Richards’ con­tract can­celed

Kings cite ‘ a ma­te­rial breach’ by the cen­ter and could face a bat­tle with the NHLPA.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Lisa Dill­man and He­lene El­liott

The Kings moved to sever their re­la­tion­ship with cen­ter Mike Richards by ter­mi­nat­ing his con­tract, cit­ing “a ma­te­rial breach” by the player.

This could un­leash a fierce and pro­tracted bat­tle with the NHL Play­ers Assn., which has 60 days to f ile a griev­ance but is ex­pected to do so sooner. The Kings did not ex­pound on their de­ci­sion in a three- para­graph state­ment is­sued Mon­day.

It is thought the Kings re­cently re­ceived in­for­ma­tion lead­ing them to make such a move, ac­cord­ing to in­di­vid­u­als with knowl­edge of the mat­ter but not au­tho­rized to com­ment. On Sun­day, they placed Richards on un­con­di­tional waivers — seem--

in­gly mov­ing to buy out his con­tract — but changed di­rec­tion shortly af­ter he cleared waivers Mon­day.

“The Los An­ge­les Kings to­day have ex­er­cised the team’s right to ter­mi­nate the con­tract of Mike Richards for a ma­te­rial breach of the re­quire­ments of his Stan­dard Player’s Con­tract,” the team said in a state­ment. “We are not pre­pared to pro­vide any more de­tail or to dis­cuss the un­der­ly­ing grounds for the con­tract ter­mi­na­tion at this time.”

The NHLPA in­di­cated the mat­ter is not set­tled: “We are in the process of re­view­ing the facts and cir­cum­stances of this mat­ter and will dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion with the player in or­der to de­ter­mine the ap­pro­pri­ate course of ac­tion.”

NHL Deputy Com­mis­sioner Bill Daly de­clined to com­ment. Richards and his agent, Pat Mor­ris, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

The Kings had been at­tempt­ing to trade Richards in the lead- up to the NHL’s En­try Draft last week in Sunrise, Fla.

Sports law ex­pert and pro­fes­sor Michael McCann said that prov­ing “ma­te­rial breach” is gen­er­ally a high thresh­old.

Un­der the buy­out pro­vi­sions, the Kings would have been re­spon­si­ble for $ 14.6 mil­lion of the re­main­ing $ 22 mil­lion on the Richards con­tract. That amount would have been spread over 10 years, through the 2024- 25 sea­son.

“The NHLPA is likely wor­ried about the prece­dent of a team void­ing a player’s con­tract when that con­tract is drafted in way to be con­sid­ered ‘ guar­an­teed,’ ” said McCann, di­rec­tor of the Sports and En­ter­tain­ment Law In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire.

“The NHLPA is prob­a­bly con­cerned that if the Kings can void Richards’ con­tract for yet- to- be re­vealed rea­sons, could other teams es­cape their un­wanted con­tracts by do­ing the same?”

McCann said Richards could even­tu­ally sue the Kings for breach of con­tract but only af­ter ex­haust­ing his reme­dies un­der the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment.

“Both Ar­ti­cle 17 of the CBA and the stan­dard player con­tract in­di­cate that a player can pur­sue ar­bi­tra­tion for a con­tract dis­pute,” McCann said. “This means that Richards would f irst have to ar­bi­trate his griev­ance be­fore a court would con­sider his ar­gu­ments. Courts are also def­er­en­tial to ar­bi­tra­tion awards, which may make it dif­fi­cult for Richards to seek ju­di­cial re­dress.”

An in­di­vid­ual fa­mil­iar with the Kings’ ap­proach but also not au­tho­rized to com­ment sug­gested the mo­rals clause in the stan­dard player’s con­tract is the ba­sis for the ter­mi­na­tion.

The clause reads: the player also agrees “to con­duct him­self on and off the rink ac­cord­ing to the high­est stan­dards of hon­esty, moral­ity, fair play and sports­man­ship, and to re­frain from con­duct detri­men­tal to the best in­ter­est of the Club, the League or pro­fes­sional hockey gen­er­ally.” Etc.

As ex­pected, the Kings is­sued qual­i­fy­ing of­fers to six play­ers: Andy An­dre­off, Nic Dowd, Vin­cent LoVerde, Nick Shore, Jor­dan Weal and An­drew Crescenzi.

Robert Gau­thier Los An­ge­les Times

THE KINGS did not ex­pound on their rea­son for ter­mi­nat­ing cen­ter Mike Richards’ con­tract.

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