THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES OF MIKE RICHARDS TO THE KINGS
First, let me clear something up here. The title is a little misleading.
Before I go into the positives of the Kings blockbuster trade today for Philadelphia’s captain Mike Richards, which sent a 2nd round pick in 2012, Wayne Simmonds and the top prospect in hockey Brayden Schenn to the orange and white, allow me to enumerate the negatives. Well, negative, as in singular. If you are thinking about this trade in anything other than a positive light, the negative is you. Sure, you can gripe that Mike Richards carries a 5.75 cap hit for the next 9 years. Yeah, Drew Doughty was BFF with Simmonds. I know Mike Richards isn’t going to pot you 40 goals. But what do these things matter when we look at the team the Kings have just become? They matter as much as a cramp in your foot matters while you make love to a supermodel. They don’t.
However as Kings’ fans we have a tendency to hope for something a little better than the worst while still expecting the worst. So let’s get the tedious stuff out the way.
Richards’ cap hit.
5.75 million is not an extraordinarily high cap hit for a player of Richards caliber. The cap has just been set at 64.3 million for the upcoming 2011-2012 season. The Kings now sit at 53.6 million in cap spent with a roster that includes 10 forwards, 5 defensemen and 2 goalies. This leaves just over 10.6 million in cap space to sign Drew Doughty, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis and Alec Martinez. We can safely expect these four to collectively sign for between 7-9 million, depending on Doughty’s contract. That leaves roughly 1.5-3.5 million to fill in your spare parts; a 7th defenseman and 2 spare forwards. Not really a problem, and this is assuming that Ryan Smyth and his 6.25 million does NOT get moved. If Smyth gets moved then the Kings are miles away from any sort of cap trouble.
But Richards is signed until the end of time!
Good, he is 26 years old. If you find yourself worrying about how his contract will affect the Kings in 2018, then may I recommend spending less time thinking about hockey and more time figuring out how you are going to cheat people out of their money with your fortune telling business. If that doesn’t sound like fun, then perhaps you can think about how the Kings have Kopitar, Brown, Johnson, Richards and Williams locked up. When we can toss Doughty’s name in there, we can rest assured that the Kings have an extremely talented and hard working core of forwards and defensemen solidified for what promises to be several years of strong runs at the Stanley Cup.
The Doughty/Simmonds factor.
I refuse to dignify this. Doughty may be young, but if he values a friendship over his team getting better then his priorities are more out of whack than we had believed them to be at our most cynical. This is professional sports and there is likely not a player in the league who hasn’t had to say goodbye to a friend at some point in their careers due to free agency or trade. Hell, it probably happens every year for most players.
Richards isn’t an elite offensive talent.
No, but he is a damn good one. He is a lock for at least 25 goals and when one considers that his breakout year of 28 goals and 47 assists (75 points in 73 games) was spent under the tutelage of two guys named Stevens and Murray behind the Flyer’s bench, two guys who now sit behind the Kings’ bench, we can rest assured that Richards will deliver. We all worry that a player’s offensive production will suffer under the defensively minded Terry Murray but when it comes to Richards, history has shown that we can expect the opposite. Besides Richards’ offensive exploits, the former Philly captain is the hallmark of heart and grit. He hits like a train and fights for every inch of ice he gets. He is a playoff performer and even if there are those in Philly who were not thrilled with him as a captain, he is undeniably a leader and at the least a player who has no question marks about determination or motivation. Not everyone can captain a team to the Stanley Cup finals, but Mike Richards not only can, but already has. He will not be our Captain, but his experiences are most certainly ours.
But I loved Brayden Schenn! I really wanted to see him develop with me the Kings!
