The Kings wasted no time in making a major offseason move, as they acquired All-Star center Mike Richards
from the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday in exchange for winger Wayne Simmonds, center Brayden Schenn and a 2012 second-round draft pick.
In Richards, the Kings get a two-time 30-goal scorer who, at age 26, should be just entering his prime years. The move gives the Kings an enviable one-two punch at center with Anze Kopitar
and Richards, both of whom are point-per-game threats.
Richards, who served as the Flyers' captain, is under contract through the 2019-20 season and is known as a strong two-way player in all situations.
"This is an incredible add to our hockey club," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "'m very, very excited about it. You don't want to lose anybody, to take anybody off your hockey club. Simmer has been a great trooper and a great player for us, and I wish him all the luck, but on the other side of it, with adding a guy like Mike Richards
, this really helps us start to live up to our own expectations, of just moving on and becoming a real good team. He's a proven, quality player, a quality guy. He's a captain. It's going to be a tremendous fit, I think, to our hockey club."
Of course, Richards didn't come cheap. In Simmonds and Schenn, the Kings handed over two young forwards who were much sought after on the trade market. Simmonds had been a NHL lineup regular for three seasons and Schenn, a first-round pick in 2009, was expected to make a major push for a spot on the Kings' roster in training camp.
Richards, though, is more of a known quantity and immediately fills the Kings' need for a top-six forward, a need that might otherwise have been difficult to address this summer. Lombardi said that he became aware of Richards' potential availability approximately four weeks ago and that trade details were worked out with the Flyers over the past 48 hours.
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, Richards is known to possess both grit and skill and is adept on both the power play and the penalty kill. He's durable, having played at least 79 games in each of the past three seasons, and has been a winner. In 2010, Richards won Olympic gold with Canada and reached the Stanley Cup Finals with the Flyers.
"We all know what this guy stands for," Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. "You've just got to watch him play. This goes back to his juniors. Everywhere this guy has gone, he has won. ... This guy fits in that (Kyle) Clifford mode, that culture-changer. It wasn't a lot of discussion internally. It was just a question of what we would have to give up, and making pieces fit."
The Kings have plenty of familiarity with Richards. Murray was an assistant coach in Philadelphia when Richards broke in with the Flyers. Kings assistant coach John Stevens was Richards' head coach in Philadelphia for parts of four seasons. Lombardi was a team scout and Kings' assistant GM Ron Hextall worked in the Flyers' front office.
``(Murray) was great with me," Richards said. "He worked with me in Philly but I also had John Stevens as well in Philadelphia. They were both coaches that I got along extremely well with and who played me a lot of minutes and in positions to have success, on the power play and penalty kill. Those are two guys that I got along extremely well with, and I'm looking forward to working with them again."
Richards, who signed a 12-year contract extension with the Flyers in Dec. 2007, said he was "very shocked" by the trade but said he looked forward to joining the Kings.
"I like the makeup of the team," Richards said. "They've got an extremely gritty team with a lot of skill. They have two great goaltenders, up to a defense that is skilled and play the game hard, and then you've got a lot of depth at the forward position too. I'm not sure how I'm going to get placed into it at the moment, but I'm just looking forward to getting there and really just playing the game that has kind of got me to this point."
The one-two combination at center, of Kopitar and Richards, gives the Kings a duo that compares well against top Western Conference opposition, most notably Vancouver's Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler and San Jose's Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski.
So while the Kings had high hopes for Schenn's long-term future, Richards immediately fills a void, one that Lombardi had looked to fill at last season's trade deadline. Lombardi was swamped at the deadline with offers for Schenn, but declined, holding firm, he said, that he would trade Schenn only for a player the caliber of Richards.
"At the trade deadline, there was nobody comparable to Mike Richards
available," Lombardi said. "That's taking nothing away from Brayden. The Flyers got a very good player, who is going to play next year, but we felt that given Mike's age and our need to move to the next level, this is our Adrian Gonzalez [of the Boston Red Sox], I guess."
It's highly unlikely, though, that Lombardi's work is done. In the conference call to discuss the Richards trade, Lombardi also disclosed that veteran winger Ryan Smyth has requested a trade and that the Kings are close to completing a deal.
Smyth is a native of Banff, Alberta, and sources have indicated that the NHL's two Alberta-based teams, Edmonton and Calgary, have talked about a trade for Smyth.
"I talked to [Smyth] a couple times, and he was very clear that it had nothing to do with hockey, that it was strictly for his family, that he wanted to go home," Lombardi said. "I've talked to one team a number of times, and they've been very forthright in trying to piece it together. I hope to have that wrapped up here in a day or two."
Smyth's departure would create a hole on left wing, and the Kings will still need to fill the hole created by Simmonds' departure. Simmonds made a big splash in 2008, when he surprisingly made the Kings' roster just one year after being drafted in the second round, and in 2009-10, Simmonds had a strong 16-goal season.
This past season, Simmonds regressed to 14 goals and 16 assists, a 10-point drop, but he remained a strong two-way energy player whose minutes will have to be replaced. Simmonds is due to become a restricted free agent on July 1.
"If you're going to add a good player, you're going to have to give up good players," Murray said. "Everything that Wayne Simmonds did for me, as a coach, and for the organization, it's only positive and we're very grateful to have had the time together."
Asked directly about further summer moves, Lombardi declined to comment. The Kings' biggest short-term priority, it seems, is the re-signing of defenseman Drew Doughty
, who will also become a restricted free agent next week if he doesn't sign.
The trade also included a minor subplot. The Kings also received the rights to AHL forward Rob Bordson from the Flyers, but Bordson is due to become a restricted free agent on July 1 and the Kings do not intend to tender him a contract, a source said.