The Flames and Mike Richards

Even though Mike Richards has already cleared waivers,there are persistent rumours that the Calgary Flames are still in talks with the LA Kings to acquire the former Flyer captain and two-time Cup winner. 

The hypothetical trade, of course, is complicated one because it’s a salary dump rather than a pure hockey deal. Richards’ contract is expensive and goes on forever. He’s also 29 and has seen his play deteriorate rapidly over the last few seasons. Though he’s still a functional (if grossly overpaid) NHLer, the Flames aren’t calling the Kings because they want Mike Richards. They’re calling them because they can make Mike Richards go away.

For a price.

Why the Kings are Desperate

Salary dumps are rare because NHL clubs are loathe to part with quality assets in order to make a problem go away. Usually they pursue other means like a buy-out or demotion to assuage the problem. 

But the Kings are in a uniquely vulnerable position with Richards.

Beyond the fact that he’s incredibly poor value for $5.75M per season and that his contract extends to 2020 (!!), Los Angeles is facing an epic cap crunch as early as next summer. They currently have 4 players signed for more than $5M per season not counting Richards – Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and (fellow salary dump candidate) Dustin Brown. Together, they account for $25M in cap space.

Justin Williams (UFA), Jarrett Stoll (UFA), Tyler Toffolli (RFA), Tanner Pearson (RFA) and Kyle Clifford (RFA) are all in line for raises in the off-season, while new contracts for Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez ($4M/year a piece) go live next year. Robyn Regehr will also have to be re-signed or replaced. Collectively, that’s likely another $25M (or more) in cap space. 

Not included in these calculations? Jonathan Quick ($7M), Marian Gaborik ($4.875M), Slava Voynov ($3M – whose status is up in the air) and, of course Mike Richards ($5.75M). That’s another $20.63M or $70M+ altogether. And that’s still not the entire roster.

On top of all that is the fact that the weak Canadian dollar all but guarantees there’ll be no significant raise in the cap next year. Not to mention the fact that Anze Kopitar will be looking for a new contract (and another raise) in 2016. 

Why The Other Options Suck

But what about buy-out or demotion? They are problematic. 

A buy-out would cost Los Angeles $14.67M and incur a cap penalty of $1.467M per year for the next 10 seasons. That saves the Kings about $4M in cap space per year until 2020, but it’s a very pricey option for something that doesn’t make the problem go away completely (and, in fact, extends the pain until 2025). 

As for demotion, the new CBA only allows the Kings to save a mere $900k in cap space by sending Richards to the minors per season. And, of course, they’d have to continue to pay him the full $5.75M to ride buses. 

So a demotion barely makes a dent and a buy-out is costly and carries an unpleasant cap penalty with it. 

Why the Flames Are Interested

Calgary has the cheapest roster in the NHL and some well heeled owners. They have the cap budget and financial wherewithal to absorb the Richards contract. Brad Treliving can do Dean Lombardi a big favour. But it’s going to cost the Kings GM. 

Tyler Toffolli or Tanner Pearson are the presumed price tag. A high quality prospect and a first round pick in 2015 have also been bandied about. Frankly, discussions would have to start with a first round pick given the size of commitment and risk a team would be taking on by acquiring Richards.

The other supposed option is a swap of problematic contracts, but frankly the Flames don’t have any deals that are bad enough to qualify. While Brandon Bollig, Deryk Engelland, Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid and Matt Stajan might be overpaid relative to their contributions, their deals aren’t bad enough to warrant a “problem swap” with the Kings. Besides, Calgary has no pressing cap concerns. 

LA obviously has other salary dump avenues (the Sabres, for instance), but they likely aren’t going to find a partner who will do this deal for a middling prospect or mid-round draft pick. It’s going to be expensive no matter who is on the other end of the phone.    

Conclusion

The Flames were unable to leverage their enviable cap situation last off-season to grab some assets, but they are in a good position to land a Tyler Toffoli or collection of high-end futures from the Kings given LA’s precarious cap situation. It will just come down to what Lombardi is willing to part with to make his issues disappear vs what Treliving is willing to accept to take on that burden. 

