Wednesday November 11th, 2015

Could Mike Richards be on the verge of a return to the NHL?

The free-agent center has been skating with his former junior team, the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, presumably to work himself into shape for a comeback.

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Neither Richards nor his agent, Pat Morris, was available for comment on Wednesday morning, but the 30-year-old is thought to be interested in landing another NHL gig after having his previous contract terminated by the Los Angeles Kings on June 29 for what the team termed “a material breach.” Richards was reportedly stopped while crossing the border from the United States into Canada on June 17. After an RCMP investigation, he was charged with possession of a controlled substance, believed to be painkillers

The NHLPA filed a grievance of the termination on behalf of Richards, leading to a settlement on Oct. 9. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the total payout came to $10.5 million with a $1.32 million recapture penalty and part of Richards' salary counting against the Kings’ cap through the year 2032. The one-time only deal also left Richards a free agent and reportedly angered the league’s other GMs who saw it as a shifty way of getting rid of an essentially useless player with a hefty contract. However, the NHL kept an eye out for any possible cap dodging and the settlement was legal under the terms of the current CBA between the league and the NHLPA.

The Mike Richards settlement
2015-16 $3.12 million
2016-17 $1.57 million
2017-18 $1.57 million
2018-19 $1.57 million
2019-20 $1.57 million
2020-21 $700,000
2021-22 $900,000
2022-23 $900,000
2023-24 $700,000
2024-25 $700,000
2025-26 $600,000
2026-27 $600,000
2027-28 $600,000
2028-29 $600,000
2029-30 $500,000
2030-31 $500,000
2031-32 $400,000

Although his production and overall play have been in sharp decline in recent years—he scored just five goals and 16 points in 53 games last season for the Kings—his leadership and grit might encourage a few teams to kick his tires with a low-dough, two-way deal. Among those who might be interested: the Predators, Maple Leafs and Bruins, who may be looking for a depth center after losing Chris Kelly for the season.

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