As the Los Angeles Kings prepare to even up their series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, it’s safe to say one of their top players has gone missing. Mike Richards (and his $5.75 million cap hit through 2020) has been an absolute non-factor in the playoffs for the Kings and his future in Los Angeles is at best in question. Richards has a paltry five points through 15 playoff games, and his defensive game hasn’t exactly been up to par either as he is minus-4 in the playoffs. While it is very likely Richards is playing through an injury (or injuries), this level of play is completely unacceptable for a player of Richards’ ilk.
The Kings have until mid-July to use one or both of their amnesty buyouts and rid themselves of an erroneous contract without the cap hit. Regardless of where the Kings’ season ends they will at the very least consider this option with Richards as the team still needs help scoring and could use the cap hit this season (hello Thomas Vanek). If Richards finds his offensive touch once again the Kings’ chances of getting past the Blackhawks go up exponentially, as do their chances of returning the Stanley Cup to Southern California. If he doesn’t his chances of staying with the Kings go down to almost zero.
Last year the Boston Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup Finals with two of their most prominent forwards (Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr) producing stat lines similar to Richards. However, Jagr and Seguin’s combined two postseason goals and stretches of invisibility caught up with the Bruins against none other than the Blackhawks. If the Kings wish to vanquish the reigning champions they will need Richards to step up and deliver. If not he will likely see himself playing in a different uniform next season, in much the same way Seguin and Jagr became ex-Bruins after their poor performances in the 2013 playoffs.