for Lombarid’s potential re-building of the defense – if that option opens up.
Assuming Richards clears waivers and is sent to Manchester, the Kings will gain about $925K in cap space. Don’t look for them to spend that right away. We’re told they have no other deals in the works at this time. Any move for a defenseman is much more likely to come closer to the trade deadline. They remain in the market for a shutdown defenseman who can eat minutes while playing on the second pairing.
At center, Nick Shore has already been recalled from Manchester. He and Andy Andreoff will be the most likely beneficiaries of the minutes previously played by Richards.
That should just about cover everything. Any more questions?
UPDATE: A follow-up article to this story was posted here – looking at 5 myths surrounding the Richards situation. It’s a must-read.
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