Has Mike Richards really fallen that much? When you look at his numbers, aside from simple goal and assist totals, it doesn’t really seem like it.
His statistics suggest that he may be a casualty of his environment and he may be able to resurrect his offensive production on a new team. As we all know, the two-time Stanley Cup champ and former Olympic Gold Medalist was placed on waivers by the Los Angeles Kings on Monday morning, and he made it all the way through the wire unwanted.
Surely somebody in the NHL could use Mike Richards’ services, but as his passage through waivers suggests, nobody is going to take the risk (five more years at $5.75) without giving the Kings some salary back in return.
As per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, L.A. won’t be able to bury his contract and keep it from filling up their cap sheet — the Kings will only save $950,000 in salary relief. Had he been claimed on the waiver wire, the claiming team would be on the hook for the rest of his contract and the Kings would come out empty handed. Another thing to remember, the new CBA eliminated re-entry waivers, so the scenario where a team claims a guy and they split the remainder of the salary doesn’t exist anymore. If the Kings want to rid themselves of Richards, they either have to buy him out, or find somebody willing to trade for him.
First and foremost, wow, Richards’ basic stats look absolutely horrific. He’s got 5 goals 10 assists in 47 games, and only 12 points at even strength. With his current contract, the Kings are paying him $383,333 per point. That puts him in the Vinny Lecavalier/David Clarkson/Stephen Weiss category for production/cost. His production since joining the Kings has never really been that good. In 2013-14, he put up 11 goals and 30 assists in 82 games, a 0.50 points per game clip. In the 2013 lockout year, he scored 12 goals and 20 assists in 48 games, which would have put him on pace for around 20 goals and 60 points. Obviously his 15 points this season is terrible, but as I just mentioned, he’s never produced at a high clip in L.A, and his advanced stats have remained consistent. The one stat that seems to fluctuate is his shooting percentage.
Statistics courtesy of War-on-Ice
Richard’s shots per game dropped almost immediately after joining the Kings, which would suggest his dip could be a result in a change in system. His advanced stats stats don’t really seem to be declining as much as one would assume based on his standard stats. His shooting percentages in the past two seasons have been horrifically low, which would suggest why his production has been so bad. This could be because of poor shot selection, or it could be the result of bad luck. Regardless, his scoring chances are down slightly, but not by enough to suggest that he isn’t creating chances to score. Of course, advanced stats aren’t everything, and a big part of why the Kings have decided to move on from Richards because he simply isn’t producing and they need to allocate the money they spend on him in different areas, like finding a replacement for Slava Voynov.
To me, Richards is still a solid player. He probably isn’t the All-Star and Olympian he once was, but a serviceable player nonetheless. He’s suffered from a combination of playing in a defensive environment and really bad luck, hence his shooting percentage. If he was playing on a different team, his production could certainly spike back up. There’s a handful of teams who could afford to fit him in right now without moving anything around, like Calgary, Ottawa, Arizona, Nashville, and Buffalo. But if they wanted to take on Richards, they would have snagged him off waivers, so it’s fair to assume that if anybody is going to take him, they’re going to make the Kings take an ugly contract from them in return.
So, what teams could give Mike Richards a new home?
Of course the Oilers have had their name thrown around in the Richards discussion. They’re paper thin at centre, they seriously lack veteran leadership, and well, they’re a terrible hockey team. Richards would immediately put an end to the Oilers using 18-year old rookies and/or players like Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander in top-six situations, but he could also prove to be an albatross ala Shawn Horcoff. Regardless, Richards’ leadership would be a welcome presence on an Oilers team who seems to lack leadership and direction, and they have some ugly contracts (Purcell, Nikitin) that could be sent L.A’s way.
Like the Oilers, the Jets are pretty thin up the middle. Well, they aren’t as bad as the Oilers, but they could probably use some more depth. They’re in a nice position in terms of the cap, as they don’t have any major contracts coming off the shelf until summer 2016 (Ladd, Buff become UFAs) and they have $6.768 in cap space right now. But things seem to be working in Winnipeg right now, so why would they mess with it?
Of all the teams in the NHL, the Senators have the second most cap space ($12.829) behind only Calgary. The Sens are average down the middle with Kyle Turris, Mika Zibanejad, David Legwand, and potentially Curtis Lazar, but could take a flyer on Richards who played his best hockey when he was in the East, as a Flyer. The Sens also have a couple of bad contracts lingering around, including Colin Greening, who they just put on waivers yesterday.
Geez, that was tougher than I thought. Most teams are pressed pretty tight against the cap, and if they aren’t, there’s a reason they have a ton of cap space and could probably do a better job spending it than taking a flyer on Mike Richards. I can’t really find a contending team that can squeeze Richards into their plan. Maybe if he only had one or two more years left they could make it work, but adding five more years of guaranteed salary could really mess a team up. I think the best landing spot for Richards is a rebuilding team who can use him as a rejuvenation project either as a part of their own rebuild, or as a bargaining chip to flip at a later date for a draft pick if and when his value goes back up. Until then, let the Phaneuf for Richards speculation continue.