Why the Los Angeles Kings Must Keep Mike Richards

There are no two ways about it: Mike Richards struggled in the back half of the 2013-14 regular season, only managing 14 points in the last 50 games of the campaign.

A longtime top-six pivot, he was iced as a fourth-line center for much of the Los Angeles Kings’ recent Stanley Cup run. This has led to speculation about a compliance buyout in the offseason.

The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell mused on the notion in early June. TSN.ca’s Darren Dreger suggested roughly a week later that the Kings don't intend on buying out Richards’ contract, but the 29-year-old will seek a more significant role next season. His desire for a spot higher on the depth chart may conflict with the team’s designs.

As Dreger wrote, “This could get very interesting.”

Seeing as 48 hours have elapsed since the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Final, NHL clubs can now use their remaining amnesty buyouts.

That window will close on June 30 and won't open again in the foreseeable future—regular buyouts will remain available, but those which don’t count against the salary cap will not—hence the rumors surrounding Richards.

Despite all this hubbub, L.A. letting him go is quite an unlikely scenario. Moreover, it would be a foolish one for general manager Dean Lombardi and the front office to even contemplate.

While his hefty cap hit of $5.75 million per year is one reason to justify the possibility, the reasons to keep him on board completely overshadow it.


Unparalleled, Sustainable Center Depth

As I touched on in March and then during the Western Conference Final against Chicago, L.A.’s foremost strength is its balance down the middle.

In terms of three-zone play, no team in the NHL can rival the Kings’ stable of centers.

Head coach Darryl Sutter’s men typically play a di...

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