This summer is the final opportunity for NHL clubs to use compliance buyouts created as a result of the 2012 lockout. As a refresher, the compliance buyout means a team can buy out a player for a predetermined value without it counting against the salary cap.
If the player is under age 26, the cost is one-third of the remaining contract value, and it’s two-thirds of the remaining value if the player is over 26. In both cases, the payout is made over twice the remaining length of the contract.The New York Rangers have one compliance buyout remaining, having used one almost immediately on Wade Redden once the NHL resumed play. Brad Richards, of course, was the subject of an arms race leading up to July 1, 2011, with teams flying in to make pitches for him.
However, the prevailing thought was for Richards to reunite with his Stanley Cup-winning coach in John Tortorella on Broadway. A nine-year, $60 million contract with a no-movement clause made that a reality, though not without some controversy as it was a front-loaded contract.
Now, three years into the contract, the Conn Smythe Memorial Trophy winner in 2004 hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations with the Rangers, with the low point coming as a healthy scratch during last year’s playoff run. Many people thought he would be bought out then, but Tortorella was fired instead, and the Murray Harbour, P.E.I., native was given another chance.
He responded with the worst regular season of his career on a point-per-game basis (51 points in 82 games = 0.62 points per game), a number that’s been on a downward trend each of the last four seasons. Being reunited with Martin St. Louis has helped Richards pick up his play in the playoffs compared to last season (11 points in 21 games, compared to one goal in 10 games last year), but at this point, it might be too late.
If Glen Sather was to buy the 34-year-old out, the Rangers would pay him $26,666,667 over the next 12 seasons, just under the $27 million in salary they’d pay him over the next six seasons if he stayed.On the other side, right before Brad Richards made his mark in free-agency, Mike Richards was involved in a major draft-day shakeup in 2011, as the Philadelphia Flyers traded their captain to the Kings in exchange for Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds.
However, Richards just hasn’t been the same player since going to Hollywood, as his offensive numbers have dropped, as has his shorthanded production. In Philadelphia, Richards was the most feared penalty killer in the NHL because he wasn’t afraid to do some damage offensively, scoring 23 shorthanded goals in six seasons.
Of his 133 goals as a Flyer, 59 of them came on special teams (36 on the power-play, 23 shorthanded), good for 44.4 per cent of his goals. In Los Angeles, the numbers are similar, as 43.9 per cent of his goals (18 out of 41) have been on special teams. However, the numbers are much more heavily skewed toward the power-play, as he only has five shorthanded goals in three seasons with the Kings.
It’s also worth noting that Richards has posted a minus-11 rating in three seasons with strong Kings teams compared to a plus-39 with the Flyers over six seasons.
While Mike Richards has been asked to play a different role in Los Angeles than he did with the Flyers, the role just might not be enough for Dean Lombardi to justify keeping his $5.75 million cap hit around for the next six seasons, especially when young players like Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli will be looking for raises in the next couple years, with Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll being unrestricted free agents after next season.
If Los Angeles was to buy Richards out, they would pay the 29-year-old $23 million over the next 12 years instead of $28.5 million in total salary over the next six.
With all the above variables in mind, who do you think is more like to get bought out, Brad Richards or Mike Richards? Will one be bought out? Will neither be bought out? Let us know what you think by voting in the poll below, or by commenting, or by Tweeting me @gecarragher, or all of us @TMMOTS.