LOS ANGELES — As it turned out, there was a centre named Richards bought out in the NHL on Friday -- only it was Brad Richards of the New York Rangers.
Not Mike Richards of the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings decided against buying out the contract of Richards, according to GM Dean Lombardi. A compliance buyout would have aided the Kings in terms of salary-cap relief.
Richards is in the middle of a 12-year contract worth $69 million, an agreement reached when he was with the Philadelphia Flyers. He has been a key factor -- a heart-and-soul element of the leadership group -- in the Kings' two Stanley Cup championships in the last three seasons.
Lombardi is loyal to his players and said Richards was open in their meetings about his shortcomings this past season, in which he had 11 goals and 41 points in 82 regular-season games. He was dropped to the fourth line, but his play was appreciably better in the post-season and he is adept at guiding the mood of the dressing room.
Richards, who turned 29 in February, told Lombardi he realized he would have to make some adjustments in his off-season training, the general manager said.
"He was very candid," Lombardi said Friday during an interview in his office. "The most important thing is he realized he wasn't anywhere near where he is capable of being. If he's telling you, 'Well, I was good.' Then you've got a big problem. If he's not able to critique himself, then we're wasting our time.
"But he freely admitted that it was nowhere near where he was capable, and the root is not age or injury. It starts with the understanding that I've got to prepare like a 28- or 29-year-old, not a 22-year-old.
"As long as he looked me in the eye and made that promise that he would make the commitment in the off-season. Essentially, I have to trust him."
The final day for compliance buyouts is June 30. Teams had two available, dating to last summer, and the Kings did not use either of them.
For the Kings, the next order of business concerns unrestricted free-agent winger Marian Gaborik and defencemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. They have had a couple of meetings with Gaborik's representative. Gaborik, 32, acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline, just finished a five-year contract worth $37.5 million, and the Blue Jackets had picked up part of his remaining salary this season.
-- Los Angeles Times