How much salary would the Kings need to retain to make Mike Richards tradable?

Mike Richards has two Stanley Cup rings, a reputation as a two-way forward, and plays a position the Oilers desperately need help in.

He also has years of diminishing returns (in three full years in the West, he’s never cracked the 50-point mark), a general manager complaining about his summer training regimen and a Horcoffian $5.75 million cap hit for the rest of this season and the five that follow it.

Is there a trade to be made there?

Darren Dreger

This is TSN’s Darren Dreger talking about Richards’ availability on TSN 1260 a few days ago (via Nichols on Hockey):

Again, he’s not a fourth-line player. We know that. In L.A. he was during the Stanley Cup Final and he accepted that role because of the type of character he is. He’ll do anything to win a Stanley Cup. I think that he’s a real good third-line player, and on a weaker team he could certainly be that No. 2 guy. He’s got a beefy contract, as we know. He’s got another three years, at what – 5.75? But if he’s playing in your 2 spot or third-line center, that’s an acceptable figure. There’s nothing wrong with that. So this is going to be a tough one for Dean Lombardi because he loves Mike Richards, again, as a character guy. But given the cap issues of the Los Angeles Kings, I don’t think that – they can’t not look at everything. And as Bob McKenzie reported a week or so ago, Richards’ name is definitely out there.

One trade consideration not mentioned here is that Richards may or may not have a no-move clause; his contract with Philadelphia originally included one but the Flyers traded him before it kicked in. That may or may not mean the clause is invalidated.

Dreger significantly understates Richards’ contract, which runs six more years including this one, and further suggests he’s a No. 2 centre. Is he?

Richards in a Box

Richards is an all-purpose player who has roles on both special teams. In Los Angeles in 2013-14 he averaged 12:33 at even-strength, 1:33 on the penalty kill and 2:51 on the power play. He isn’t big (5’11”, 196 pounds) but he does play a somewhat physical style. He’s also excellent on faceoffs. He’s a reasonably good skater and a thinking man’s player whose hockey sense might be his best attribute.

What does he look like statistically?

Season GP PTS/82 5v5 P60 CorsiRel QCRk. OZStart
2011-12 74 49 1.55 -15.4 5 50.2
2012-13 48 55 1.58 -6.6 5 55.8
2013-14 82 41 1.41 -4.1 6 58.0
2014-15 19 30 1.14 -3.1 11 44.0

Let’s walk through those numbers.

The first key one is PTS/82, or the number of points Richards’ totals project to over an 82-game schedule. Even boosting his games played, the only time he tops the 50-point mark is in 2012-13; for the most part he’s a mid-40’s point scorer and at age 29 he’s not getting any better. It’s worth remembering that those numbers come with significant power play time, too. If we move one column over to 5v5 P60 (points per hour in five-on-five situations) he comes in low and has for years. There isn’t really a comparable Oilers player over the same time period (he’s somewhere south of Sam Gagner offensively over these years) but he compares well in terms of even-strength scoring to a guy like Patrik Berglund in St. Louis.

In other words, in terms of scoring he’s a third-line centre at this point.

The next three columns help round out the picture. CorsiRel is his team’s shot attempts plus/minus with Richards on the ice vs. when other players on the ice. Richards’ numbers are lousy here, but he’s also playing for the Los Angeles Corsi Kings, so being slightly in the negatives isn’t a big deal at all. He’s mostly played second line level competition, and his zone start is generally in the average range for L.A. (though he’s also clearly trusted in the defensive zone, as his numbers this year reveal).

Given his team, I’m inclined to say that he’s probably a very reasonable third-line guy at even-strength. He’s not in the years of steep decline just yet, he can add value on special teams and he has a range of skills; this is a player most teams (including the Edmonton Oilers) could use. But it would be a bad idea to think of him as a No. 2 pivot, because on merit he probably isn’t.

Long-Term Thinking

Craig MacTavish2

Richards isn’t a stop-gap; if the Oilers acquire him he’s going to be with them for the long haul which means the team needs to look beyond this season to assess his fit.

There shouldn’t be any worries about having too many good centres on the long-term depth chart, even with prospects coming and assuming Leon Draisaitl develops into a star; teams all over the NHL play centres on the wing all the time and that’s a perfectly rational thing for the Oilers to do as well. So let’s ignore that part of it.

A team adding Richards down the middle is committing to an intelligent, well-rounded player in the slot. They’re also committing to a small pivot entering the back half of his career.

Richards would slot in as the No. 2 pivot on the current depth chart, but eventually he’d be the team’s No. 3 option. It’s okay to overpay a little bit in some positions (as the Oilers did with Boyd Gordon, a contract nobody complains about) so to me it would be alright if Richards were earning a little more than the comparable Berglund ($3.7 million per year). That would mean L.A. would need to be willing to retain somewhere between $1.5 and $2.0 million per year for the next six seasons; if they were willing to do that the Oilers would need to think about making a deal.

