With the Los Angeles Kings reaching a contract settlement with center Mike Richards, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports his future remains unclear. He faces a court date on Dec. 8 on a charge of possession of a controlled substance, alleged to be an undisclosed amount of the powerful painkiller oxycodone.
Friedman states there's interest in the 30-year-old Richards, who's now an unrestricted free agent. He claims the Kings attempted to package him with two or three prospects to the Edmonton Oilers and/or Calgary Flames before his arrest last June.
Friedman also says it was Richards' contract (with a $5.75-million annual cap hit) and not his play which prevented teams from acquiring him. While the contract was obviously a significant stumbling block, the decline in his play cannot be overlooked.
Prior to Richards' trade to the Kings from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, he was considered among the league's top two-way players. He captained the Flyers to a surprising run to the 2010 Stanley Cup Final and played for Canada's gold medal-winning team at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Since then, Richards' performance steadily declined, so much so that the Kings demoted him to the minors midway through last season.
Whether the decline is due to Richards' physically demanding style of play, his lifestyle away from the rink or both, it should scream “buyer beware” to general managers thinking of signing him.
Richards is unlikely to receive serious contract offers until after his sentencing on the drug charge. If it doesn't affect his ability to play in the NHL this season, he could interest playoff contenders seeking experienced depth at center.
As for the Oilers as a potential suitor, the Edmonton Journal's David Staples doubts they're a fit. He notes they've got a younger, cheaper “and probably superior help” in promising two-way center Anton Lander, as well as off-season free-agent addition Mark Letestu.
Speaking of the Kings, TSN's Darren Dreger reports they are inching toward a new contract with center Anze Kopitar, who's eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. No word on the dollars or when the deal could get done, but Dreger claims it'll be an eight-year term.
Kopitar, 27, is among the league's elite centers. He's led the Kings in scoring every season since 2007-08. He was also their leading playoff scorer during their two Stanley Cup championship runs. A recent finalist for the Selke and Lady Byng trophies, Kopitar could get around $10 million annually on his next contract.
Some might suggest that's far too much money. However, as Dreger observes, the struggling Kings need some good news right about now, and re-signing Kopitar could provide a much-needed lift.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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