  • everton fc

    We should be negotiating with LA for Richards. There are teams that would like to get rid of salary but would never give up proper value in player assets & then there are only a couple teams that are caught like the Kings right now. They are in the middle of the perfect storm & you have to like our execs trying to take full advantage of this. So we need to do the right perspective. If we want to max out the ransom & to me, the minimum ransom would be a 2015 1st rounder. That’s huge guys, especially from a team that currently does not sit in a playoff position & their schedule is horrible coming up. We could get an extra lottery ticket punched in on the McEichel sweeps. I agree with Christian, no way no how are LA going to give up Tofolli & probably Pearson either. But that 1st rounder is fair game. Richards & a 1st for GlenX I would probably do. I personally can’t see us getting anything for GlenX & if going to play for Daryl is the ticket for him to waive his NMC. Fine. Ideally I would rather flip Stajan instead of Glencross but I don’t think that gets us a 1st from LA. You never know but they would only net out about 2.5 mill in cap savings over the next 3 years. That may not be worth a 2015 1st. After 3 years, that Richards contract will be way easier to buyout for either team. Personally, I would take a 2 time Cup champion & former Olympic Gold medalist as mentor over the next 3 years over Stajan. Players give you about the same kind of production on the ice. But that would be the deal I would hold out for. But if it takes GlenX for Richards & 1st I’d do it & then I would see what value Stajan or Richards with salary eaten is worth out there. What destinations would a 3.75mill per year Richards become more appealing to? We have options coming out the ting yang over the next few years & by year 3 when we have players to resign, buy him out at that time. To me, him & Stajan are redundant except Stajan is properly priced. Stajan for Petry anyone?

  • piscera.infada

    I like our depth at center right now. Mike Richards only slightly improves that depth. It makes no sense to me to make a deal for him. We could have had him 2 days ago for nothing!

    The thought of us giving up ANYTHING at all to get this guy makes me cringe.

    Not to mention that we would want to do anything to help[ the Kings have cap space to bring in a defenseman is beyond any sort of reasoning to me.

    Isn’t this the team we are trying to beat to get to the playoffs?

    • Avalain

      Well, yes, giving up something for Mike Richards is a bad deal. The deal is purely salary dump. We take a good player from LA and in return we also take Mike Richards.

  • Dayzz

    Considering how desperate LA’s situation is, and the lack of suitable trading partners (either due to lack of interest, or cap capacity), that leaves Calgary being the most likely target for Lombardi to initiate talks with. This is what BT needs to take full advantage of and acquire as many assets as possible from LA in the process, without giving up any of our own assets in return; after all we are doing a HUGE favor for a divisional rival that is neck and neck with us in the playoff picture. If I’m in BT’s shoes, I’m asking for Toffoli, and the Kings 1st rounder along with Richards, for Stajan. This way we get a few assets back along with Richards, and only end up losing an expendable asset (Stajan) considering our centre depth. Maybe also throw in a 4th round or later pick if Lombardi really pulls your leg. Just my two cents.

  • T&A4Flames

    I would imagine the “what to do with Richards” argument is moot as i would assume the plan is to squeeze every last drop of value out of that asset by eating some salary and flipping him to the Leafs for example.

    BB has a friendly trading partner in the Leafs who happen to be in need of a veteran centre and who also happen to be the other team rumoured to be interested. If BB and BT can work as the middle man to broker a deal to get Richards from LA to TOR then the return could be lucrative.

  • JumpJet

    I’d say the starting point for trade talks would be Richards + Toffoli/Pearson + 1st rounder/good prospect. What players or picks the Flames send back to L.A. is moot since the Kings’ big acquisition is $5.75M in cap space for this off-season and the future. There is no hockey trade to be made here.

  • Burnward

    Why would LA give up their future? Just eat two million and call it a day instead. Voynov is jail bound anyways probably. Gaborik might be movable. Regehr, Stoll and Williams are probably UFA bound. Kopitar isn’t going to get much of a raise.

    They’re not in total hell.