The Flames and Mike Richards

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 


    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      No, No, and No..

      Don’t get me wrong, Toffoli is a nice player, but he is not an elite level prospect, nor does he fill our most glaring organizational need at Defense.

      If I’m BT, the Kings would need to offer something resembling Alec Martinez and a first, just to get the conversation started. I would really want Muzzin, but I think the Kings would rather pursue the Richards buy-out option instead of giving him up, especially in light of the Voynov situation.

      Speaking of Voynov, I could live with a package including him, a 2nd, a good D prospect (Roland Mckeown or Derek Forbort) and a roster player (Jordan Nolan perhaps).

      Hefty price tags no doubt, but we’re talking about arguably the most toxic contract in the league, and we’d be bailing out a division rival to boot.

      A King’s ransom indeed 🙂

      • Matty Franchise Jr

        You might be able to live with the Flames trading for a guy who pushed, choked, kicked, and punched his wife (gf?) so badly that she wound up in the hospital, but I certainly wouldn’t be OK with that.

        • RedMan

          that’s the way I felt when we took Burtuzi, but we still took him. I never cheared for Burtuzi, and back in the first year when the refs were handing him penalties everytime he even looked at someone, I figured serves him and the flames right.

        • Peplinski's Thunderbird

          I really don’t expect to see either of these two moved either. I’m only considering deals that I think would make sense for the Flames. If we’re not getting something we need, I don’t see why BT would even engage the Kings in a trade.

      • Parallex

        No, No, No, No, No… No.

        If they offered us Kopitar and Doughty on the condition we take Voynov it’d be a no. I’m willing to overlook a lot in the name of getting talent… but not that.

        • Peplinski's Thunderbird

          I absolutely understand this view. If Voynov is found guilty, then my opinion of him changes instantly. Until that happens though, I don’t think its fair to assume the guy is a scumbag until he has had his due process. Assuming he is cleared of his charges, I believe he could help out our blueline immensely.

  • Parallex

    I think some of you guys are nuts.

    Richards contract is really really really bad. To even consider taking it on I’d need something significant on the table, to actually take it on I’d need even more, to send actual assets their way even more… and then we can talk about adding on the in-division premium cost. We’re talking about helping a team that we’re currently in a playoff race with (to say nothing of future playoff races).

    If L.A. is willing to pay through the nose to make him go away (and I understand if they’re not)… sure let’s do it. Otherwise big pass… not a gamble I’d want to take.

  • Christian Roatis

    Even considering Toffoli is ludicrous in my opinion. He’s already a Top 6 forward, or at least scoring like one, he’s really young and has lots of RFA years ahead of him to keep the price tag relatively cheap. He’s untouchable in any trade circumstance for the Kings and I will eat an Oilers hat if proven otherwise. Even Pearson and Valentin Zykov are stretches, imo.

    • JohnyR

      I highly doubt Calgary can get a roster player. LA needs those to win. The scenario of their 1st round pick and a well regarded prospect are more reasonable IMO. Maybe even a their 2nd round pick.

      Then, as others have suggested, flip Richards after holding back salary to another contender. Rangers?

    • RedMan

      buyers are essentially paying whats left on the contract which is what, 25-30 million? your saying this player isn’t worth 30 million? While this may be true – the issues is about cap management – the team is backed in a corner and it is going to cost them to get out. if Richards works out as a player, that’s a bonus, but also a huge IF… you pay the price not expecting him to be a top 6 only if it is worthwhile, but don’t expect him to earn a spot on the roster.

  • piscera.infada

    I asked this in a earlier thread, but would trading for Richards, and then retaining half his salary for the remaining duration of the contract, make him more palatable to other teams?

    I mean, you’d have to think that trading Richards for 5 years at 2.5 million per, would generate considerably more interest.

    You could essentially “double down” on assets in that scenario, but you’d have to make damn sure there’s a market for him. I don’t think there’s a spot for Richards here for the next five years.

    • Parallex

      Of course it would make him more palatable. That’s self-evident… you don’t even need to wonder.

      The question is how much does Richards at $2.875M return in trade and is it worth eating $2.875M against our cap until 2020? Right now it’s no problem… but what about the 2019-2020 season? Who knows.

