The team put the 29-year-old forward on waivers this morning. If left unclaimed, he can be assigned to the AHL.
It’s a decision that’s surprising only in the timing. Richards and his massive contract have been a front-burner issue for cap-crunched L.A. for some time and there was speculation last summer that he might be bought out or traded.
The four-time 20-goal scorer has five seasons remaining on the 12-year, $69 million contract he signed in December 2007 as a member of the Flyers. Richards’ $5.75 million cap hit was difficult for the Kings to justify given his diminishing production—just five goals and 15 points through 47 games this season—and limited usage. Richards is averaging just 13:41 of ice time, ninth amongst Los Angeles forwards. The expense also made it impossible for GM Dean Lombardi to ship him out of town.
But the Kings obviously believe there’s a chance another team, possibly the Jets or the Maple Leafs, will take him off their hands before the noon EST deadline on Tuesday. Dispatching Richards to the minors only earns them $925,000 worth of cap space—useful to a team looking to acquire a top-four defenseman, but hardly a significant sum.
It’s expected that 22-year-old Nick Shore will take Richards’ spot on the fourth line.
More to come.