WWYDW: A Professional Tryout for Mike Richards

Edmonton’s depth at centre is not good at the moment. With Connor McDavid on the shelf long-term, Edmonton has been employing all of Mark Letestu, Anton Lander and Andrew Miller at centre; that trio has now combined for 42 games but not a single even-strength point.

With that in mind, does it make sense for the Oilers to offer free agent centre Mike Richards a professional tryout?

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Peter Chiarelli2

Back before the Kings terminated Richards’ contract, the Oilers were discussing the possibility of a trade with Los Angeles. Via ESPN’s Katie Strang:

The team was already in the process of trying to trade him — discussions were in place with both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames — but Kings general manager Dean Lombardi immediately informed both teams upon learning about the situation that he had no prior knowledge of the incident and halted those talks, according to a source.

Circumstances have of course changed. This was all before Richards was charged with possessing a controlled substance. At the time, Richards had a brutal long-term contract, and the Kings were undoubtedly offering Edmonton incentives in exchange for taking on his onerous cap hit. The ugly cap hit is gone, but the legal trouble and lack of sweeteners may leave the Oilers without any interest in the player.

However, those trade talks do suggest that general manager Peter Chiarelli saw Richards as being capable of playing some role on his hockey team. It’s possible he still sees him as a potentially useful player in Edmonton.

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Yea or Nay?

Shrugging Veronica

Richards will be in court on December 8, but a recent report published on the Toronto Star website suggests that won’t be the end of the matter:

Hymie Weinstein, who is acting as an agent for the Toronto-based [lawyer David] Humphrey, said Richards “will certainly not be saying anything while this matter is before the court.” Weinstein said he expects Richards to plead not guilty, and that he believes the Dec. 8 hearing date will be pushed back “months and months and months.”

A long delay would afford Richards the opportunity to play in the NHL this season, and to start getting his career back on track.

At his best, Richards was a top-line two-way centre who could play in all situations, both aiding the power play and killing penalties. In 2008-09 he posted career-best numbers, scoring 30 goals and adding 50 assists in 79 games played.

He hasn’t been at his best in recent years. He was a minus player for three consecutive seasons in Los Angeles, and his underlying numbers indicate that was no fluke; the Kings were legitimately a much worse team when he was on the ice. He managed 41 points in 2013-14 but fell to just five goals and 11 assists in 53 contests last season. Recently he hasn’t been a strong two-way player or offensive option.

As always with What Would You Do Wednesday, we turn to the comments section for the answer. Would you bring Richards in? Why or why not?

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  • Kevwan

    Reality is most players in the league use some form of medication ,not just Richards.When competing at this level the body goes through so much.The long road trips several games in very short periods Many players play in vast amounts of pain.Unfortunately western medical believes in medications and surgeries
    Richards maybe,slats always gave second chances.When you sit in 30th place something must be done.Lander and Letestu are not good enough.The previous regimes and scouting staffs screwed this team up royally.
    Every year by December no chance at playoffs completely unacceptable.Trade next years first for a real defenceman.Taylor thanks for taking this team on your back You are becoming captain material ,keep it up.

  • D'oh-ilers

    Regardless of what happens with the hockey career, I’m hopeful he turns his life around. His long-term health and well being are a lot more important than playing a game, and I wish him the best.

  • 99CupsofCoffey

    I’d have called in James Sheppard first. Google tells me he’s playing in Switzerland now, though.

    This is a tough one. On one hand a PTO is a negligible risk, and Richards has a history of being able to perform in the NHL at a high level, albeit a pretty distant history. Presumably his next contract is going to be two-way, league minimum, also low-risk.

    On the other hand, you’re talking about a guy who has a reputation as a hard partier, may or may not be a drug addict, who is currently going through a legal proceeding, and who’s next offense is going to see him out of the league and possibly in jail.

    I can see why the redemption narrative has merit, especially on a team that took in Craig MacTavish after what he did and saw him become a pillar of the organization. But how far do you really want to stick your neck out for this guy?

    I don’t think I would do it. If they’re that desperate for a depth centre I would put out some feelers on whether they could get someone’s AHL tweener for future considerations. Someone like Drew Shore from Calgary, or Marc-Andre Cliche from Colorado, Travis Morin or Curtis McKenzie from Dallas. Michal Bournival out of Montreal. Boston’s gotta be about at the end of their rope with Alex Koklachev about now. They’ve got Max Talbot in the minors too. Could even talk to Toronto and see what the return of Marcobello would cost.

