The Los Angeles Kings terminated the contract of forward Mike Richards on Monday, citing a “material breach” of contract.
Richards, 30, was placed on waivers on Sunday - many believed with the Kings seeking flexibility to buy him out of the five years and $22 million remaining on his deal.
Instead, with his contract terminated, the Kings would potentially only be left with a $1.32 million salary cap recapture penalty in each of the next five seasons. Richards would not receive any of the money owed to him.
“The Los Angeles Kings today have exercised the team’s right to terminate the contract of Mike Richards for a material breach of the requirements of his Standard Player’s Contract,” the Kings said in a statement. “We are not prepared to provide any more detail or to discuss the underlying grounds for the contract termination at this time.”
According to the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams may terminate a contract if “a player shall at any time: fail, refuse, or neglect to obey the Club’s rules governing training and conduct of Players, if such failure, refusal or neglect should constitute a material breach of this SPC” [Standard Player’s Contract].
A few issues:
One, if this gets the Kings out of a buyout and frees up cap room, that’s some serious finesse out of a really tight spot. With Richards’ contract off the books now (except for a salary cap recapture penalty of $1.32-million per season for the next five years) the Kings are reportedly looking into re-signing defenceman Andrej Sekera or right winger Justin Williams, and that could easily get done before an arbitration hearing addresses this unusual termination.
Two, it would have to some egregious violation for the NHLPA to stand for such a move to wipe out a guaranteed long-term contract.
Three, it would also seem that it should be a serious violation in order for the Kings to cut ties with a player when they stood firm with defenceman Slava Voynov following his domestic violence incident.
This seems like a situation destined for a courtroom and Richards has $22-million reasons to want to fight the Kings’ course of action. The NHLPA would figure to have even more.