Los Angeles, CA, United States (4E Sports) – The Los Angeles Kings, fresh from winning the Stanley Cup, have decided to keep center Mike Richards after a crucial exit meeting.
“His self-analysis was dead on,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said.
Because of it, the Kings will not use their NHL’s final compliance buyout window on Richards, who has six years left on a deal that counts $5.75 million per season on the team’s cap.
Richards’ play had dropped off so badly during the regular season that he had fallen to fourth-line status. The rap was that Richards wasn’t in great physical shape when the season started.
“Everyone knows what this guy brings. He’s very hard to find,” said Lombardi. “I just think he’s at a stage in his career where he has to change the way he prepares in the offseason. You can’t prepare the same way at 29 you did at 22. That’s what it comes down to.”
Richards maintained that fourth-line role in the playoffs, although what transpired this spring is what the Kings have come to expect from Richards, some clutch performances in helping Los Angeles win another Cup over the New York Rangers.
That playoff performance helped sway the Kings front office to keep him, but hearing from Richards in the exit meeting was important too.
Lombardi said he has faith in Richards, who has had big moments for a team that’s won two Cups in three years.
“You’re loathe to ever give up on that kind of player. It’s very difficult to find that special ingredient. Even through his negatives this year, who rises to the occasion in the end? Time and again he shows up at critical moments,” he said.