  • camdog

    The last two seasons Richards game has been equal to that of Gordon, Letestu, or Lander.

    If the team needed a 4th line centre that could win draws and kill penalties I might take a shot at him though.

  • Ready to Win

    I think a more productive move would be a trade involving Fayne (or some other D that doesn’t look like he’s part of the future here); it would help reduce the log jam on D and would probably bring back a better asset than a player whom no NHL team wants.

  • pkam

    If I remember correctly, LA sent him to the minors when they were fighting for the playoff last season. So their GM and HC didn’t think Richard could help their team when their life was on a rope.

    Remember, sending Richards to the minors only freed up 950K of his 5.75M salary so salary was not the reason.

    Why do we think he can help our team? Do we think we are smarter than the GM and HC of a 2 time SC winner in the last 5 years? If Lombardi and Sutter are doing everything they can to get rid of Richards, why would we want to pick up this hot potato?

  • Hemmercules

    Did anybody think that half-way through November, the Oilers would be 8 points back of the last playoff spot and last in the league?

    Yeah neither did I. And I bet Chi didn’t either. And for all those saying that it is due to McDavid’s injury, while that is correct, where would the Oilers be if we didn’t get lucky and draft Con. Say we stayed in third place and took either Noah (left handed shot) or Strome, that leaves us with the same core we have had for years with the same result.

    A shake-up is needed Oilers Nation, wake up and accept that. We do not have a Hossa/Sharp/Keith/Seabrook types, or a Doughty/Carter/Brown/Quick or a Chara/Lucic/Marchand/Rask.

    I left out Toews/Kane/Kopitar/Bergeron because we do have those elite players with skill but we are lacking the #1 and #2 D and/or elite goalie, and forwards with skill and grit.

  • WeirdG

    I think Chia knows better than to bring a bad influence into the locker room. He did get rid of Seguin in Boston because of the negative effect he was having on the team.

  • Grant Fuhrious

    Not to generalize, but usually a player that has (allegedly) been addicted or dependent on pain killers means he’s either cronically injured, or at the very least carrying a lot of baggage. No, on that account. Mike Richards circa 2009? Sign me up please. But he needs a Gary Roberts-like comback in order to make a enough of an impact to justify the risk.

      • Grant Fuhrious

        Fair, but Favre is arguably a different breed than the former. Hey, I’m rooting for Richards, and it’d be a shame if he can’t make an impact again in the NHL. But let him try somewhere else.

        • Jay (not J)

          No, they’re both human. The Oilers need a boost and no one’s going to give them any gifts in a trade. Honestly given what COULD be there the Oilers owe it to their fans to at least talk to the guy and find out if it’s worth going forward.

  • dangersuede

    For those people saying keep him away cause of his history of drugs, well sorry to say, but drugs are everywhere. They were here in the 80’s with the known people, the 90’s and even currently. It’s a fact. The thing that happened with Richards, is he got caught. Maybe he does have serious issues and if he does, hopefully this last ordeal sets him straight.

    I think give him a PTO, and see if he can out play some of our current bottom 6.

  • rocket289k

    Many successful teams (most recent example the Blue Jays) have begun to value good character almost as much as skill when evaluating players for team fit and value to the team. Richards offers neither good character (especially if the current allegations are true and past rumours of lack of commitment as telegraphed by Dean Lombardi) In addition, he’s clearly a shadow of his former skillset.

    Would you want to expose a young McDavid to all of that? I sure wouldn’t. It’s wise to remember the not so positive influence Shayne Corson had on a young Jason Arnott.

  • Mooseroni

    Would oilers like Ference keep an eye on him, short leash etc. Probably not worth the risk as it is a pretty big elephant in the room, just too much distraction IMO.

  • pkam

    I doubt we would benefit by picking Richards up . His character is much in question at this point , and doubt worth the risk . His career is also in question , seeing as his production has plummeted so far downward . Can his production be resurrected ? Why bother if Sutter could not turn the guy around ?

  • BornInAGretzkyJersey

    There seems to be an unresolved problem here. Richards was arrested at the border in illegal possession of a controlled substance, and is facing criminal charges. Would he even be allowed to cross the border again before those charges are resolved ? Would you want him if he could only play home games ?

    BTW my vote would be no even if those questions could be satisfied.

    Because someone will bring it up,
    P. Kane is not a valid comparable here. Different crime, was still under investigation and no decision to file charges had been made. It is very likely IMHO that the Hawks and the league had inside information that enabled them to bring Kane back prior to the issue being resolved.

  • The Last Of Barrett's Privateers

    I have no idea how he could be a cancer as some have suggested.

