Six months after being bought out by the Los Angeles Kings, former all-star Mike Richards is returning to the NHL.
Richards signed a one-year, pro-rated contract worth $1-million with the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old, two-time Stanley Cup champion had a difficult 2015. He was placed on waivers in January and sent to the AHL, and finished the year with a career-low 16 points. In June he was stopped at a Canadian border crossing and eventually charged with possession of a controlled substance. The Kings bought out the remaining five years and $22-million of his contract.
Richards is still awaiting trial, but he met with commissioner Gary Bettman on Wednesday and was cleared to begin playing.
For the Capitals, it’s a move to add depth at center as they try to turn their (so far) great regular season into a long playoff run. And it’s extremely low risk. Barring any added bonuses or incentives, Richards will only make about $500,000 this season.
Though his production has waned over the last few years, Richards could still be an asset. The Capitals could do worse than having him centering the fourth line and killing penalties. He could also bring some leadership qualities to the Capitals. Richards has played in 124 playoff games, including 61 over the last four years – even with the Kings missing the playoffs last year. Aside from Richards’ former Kings teammate Justin Williams, no other Capitals player can boast about the kind of team success Richards has had. According to Pierre LeBrun, Williams even vouched for Richards.
If his pending trial doesn’t become a distraction, and he can regain anything close to resembling his old form, the Richards deal could be a steal for the Capitals.