LOS ANGELES (AP) - After a second straight early postseason exit, the Los Angeles Kings set out to pump up the offense beyond leading scorer Anze Kopitar. They took a big first step by nabbing high-scoring center Mike Richards from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Richards, three years into a 12-year contract, became the second star to be shipped out of Philadelphia on Thursday when the Flyers busted up their core with a pair of blockbuster deals on the eve of the NHL draft. Richards was sent to the Kings for forwards Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and a second-round draft pick.
Philadelphia moved quickly after clearing much-needed cap space, and agreed with goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on a long-term deal. The Flyers were swept by Boston in the second round of the playoffs, one year after losing to Chicago in the 2010 Stanley Cup finals, and are still seeking their first title since back-to-back championships in 1974 and 1975.
Richards didn’t get many answers about why he was traded when he had a brief and emotional call with Flyers general manage Paul Holmgren. Other than injuries and potential team fatigue, he couldn’t explain what happened to the club he captained one year after getting so close to winning the Cup.
“I wish I could tell you,” he said. “When you underachieve as a team there is a lot of fingers getting pointed. I didn’t have a problem with them pointing at me, I was more unhappy with the way it ended and being out of the playoffs.”
The Kings (46-30-6) reached the postseason for the second straight year, after netting 98 points in the tough Pacific Division, but fell in six games to the division rival San Jose Sharks in the first round. Los Angeles is pleased with the progress, following six straight non-playoff seasons. Now it is looking to take the next step.
Los Angeles finished fourth in the Pacific, but only seven points behind the division-winning Sharks.
“I was fortunate enough to go to L.A. where I’ve heard nothing but tremendous things about the city and how nice it is out there and how great the organization treats you,” Richards said. “When I signed that extension I wanted to stay in Philadelphia for the rest of my career. That’s what I envisioned, up until probably about 2:00 or 3:00 this afternoon when I got the call.
“You don’t understand it’s a business until you’re traded. But it is. It’s the worst part about it.”
“We felt at this stage of the franchise it was time to make a significant move for an impact player,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said in a statement. “Mike Richards is not only one of the top players in the league, he’s also universally recognized as one of the finer leaders in the game and one of its elite competitors.
“Additionally, given that he’s only 26 years old and he’s on a long-term contract, he fits our plan now and for the long-term future.”
Richards, the 24th pick in the 2003 draft, had 23 goals and 43 assists last season when he played 81 of 82 games with the Flyers and spent his third year as team captain. His 66 points tied for the third on the team with Jeff Carter, the club’s top goal-scorer who was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets in Philadelphia’s first roster-rocking trade of the day.
“It’s disappointing. Really over the last 10 years, he’s been my best friend,” Richards said. “We’ve come up together, had success together, and really envisioned us playing our entire careers together. It’s one of the reasons why we signed the long extensions. We wanted to be in Philadelphia. We both love it there.
“That’s really the hardest part about this day.”View Entire Story
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