Mike Richards and What The Future May Hold


It was announced Sunday afternoon that Mike Richards of the Los Angeles Kings would be put on waivers. This isn’t a new experience for Richards, who was placed on waivers back in January of this year, was unclaimed and ultimately relegated to the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs. The question that arises is: can Richards still be relevant in the sense of production and leadership within today’s NHL? If so, which team might give him a shot?

Just over half a decade ago, Richards was in his mid-20s playing (as well as acting as captain from 2008-2011) for the Philadelphia Flyers, and was a perennial 60+ point contributor season-in and season-out. On top of that, looking back, Richards has a list of achievements that include: a Memorial Cup (2003), a Calder Cup (2005), a WJC Gold Medal (2005), NHL All Star honors (2008), a Olympic Gold Medal (2010) and 2 Stanley Cups with the Kings. But ultimately, that was the past, and now it’s time to look at the future.

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Finishing out last season in the AHL, Richards managed to tally 3 goals and 14 points in 16 games. While these numbers may look great associated with a maturing, aspiring young prospect, we are talking about a player that was once considered one of the game’s bright stars and that is still signed to make $6 million next season, as well as an annual average of $5.75 million going forward through the end of his current 12-year contract in 2019-2020. While the Kings are expected to buy out the remainder of his contract, where does this leave Richards looking forward?

Putting the question of recent production on the backburner, could Richards be used as a mentor? Well the answer in my books is a strong maybe. Reports, although not concrete, dating back to the 2011 trade that shipped him to LA, stated that it was due to his (and teammate Jeff Carter’s) partying and potentially detrimental lifestyle that they brought into the locker room. Dan Gross of the Philadelphia Daily News reportedly spoke to then-Flyers GM Paul Holmgren about the team’s locker room code of restraining from drinking, this came from the report:

"“Each player was asked to write his number on a locker room board as a pledge. No. 17 (Carter) and No. 18 (Richards) were absent from the board on the first Dry Island, as well as the estimated five more times the policy was instituted.”"

Even word traveled around the league, as Alexander Burrows poked fun in attempt to get under Richards’ skin during a game between the Canucks and Kings. Here is description of the on-ice incident as reported by The Vancouver Sun Sports Blogs,

"…while waiting for the faceoff, Burrows scooped up snow with the blade of his stick. He began flipping it, and then, cradling his pile of snow, he pointed the blade toward Richards. Many saw it as him poking fun at some, well, alleged lifestyle choices. An official thought it offensive enough to jump in the middle, putting a stop to it."

On the flip side, Richards did captain a team and has a long list of accomplishments on his hockey resume, which could be an attractive piece of the pie to speak for potential suitors. Also, he brings playoff experience having played 124 postseason contests throughout his pro career.

Moreover, what place would be better than the the Florida market, which is out of the limelight, for Richards to redevelop his game.

Coming from this, I can see two teams in particular possibly reaching out to Richards in free agency. The first being the Florida Panthers. The Panthers are a young but overachieving team that was able to finish in the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference last season. Although the Panthers already roster aged veterans in Jaromir Jagr and Brian Campbell, Richards could be used to help usher along the development of youngsters Brandon Pirri, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad.

Moreover, what place would be better than the Florida market, which is out of the limelight, for Richards to redevelop his game. The other team that I see as a possible suitor for Richards’ services is the Ottawa Senators. The Sens are another young team (average age of 26.38 yrs) who could use Richards experience to help grow the young crop of Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Curtis Lazar. While Ottawa is a bigger market in a hockey sense, Richards adds experience in the playoff department as Ottawa has failed to advance past the Conference Semifinals since their Stanley Cup Finals berth in 2006-2007. Also, Richards could fit nicely into the second line, centering a talented set of wingers in Matt Hoffman and Bobby Ryan.

Either way, Richards is likely to clear waivers and be bought out. If he wants to play next season, look for him to settle for a one- or two-year ‘show me” contract as his new team looks to keep the gamble to a minimum. We will just have to see how this pans out, and come next fall (depending on a contract) how he plays and holds up in the NHL once again.

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