Me too. But I would rather bed Meghan Fox now than hope that some 15 year old will be hot and willing to sleep with me in 3 years. Mike Richards is now what Brayden Schenn hopes to be at the same stage of his own career. No one has ever confused Brayden with someone who is going to score 100 points in the NHL. When he was drafted, his comparison for top level upside was none other than Mike Richards. We will miss Brayden, we hope and know that he will find all the success he so rightfully deserves in Philadelphia. However Schenn will have to surprise the hockey world and score 50 goals very soon for me to consider lamenting his being traded.
Wayne Simmonds was a fan favorite!
If I can come to terms with Lappy leaving the Kings, I can easily get over the loss of Simmonds. The list of replacements for Wayne Simmonds is not a short one. Marc-Andre Cliche, Trevor Lewis, Brandon Kozun, Tyler Toffoli and Bud Holloway can all play right wing. Somewhere in there we have someone to slot in behind Williams and Brown. In terms of style of play, Simmonds was likely only traded because Kyle Clifford has already proven to play same game we fell in love with Simmonds for playing. Again, cramp in your foot with the supermodel. Nothings perfect, so get over it.
Now let’s talk about someone else, Dean Lombardi.
The guy who we feared not to have the balls to make ‘the big move’ just made the big move. Who cares if he can’t sign big ticket UFAs if he can trade for someone just as good? What Dean can do and has always done is sign solid second and third tier UFAs, the kind we now need. Your Jussi Jokinens, Scottie Upshalls, Brooks Laich, Chad LaRose, Tomas Kopecky, Scott Nichol, Jamal Mayers, Alex Tanguay, Ville Leino, Joel Ward, Patrick Eaves and Chuck Kobasew. These are the kinds of guys who Dean Lombardi has proven he can sign and I expect one or two of these guys to be a King by the end of July. If Smyth is traded, I would guarantee it. This is without factoring in that with the Kings top 3 centers now being Kopitar, Richards and Stoll, playing wing for the Kings just became a much more appealing prospect.
Dean also made good on two promises. Years ago he promised a plan that began with accumulating draft picks and focusing on getting younger and ended with trading away prospects and young players for established veterans when the “right fit” came along. A slight side bar- how much did we used to dread that term, right fit? I know I did. Up until today it always sounded more like an excuse than a plan. Perhaps now we can all acquiesce to the fact that even if Dean isn’t always the smartest man in the room, he is smarter than those of us who would doubt his strategy. Back to the plan. Dean very recently, in an interview with Rich Hammond, claimed that regardless of Dustin Penner’s performance this upcoming season if the Kings were to move in to contender status, they needed to acquire one more top six talent. He said the time has come to turn the corner to contender status. As the hockey world has immediately recognized due to this trade, Lombardi made good on that promise as well. The Kings now boast one of, if not the best, top 4 defenseman in the league. Two elite level centers. Three 30 goal scoring wingers. Grit and defense in the bottom six. A solid third pairing on defense and the best young tandem of goalies in the league. Are the Kings now to be considered true contenders? You bet your ass.
Am I guaranteeing success? No. No one can do that. All you can do is put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. The Kings have already begun to do that. We have a mix of established stars, solid young players who are only going to get better, a proven goalie with more potential and a goalie with all the potential in the world, veteran leadership and still maintain a prospect pool that is deep with talent of all kinds.
Let me put this in perspective. I am so happy about this trade that for the moment, I don’t even think Terry Murray can fuck this up.
Speaking of Murray, it is safe to say that this is his year to prove himself. By going out and grabbing Mike Richards, Lombardi has given Murray every reason to succeed and none to fail. Gone are any excuses of holes to fill. Our young players are established and have tasted the playoffs. The time to win has been a question mark for the past several years. No more. It is abundantly clear that the time to win starts now. The future has not been mortgaged and the present just slapped us in the face.
But what is the most immediate positive of this trade?
For the first time in too many years to count, I really don’t give a shit what happens tomorrow at the first round of the NHL entry draft.
Bring on Doughty’s contract.
Bring on July 1st.
Bring on Frozen Fury.
Bring on Europe.
Bring on a Cup run.
GO KINGS GO!