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Mike Richards skating with former junior team; comeback in store?

Now skating with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, former L.A. King Mike Richards is working himself into playing shape. NHL teams may be interested.
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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

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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.

YEAR

CAP HIT

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.