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. 


  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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 🙂

        • 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.

      • 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.

  • RKD

    If the Kings would give us Toffoli that would be sweet. Toffoli instantly improves our RW position and would be an upgrade over Jones. Not a fan of the contract or Richards declining play. His skills have diminished rapidly, he will be an overpaid player. If he doesn’t play decent or well, there will be a lot of venom spewed his way. If he could get back to a decent level of winning face-offs(where we need a ton of help), kill some penalties, and contribute offensively that’s always a bonus. I don’t want to see Richards come here and then sit in the pressbox. I know why BT and BB are looking at Richards. Richards gives you strength down the middle. Bennett will be a great player but he’s very young and not physically mature yet. Monahan is developing quite nicely. Granlund still needs some work. Personally, I think we are better off with Jooris, Colborne and hopefully big boy Ferland can come back up again. Toffoli would be a gamechanger, he would be a great fit in Calgary and he’s only 22 plus he is a Stanley Cup champion.

  • mattyc

    What I actually think the Flames should do is acquire Matt Bartkowski. I’ve liked him since before the “Iginla Trade” and is more of a fit than another not-great center. CanucksArmy article summarizes him nicely link.

  • 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…

  • mattyc

    I like the first and I like Pearson or Toffoli, but our organizational need is for someone to fill a second pairing defence role. If we could get a young second pairing dman and a first, the deal would be worth it.

  • RedMan

    It would be a huge risk to take Richards contract. The problem with Richards is that he isn’t a very good skater. Thinks the game well and has some goods skills but with the skating being weak his game has fallen off a cliff as he has aged and it is not likely to return.

    Can skating be improved at Richards age of 30 in an off season? Any idea on if this is teachable, or if Richards would get a chip on his should from this and do whatever it takes to improve his skating and stay in the NHL?

    The best case scenario for any team trading for Richards is to sort of pump up his value by playing him 1st or 2nd line minutes with easy competition and hope that he puts up some numbers. Then retaining salary and moving him hopefully next year. Not sure I would trust the Flames to be devious or clever enough to pull a move that.

  • 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.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I think a combination option might benefit both sides the most. If the Flames traded Stajan at a reduced cap hit (say, 2.5 AAV) for Richards, they could justify getting a greater return. They’d need to open a roster spot for Richards anyway, and Stajan’s de facto 4th line C spot is perfect for him.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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?

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • KiLLKiND

    I don’t think Richards is a good idea why put Calgary in cap purgatory for the next 5 years this year and next year most likely won’t be as big of a deal but years 3-5 this could prove to be burdensome and exactly the kind of trade Treliving shouldn’t take on. Calgary may already have a little bit of a log jam at centre especially next year. Here is a list of centre Calgary has that within the next 5 years will have either washed out or be in the NHL by this point (Not including Stajan or Colborne)

    Monahan, Bennet, Shore, Jooris, Granlund, Bouma, Ferland, Arnold, Reinhart, maybe even Jankowski

    Why would we want a vet that plays around Stajan level and gets payed far more until 2020? Yes Pearson is great but is that worth having an overpaid weak link at centre? Poirier can be our Pearson and in a few years we can make a trade if we still need a RW.

    This is still a rebuild and this deal will cost our future at centre. This deal does not help us short term and handicaps us long term especially if we do have to give up Russel because our defense isn’t weak enough.

    • Peplinski's Thunderbird

      Yes, 100%, but if I had a deal in place to flip Richards and got a great D prospect and another 1st round pick in this year’s draft then I’d do it.

      I don’t want Richards on my team for a ton of reasons including those you mention, but I’d be willing to accept the cap hit if the price is right.

  • A couple of things to consider.
    Richards has cleared waivers the Flames have the financial means to pay his salary. So even if they did acquire him and a concern is his cancer in the dressing room. They can bury him in the ahl if they want to. It wouldn’t be the most ideal but it’s doable.

    They could also pursue buyout themselves if it’s only 1.75 million for the next 10 years on the cap that’s not gonna hurt the Flames given their situation. So it’s option B if Richards turns out to not bounce back and be a drain overall.

    I agree however with a few others on here we could really use a quality Defensive prospect as opposed to another forward like a Toffolli or Pearson. That being said if you could pick up a Toffolli you could turn around and dangle him to the east in a straight swap for a defensemen too.

    definitely BT could get creative with this one. And this is how you really help your team in the long term in my opinion. The mere fact he’s talking hard for this one gives me confidence in BT long term.