But even so, Richards is a ‘last resort’ option in my view because of his age and the term left on his deal. Compare, for example, the 26-year-old, 6’3″, 217 pound Berglund; how much better would he fit with the team given his age, contract and size? It’s reasonable to think that there are better fits out there.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Zarny

    @justsaying

    Yes, especially with this draft. Strome certainly looks like a helluva player, but some reports have Hanifin as the best D prospect since Doughty. He shoots left but if McDavid and Eichel are off the board that’s tough to pass up.

  • Johnnydapunk

    Maybe this is crazy talk, which is more than possible, but I would want a deal only if it was a package with Quick. I think the Kings are also in a market for a defenceman with the Voynov issue so go blockbuster and take Richards and Quick for one of the Semi NHL Goalies the Oil have, Nikitin or Petry, and something else maybe even Yakupov ?

    That would solve the goalie nightmare of the Oil, some cap space for the Kings, they would also replace Voynov as I don’t know how the NHL will react to him being formally charged today, as well as the Center problem the Oil have.

    Again it’s a bit crazy and possibly not a good trade, but I just think that the Kings are kindof in a tough spot now with Voynov, and I wouldn’t want to make it so easy for them to get out of it.

    • The scouts have failed....

      This might be the worst trade I’ve ever seen on here and that’s saying something with some of the package deals going to Nashville for Weber.

      You sure you don’t want Doughty tossed in too, he would solve the #1 Defenseman problem, just add Teddy Purcell to the package and I’m sure Lombardi will have those papers faxed over to the league office in a heartbeat.

      No team is in that tough of a spot to ever give up a guy that got them two stanley cups and in contention for a third and he’s in his prime with a nice salary cap number. Quick isn’t going anywhere and I’m pretty sure that Edmonton will be the last place he asks to be traded too should he ever get tired of winning and living beside the beach.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I doubt LA considers taking salary back on Richards, It is a front loaded contract. The actual salary dollars at the end fall and are no where near the cap hit, which means LA assumes the risk of a fairly hefty salary cap recapture at the end of the contract, not the team he is traded to. i.e. I doubt LA is not going t o retain salary when it retains liability for a substantial salary cap recapture.

    2014-15 $7,000,000
    2015-16 $6,000,000
    2016-17 $5,500,000
    2017-18 $4,500,000
    2018-19 $3,000,000
    2019-20 $3,000,000

    • Harry2

      Salary recapture hey? Are you saying Richards is going to retire at 34?

      The only thing that’s going to stop him from playing out this contract is a career ending injury. LA is going to have to take on salary for this player at that cap hit.

  • Serious Gord

    Since we are out of the playoffs again by mid-Novemeber I’ve begun to think of ways to turn this thing around.

    I am thinking we should try to as reassemble as many ex-Oilers via UFA signings as possible. All of the following players are available this summer:

    Horcoff – dependable 2 way Centre (not making $7m)
    Visnovsky – PP specialist
    Cole – Power forward
    Brewer – Steady stay at home D-man
    Souray – Size on the D w/ wonder bomb shot (don’t laugh)
    Hejda – Steady stay at home D-man
    Brodziak – Centre w/ size and PK specialist
    Glencross – Power Forward
    Cleary – Utility Center PK specialist

    Who cares if some are a little long in the tooth. They don’t show birth certificates on the the score sheet. Plus it’s the only way to afford them now. Some are in their their prime. In any event, we can get all these guys without giving anything up.

    The top 5 D would be Brewer, Hejda, Souray, Visnovsky, Fayne and Marincin. With Nurse, and Klefbom developing in the AHL. This would be a scary improvement.

    How do we make cap room you ask?

    Trade Schultz and Purcell for picks, and buy out Nitkitin and Ference. $16 million instantly. Cull another 3 forwards and you have something close to $20M.

    The Heatley’s of the world play for $1m a year now so most of the ex-Oilers above wouldn’t cost a lot (with the exception of Brewer and maybe Glencross).

    May not win the Cup, but I guarantee they wouldn’t be out of the playoffs by mid November.

    This is what I am resigned to do now as an Oilers fan. Dreaming of the days we used to miss the playoffs by 3 points.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If he’d come here, anything the Kings would be willing to retain would be a bonus. 25% would be a home run if possible.

    Can’t think he’d give a team with zero commitment to winning a seconds thought/consideration.

    Mind you, Nikitin,Pouliot and Fayne came only for the money, so who knows where his focus is.

  • The scouts have failed....

    Since I would prefer to build a playoff team now instead of waiting on another 18 year old.

    So why don’t we fix the Oil and overpay a little on a few trades to make sure we are out of the MacDavid lottery?

    I propose 3 trades:
    To Buffalo – 2015 first round pick, and Nikitin
    To Edmonton – Myers and Stewart, plus retain some of Nikitin’s salary to make it work if needed

    To Winnipeg – Eberle and forward prospect
    To Edmonton – Byfuglien and rights to Burmistrov

    To St Louis / LA – Schultz
    To Edmonton – Berglund / Richards (with the Kings retaining salary)