Forward Mike Richards' career with the Los Angeles Kings is coming to an abrupt end.
The Kings placed Richards on unconditional waivers for the purpose of buying out the remaining five years of his contract, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Sunday. The person added that Montreal forward P.A. Parenteau and Anaheim defenseman Mark Fistric have also been placed on unconditional waivers.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the teams have not announced the decisions.
The players will spend 24 hours on waivers. If unclaimed, they will have their contracts bought out and become unrestricted free agents.
Richards is the most high-profile and priciest of the players hitting the market.
He is in the midst of a $69 million, 12-year contract which runs out in 2020. By buying out Richards, the Kings partially alleviate the $5.75 million annual salary cap hit, though part of his salary will still count against the team's payroll through 2024-25.
The move does not come as a surprise, even for someone who played a key role in helping the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and `14.
Richards' declining production led to the Kings demoting the 10-year NHL veteran to Manchester, their American Hockey League affiliate, in January.
The four-time 20-goal scorer finished last season with a career-low five goals and 16 points in 53 NHL games.
The Kings have already started reshaping their roster after missing the playoffs last season. On Friday, L.A. acquired top-line forward Milan Lucic in a trade with Boston.
Parenteau, a seventh-year player, had one year left on his two-year contract, and was set to make $4 million next season. He finished with eight goals and 22 points in 56 games with Montreal.
Fistric, a hard-hitting defenseman, had two years left on his contract. He had no points in just nine games with the Ducks, and closed the season in the minors.
Nashville Predators forward Richard Clune cleared waivers on Sunday, and will have the remainder of his contract bought out. He played just one game with the Predators last season, and spent the remainder of the season in the minors.