    • T&A4Flames

      Im thinking the exact same way. I heard someone mention there was talk of Russell and Klimchuk going for Richards and i would assume Toffoli, with L.A. retaining 1mil of Richards salary. If thats the case i would hope we get an extra 2nd round pick because we are giving up quality in that scenario. I would be ok with that deal because then we could look at retaining a bit more (50% like you said) and it not handcuffing us much at all for the duration of the contract. C are most in demand next to D. I would think Richards at 2.5-3 mil could still be attractive to many teams.

  • T&A4Flames

    I can’t be the only one who thinks Toffoli isn’t enough to take on that massive contract.

    I don’t think people realize how much of a burden it will be for FIVE more seasons beyond this.

    How do the Flames deal with re-signing the likes of Gaudreau, Monahan, Bennett, Giordano, etc., in 2-3 years when we still have that boat anchor weighing us down?

    The Flames were a team in the past that gave up a 2nd round pick just to get out of year of Kotalik’s contract.

    The starting price for me is Toffoli + 1st + Richards for somebody like Stajan.

    If they don’t like it, let another team make the mistake of taking on Richards for less. Don’t let it be the Flames.

    • T&A4Flames

      All those young players of ours that you mention will be on 2nd “show me” contracts when Richards reaches his final couple of years. I really dont see a cap issue if we hung on to Richards for the entirety of that contract, which i doubt we would do anyway.

      • RedMan

        Second “show me contracts”?

        What?

        We’re talking summer 2018 kind of deal. Monahan, Gaudreau, and Giordano (who will be looking for north of $8M) are all up next summer.

        5 years is a long time in the NHL world. These players will want to be paid, and you’re most likely paying both Gaudreau and Moanahan more than $6M each before Richards’ contract is off the book.

        If we want to capitalize on relatively low cap hits from our young players, we can’t have Mike Richards on this hockey team.

        The best teams in the NHL are consistently the ones that make the best choices with their contracts.

        • T&A4Flames

          We’re not EDM. Treliving isnt going to allow our rookies to go from an ELC ,$750000ish salary to 6-8mil in one contract. Sure, maybe Mony and Johnny will be moving to full contracts by the end of Richards contract but who cares. We are and will be set up nicely to keep inserting youth and keeping our cap down.

  • beloch

    There’s no way the Kings are going to give up much that would make them worse and the Flames better this season. Forget about a second pairing defender who’s ready today and forget about Tyler Toffoli. If Lombardi has any honesty at all, he’s gone to Treliving and said something to the effect of, “We want your playoff spot. What’s it gonna take?”.

    That really is what this trade is about. The Kings want to make the playoffs and the Flames are currently in their way. The outcome of this trade, and whatever plans Lombardi has for that cap space, will likely determine whether the Kings or Flames go to the playoffs.

    This is a pretty unique situation. The Kings would get a better deal from any other team in the league, so dealing with the Flames must be Lombardi’s very last resort. On the other side of things, Treliving must be pretty unwilling to pull the rug out from under his team for futures. He’s not going to say yes unless the offer is obscene.

    I doubt this trade will happen. Lombardi is most likely going to look at the ransom Treliving is demanding and opt for other avenues. Even if Lombardi offers an incredible package, Treliving might not be willing to be the guy that helped the Kings beat his team out of their first playoff spot in half a decade.

    If it does happen, I predict a huge payout in not-yet-ready prospects and picks for the Flames. That’s the only way this deal gets done in a way that makes sense.

    • RedMan

      I think you win – by summing up in the terms of what price Kings are willing to pay for the Flames playoff spot.

      And you know, if the paying price is obscene, take it!

  • Toofun

    The idea of the Flames making a deal for Richards has been widely criticized by Flamesnation readers. “Why would the Flames help LA when they are right behind us in the standings.” “Richards is a cancer with no work ethic and would only hurt the Flames chemistry”. etc.

    The facts as laid out by Kent show pretty clearly that LA is going to take a big hit on this deal. That means whichever team does the transaction is going to “win” this negotiation big time. The deal simply doesn’t get done unless it’s pretty massively one sided.

    Very few teams have the financial capacity and management experience necccesary to pull this off successfully. The Flames do.

    The Flames are also in the middle of a re-build and any transaction here could/should realistically shave years off of this process.

    I am happy the negotiations are taking place and I’m happy that we have BB/BT negotiating this. We might not win the draft lottery this year like Edmonton but this is a lottery that we have a pretty good shot at.