Myopic Los Angeles Kings Pay Massive Price with Mike Richards Buyout

On Monday, the Los Angeles Kings placed Mike Richards on unconditional waivers with the intention of buying out his contract. Shortly after the news broke, Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston calculated the extent of the damage:

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi could have bought Richards out last year, using one of the compliance buyouts that the league tossed out as life preservers after the new collective bargaining agreement came into effect in 2012-13. Unfortunately for L.A., he chose not do so, which means that the Kings will be on the hook for not only money but also significant cap space for the next decade.

Johnston used the word “loyalty” to describe the ill-considered decision, and understandably so. After all, that’s how Lombardi described the mistake to’s Katie Strang shortly after Los Angeles failed to qualify for the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs.

“It could be the worst decision I ever made, but for all the right reasons,” he told Strang. “In a cap world, you can't have any heart and soul. I struggle with that.”

Richards had five years left on a 12-season contract originally signed when he was in Philadelphia. According to TSN’s Frank Seravalli, the actual cap hit attached to the Kings will vary by year, peaking at just over $4.2 million in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. Los Angeles will face a $1.22 million cap penalty next season and then a minimum charge of $1.47 million against the salary cap each year until 2025.

That’s an insane price to pay for loyalty. But casting Lombardi as a good man who was simply too loyal to his trusted player misses a big piece of the picture. It’s a little like a job applicant describing himself as “too hardworking” when asked to identify personal flaws—not only is it glib, but there’s probably a real issue there that deserves some consider...

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