  • 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?

  • Greg

    I’m less concerned with what the flames get for taking him now (presumably it’ll be nice and shiny), and more concerned about what it costs them in a few years to still have him. We have the cap space now, but how does it project out 4 or 5 years from now?

    Gio will be getting paid more, Brodie’s new contract kicks in, Backlund as well. Moneyhand’s ELC must be expiring next season and Gaudreau, Bennet, Poirier, etc all would in 4-5 years as well too.

    If the flames can’t do it without getting themselves into a bad situation where they can’t keep all their newly forming core together long term, or be hampered from adding new peices when they are ready to contend, then don’t do it.

  • 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.

  • supra steve

    My question on acquiring Richards–what would the Flames do with him?

    Play him in Calgary?

    Buy him out? Is Toffoli (or anyone) worth that many millions?

    Send to AHL?

    Can you trade him at a reduced cap hit? I doubt this one is very possible with the term he has, but who knows?

    • RedMan

      give him a chance in Calgary on the third line, see where ho goes. if he falters, AHL.

      I understand he is a go-to-the-wall-for the team kind of guy and well liked by players, not a slacker or coaster. this makes a difference.

  • 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!

  • everton fc

    I’d also move Richards to LW and put Bollig and/or Raymond in the deal back the other way. Richards/Stajan/Byron maybe a heck of a 4th line in a playoff run.

    If one of the d-man aforementioned (Muzzin/McNabb/McBain) come this way, as well, you at least have 5 of the defencive positions dealt with through the end of the year.

  • Christian Roatis

    Before posting these, uh, let’s call them extreme trade proposals, ask yourself: if the Flames were in the Kings situation, would you deal a guy like Poirier or Bennett to get rid of a bad contract? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

    • Christian Roatis

      You’re absolutely right. The problem LA has is that they have 6 RFA’s, three UFA’s and an Kopitar extension to deal with. Beggars can’t be choosers.

      If they give up Toffoli, they would probably ask for a pick or a prospect coming back the other way.

    • piscera.infada

      By “if the Flames were in the Kings situation…” you mean, they are right up against the cap, with dead cap-space in Voynov for the foreseeable future, with several long-term high-dollar value contracts, with several players left to resign in the next two years, with a cap going up only 3 million max (likely less-per Darren Dreger), all while being expected to compete for the cup year-after-year with the current core?

      I agree, we need to be reasonable about return, but if there’s truth in the rumours that Lombardi thinks this is going to be a “hockey trade”, he’ll be laughed out of the room with every GM in the league. The return has to be stupid if they want to rid themselves of that contract, because they are screwed. They don’t need cap-space for a playoff push, they need cap-space so they can feel a little better going into the offseason.

    • Parallex

      To get rid of a Richards level bad contract that was impeding my ability to win now (and am in the part of the win cycle where winning now is ultra important)? No on Bennett (and L.A. doesn’t have any top five draft pick prospects kicking around) but probably yes with regards to Poirier.

      Seriously. I think wanting to pawn off one of the worst contracts in the league within your division (to whom you’re currently in direct competition for a playoff spot with) for chump change is the “extreme” trade proposal.

      If the Kings are trying to trade Richards to the Flames they are likely desperate and the Flames have zero incentive to help them out (and more of an incentive to help them fall). The extremely high price is more then justified… if they don’t want to pay it then that’s fine, no skin off of our backs but I have no desire to see a horrible contract like his on the Flames for anything less then a extreme return.

      • This is pretty much my take.

        For those thinking that it starts with a first round pick as the sweetest part of the deal AND sending a Glencross/Stajan back- LA’s first rounder is likely to be in the 15-20 region (or worse if they go on another tear in the playoffs). How much is that first rounder worth?

        I wouldn’t pay 20million for a mid to late first round pick if I was an owner. That isn’t even taking into account the cap hit.

    • T&A4Flames

      If your talking like we would still have a relatively youngish team that has nust won 2nd SC, yes. Because in that situation your still have a pretty full and talented team that will for the most part be intact and competitive for several more years. They made some $ decisions that both helped win the cup but hurt going forward. Just like CHI. And like CHI, they are still young and need a quick reset so they can keep trying to win while they can. Itll hurt temporarily but itll allow them to add more. Bottom line, theyre in trouble and need a way out.

      Edit: i dont think you can compare Bennett to Toffoli. Poirier, sure but Toffoli wasnt a top 5 pick. Not even a 1st rounder.