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. 


  • JohnyR

    Surprised Backlunds name hasn’t been thrown in there yet. I’d assume if Toffoli was actually in the conversation then Backlund would be as well. We all know Engelland isn’t sweetening this deal any. Richards, Toffoli and a 1st for Backlund and a 4th might start things off. Love the guy but you gotta give a bit here and it’s just a matter of time before he’s injured again.

    • RedMan

      I don’t understand, it sounds to me like you are making a hockey trade by throwing Backlund in, but this isn’t a hockey trade as much as it is a salary dump. This is what they pay for getting rid of the 25 million contract and opening the door to sign legit defensemen they are looking for.

      • JohnyR

        I see what you mean, it does let them off the hook. But Toffoli has first line potential and I believe that first could be a lottery pick *if they don’t make the playoffs, two big pluses for us. Richards I’m sure could handle 3rd line for a year or two. I’m not concerned about them signing a defensemen this summer, both clubs are on different curves and despite who they could sign their window is starting to close.

  • Peplinski's Thunderbird

    LA will need a lot of cap space to resign all there RFA’s, so they probably won’t retain any of Richards salary, or take on a bad contract.

    And they are probably reluctant to move Toffoli or Pearson without getting a prospect back.

    To Cal: Richards, Toffoli and a 1st.

    To LA: Glencross, Klimchuck, and a 3rd.

    • Parallex

      If that’s the best deal that L.A. is willing to make I say to them “I hope you can find a sucker but it’s not gonna be me.” then hang up the phone and wonder why I wasted my time.

      • Parallex

        Let’s be realistic here.. they’re not going to give up Toffoli and a 1st without something going back.

        I could be way off.. but I don’t see you making throwing anything out there?

    • RedMan

      you don’t think kings are in a “go for it now” state of mind? I do, and I think they not only want to be able to afford the guys they have, but they want a defenseman or two such as Yandle and/or Petry… I think it is a big price to pay, but I think there is an outside chance that it could happen. small but real chance.

      Hey, they have D. Sutter there pitching his ideas right? he is the quintessential “win now by selling the future” guy. If the Kings don’t do something NOW – they are done this season. They NEED at least one, maybe two defensemen.

  • RedMan

    We are well positioned at centre and wing so don’t really need Toffoli or Pearson. What we badly need are good young defensive prospects who are ready to step in. If we are going to take on a bad contract there are other cash strapped teams with good young defensive prospects that aren’t in the Pacific conference. I also hate the term of the Richads contract which will cause problems for us down the road and have heard enough innuendo about his partying ways to wonder if he is the type of guy we want in a young dressing room. Finally, why give the Kings (who we are fighting for the last playoff spot) a lifesaver which they can use to upgrade or maintain an already strong roster.

    • everton fc

      I agree. If we could dislodge Muzzin, and a prospect, that would be ideal. If you can get McNabb, that wouldn’t be bad. If you could get McBain/Muzzin/McNabb and either of the aforementioned forwards…

  • T&A4Flames

    I would do Englland and Klimchuk for Richards and Toffoli if L.A. retained at least 1mil. That still saves them a fair bit of cap space and definitely less term on a bad contract. We get the worse contract but probably the better and definitely more NHL ready player in Toffoli. Englland also gives Sutter some D depth. The type of D Sutter loves.

    Also we get a young RW that can score. Something we need.

  • 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.