    If you sign him to the league minimum the cost in getting rid of that cancer is nothing.

    Whats the league stance on asking for urine sample as part of his signing?

    If he sites NHLPA reg’s then walk away.

    Bottom line is he’s experienced, he’s probable a better option than Lander right now.

    He plays tuff and can kill penalties.

    Sather use to find reclamation projects all the time.

    I say go for it.

  • Klam

    Man I am torn, on one hand the room seems to have enough problems. (Vocal Leaders, accountability from the players, win at all costs)

    But if Richards could come in, revive himself to being a productive 2 way center then that would help on many levels.


    but I would if the price was right sign for a tryout.

  • BornInAGretzkyJersey

    Since none of us are in the room with the guys, I’ll abstain from any conjecture about how good or bad an influence Mike Richards (or any other player) would be on the team.

    What I would offer is that the guy used to be an elite centre and that has value. However, I don’t think it outweighs the fact that he’s a step (or more) behind the play. Not behind his old pace, but behind the pace of the fourth line. That’s an issue to me, especially on a team that has defensive holes and issues with speed outside the top one or two forward lines.

    So my vote would be no PTO, no bargain contract.

    As management has previously stated, this is a development year. Sign someone else or, ideally, give prospects (Miller, Yak2.0, et al) an audition until McDavid is back in about 6-8 weeks.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    No to Richards, mainly because he isn’t very good anymore.
    Plus Centre isn’t our position of need. Focus on improving our defense.
    Oilers win tonight 5-3.

    • Jay (not J)

      The question is about a tryout, not a roster spot. I don’t think anyone here is advocating that he be given a job before he demonstrates that he could still perform.

  • Semenko27

    I say for cheap money, give him a shot. What’s the worst that can happen, he makes everyone play bad and we fall into last place?. Sign him for yesterdays practice towels and take a chance.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Kinda cart before horse here too I think. He’s a guy who’s trying to revive his career. It’s very likely that there would be 29 other teams that he would prefer to go to. If any one of them express interest, this might not even be a possibility

  • S cottV

    You would have to have as much of the inside story as possible.

    How bad was it and what is the likelihood of a relapse.

    There is a point where it may have been just too ugly to wanna touch, but – I wouldn’t get too carried away with close mindedness either.

    I agree with a prior poster that there are times when different characters (good, bad, nice, scary, rich, poor, spoon fed, hard knocks, squeaky clean, suspect, reclaimed) can be led into a very powerful group force.

    Without going too far you want this variety of character.

    Hockey teams are generally made up of the good guys and the bad guys. Best to represent your captains with the good and the bad. If all squeaky clean good guys – you turn off the bad guys. At the end of the day – if you can get the most out of both groups and further get them to respect and support each other – it can be very powerful.

    The Oiler have to many squeaky clean good guys in leadership positions.

    Not saying Richards is the answer cause I don’t know enough about him, but I would be too close minded if he can still play.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I say let’s ignore the drug charges, and just not bring him in because he’s simply not good enough. From all accounts he’s a slower skater that’s lost a stride and can no longer keep up with the higher speed of today’s NHL.

    I have my doubts he’d be an upgrade from RNH, Draisaitl, Lander, Letestu or even one of the kids on the farm. But maybe I’m wrong.

    I have no issues with a try out to take a look, but I certainly have my doubts about him actually being an improvement to the team. Plus Don’t we have too many guys on the 23 man roster as it is? Who we sending down when Jultz comes back?

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    If you want an older guy with a drug problem mentoring a bunch of young kids to win a few games now go for it. I know drugs are everywhere but this team needs to solve this problem in house. The only player we should be bringing in is a Dman anything else is spinning your wheels and window dressing from my point of view.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I guess I’m maybe a bit more on the fence to this and a PTO wouldn’t be a problem if they were to sort a few things out. I don’t know how much you can legally do with an NHL contract but maybe some behaviour clauses that allow for termination if certain things are done would be a start. I would also get him seen by a psychologist and any other medical professionals to know if what his issues are can be dealt with, and if his head is in the right space. If it’s all possible and a program for any issues he has can be put in place, then I don’t see the harm.

    I see it as a case of not what he has done, but what he is going to do and despite many arguments here, MacT turned out alright after his issues and though he was/is a part of the car crash that was the Oil, he has done well for himself and for the Oil if that makes sense?

    If Richards can play and his problems can be dealt with, then I don’t see any harm in it, but I don’t know if his off ice issues are behind him and that’s for medical professionals to be able to assess.