LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings released Mike Richards on Monday, finally shaking up their relationship with the veteran center who has lost his scoring touch.
A person familiar with the move informed The Associated Press on Monday on condition of anonymity because the Kings had not announced the decision. If the Kings can't work out a trade for Richards, he could be assigned to their AHL affiliate in Manchester.
Mulitple reports earlier Monday indictated that the Kings had placed Richards on waivers.
Richards has been a key part of the Kings' two Stanley Cup championship teams in the past three seasons, playing a responsible two-way role and providing leadership. But his plummeting offensive production hasn't matched his exorbitant contract for years in Los Angeles, which acquired him from Philadelphia in 2011.
Richards, who turns 30 next month, has only five goals and 10 assists in 47 games with Los Angeles this season. He has a minus-7 rating and has won only 48 percent of his faceoffs while playing on a depth line with the Kings - not the numbers expected of a player with a $5.75 million annual salary cap hit for the next six seasons.
Richards ($5.75 M cap hit) has five more years on his deal after this season: $6 M salary next year, then $5.5 M, $4.5 M, $3 M and $3 M— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) January 26, 2015
Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi have ardently defended Richards and his declining offense in recent years, but Lombardi finally made the move long anticipated by Kings fans after apparently trying to trade Richards in recent weeks.
Richards scored 89 goals over three seasons with the Flyers from 2007-10, and the club signed him to a 12-year, $69 million contract extension in December 2007. The Kings traded Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn for Richards when Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren decided to break up his core by trading his captain and goal-scorer Jeff Carter, who ended up being reunited with Richards in Los Angeles several months later.
Richards' contract still runs through 2020. His scoring production has dropped every year since 2010, down to just 11 goals last season.
The Kings' payroll already has been squeezed this season by the suspension of defenseman Slava Voynov. If Richards clears waivers and gets sent to the AHL, the Kings would clear $925,000 in cap space.
The defending Stanley Cup champions are in need of a lineup spark after hitting the All-Star break in ninth place in the Western Conference. Los Angeles slumped into the break, losing four straight and seven of eight.
Los Angeles is likely recall youngster Nick Shore to take Richards' roster spot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report