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Lombardi didn’t want to lose ‘special ingredient’ by buying out Richards

Jun 25, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

Mike Richards Getty Images

The Los Angeles Kings couldn’t afford to take the decision of whether or not to keep Mike Richards lightly. This summer represented their last chance to use a compliance buyout on him and entirely shed his $5.75 million annual cap hit through 2019-20.

Richards is coming off a rough season and spent some time on the fourth line during the playoffs, so if the status quo persists, then his contract will become an obstacle. All the same, Kings GM Dean Lombardi decided to keep Richards, in part because Richards’ self-analysis following the season was accurate, but also because it wasn’t that long ago Lombardi saw firsthand what Richards can bring to the table.

“We don’t win the first Cup without him,” Lombardi told ESPN.

When Richards joined them, the Kings hadn’t won a playoff series since 2001, but he played a pivotal role in the Kings beating the Presidents’ Trophy winning Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2011 postseason. As Lombardi put it, Richards taught the Kings how to win in the playoffs and since then, they have been one of the best postseason squads in the league.

“You’re loathe to ever give up on that kind of player, it’s very difficult to find that special ingredient,” Lombardi said. “Even through his negatives this year, who rises to the occasion in the end? Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”

The Kings would rather have a guy who steps up in the playoffs rather than a regular season star. That speaks to the way the team operates as they’ve won the Stanley Cup twice in three years without so much as earning a division title in the process.

Richards wasn’t particularly good in either situation in 2013-14 and now Lombardi has to hope his continued trust in him isn’t misplaced.

  1. patthehockeyfan - Jun 25, 2014 at 12:47 PM

    My respect for Lombardi just went up a thousand percent. (And I didn’t think it could get any higher) Absolutely loved the quote: “We don’t win the first Cup without him.”

    Yes, Mike had a bad regular season. Yet, in post-season play this year, I lost count of the number of times the TV announcers remarked about his play – stealing pucks, breaking up rushes, etc., etc., etc. He played his butt off in the post-season. Richards is a winner – at every level. So glad he’s still a King.

    • petersteelewannabe - Jun 25, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      I agree with everything you said Pat…except for the last line but that’s only because I am a Flyer fan ☺

      • patthehockeyfan - Jun 25, 2014 at 1:10 PM

        Understood, peter. :)

    • phxyotes - Jun 25, 2014 at 7:23 PM

      You got your blinders on man. He’s an overpaid, run of the mill,average player making 7 million a year. He’s a 3.5 million a year player at this point in his career. He’s making more than Toews and he’s not even half the player that guy is…..

      • patthehockeyfan - Jun 25, 2014 at 7:59 PM

        Try getting your facts straight, phxyotes. Richards earns $5.75 million; Toews: $6.5 million.

        And, it’s good to know that you’re smarter than Dean Lombardi. Again, I quote him: “We don’t win the first Cup without him.” And: “Even through his negatives this year, who rises to the occasion in the end? Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”

        Keep trying, kid. One of these days, I think you might actually make a valid point.

      • phxyotes - Jun 25, 2014 at 10:08 PM

        Look it up champ, his salary is 7 million. His cap hit is 5.7 million. I’ll even link it for you.

        http://capgeek.com/player/741

      • laxman1944 - Jun 25, 2014 at 10:25 PM

        Wow you’re serious ??

        What more than 2 Stanley cups in 5 years of which he was a critical player.

        You need to look past the numbers Mike Richards has won a championship at every meaningful level of professional hockey.

        The guy SHOWS UP when it is needed the most.

  2. ntvd7 - Jun 25, 2014 at 12:51 PM

    Richards does all the small things the right way

    Lombardi would be a fool to buy out someone with that much influence on the team

    • easez1 - Jun 25, 2014 at 11:31 PM

      100% correct, but I’d change ‘influence’ to ‘presence’…..which again the year paid big dividends in the room, no question, and on the ice….see finals setup assist on Sticks OT winner, backbreaking goal on deflection of pass, and numerous key plays on the PK, especially when Rags were looking for momentum. Mike is pure winner.

  3. lateralous - Jun 25, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Assuming Richards gets back to being a good 2nd/3rd line center, I don’t think Lombardi will have any trouble unloading Richards contract in a year or two if they decide they need the cap space. It’s not really that bad and there will be plenty of other clubs out there that want to add his leadership to their young roster for the exact reasons Dean laid out in some of the quotes above.

  4. stepanup - Jun 25, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Sign of a GM that gets it. Yes, Richards can produce up to that cap number. I’ts not that bad of a number, certainly one they can live with. But what he means to that team. There was an article already this summer about how Lombardi has built that team and core to win year in and year out, and how close-knit the team is. This is part of it.

  5. moarjam - Jun 25, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    But I thought he was an alcoholic, locker room cancer?!?!

    • stcrowe - Jun 25, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      Apparently, so did Paul Holmgren.

  6. chrisk61 - Jun 25, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    richards is a gamer. he just has to drink less and work out more.

  7. phxyotes - Jun 25, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    He’s a good core player but he’s making 1st line money. I don’t blame the kings for keeping him but lets all admit he’s overpaid.

  8. hockeyflow33 - Jun 25, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    He didn’t make a knee-jerk reaction to media pressure? Weird.

  9. blomfeld - Jun 25, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    Person A: that Dean Lombardi is very ‘Nelsonian’ don’t you think ?

    Person B: I tend to agree friend ! :)

    ___________________________________________________

    The bottom line friends is that GM Dean Lombardi is to us LA Kings in 2014, what Lord Horatio Nelson was to the Royal Navy and England back in 1805 ! … a beacon of light, a standard bearer of truth and a man of providence !

    GO KINGS GO !!! …. TODAY, TOMORROW AND FOREVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    • laxman1944 - Jun 26, 2014 at 8:41 AM

      And God Save The Queen

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