NEW YORK — The Washington Capitals have agreed to terms on a one-year, $1 million pro-rated deal with center Mike Richards that will count just $500,000 against the salary cap.
Richards met with the NHL earlier on Wednesday and has been given clearance to immediately resume his NHL career. He addresses a need at center, as the Capitals don’t expect center Jay Beagle to resume “full hockey activities” for six weeks after hand surgery.
In a video interview with team reporter Mike Vogel, General Manager Brian MacLellan said he targeted Richards in the summer as a possibility, but wanted to monitor his status with the Kings.
On Oct. 9, the Kings and NHL Players’ Association reached a settlement in which Richards will receive about $10.5 million of the $22 million remaining on his contract. Richards has spent the past few months skating with his former junior team in Ontario.
Richards also has a court hearing on Jan. 28 for his charge of possessing a controlled substance while entering Canada. MacLellan said he and Capitals Coach Barry Trotz talked to forward Justin Williams, a former teammate of Richards’s in Los Angeles, to get a sense of what kind of influence he’d be on the locker room.
MacLellan also said he and Trotz met with Richards more than a month ago and “asked him a bunch of questions with regard to how motivated he is and what he wanted to do going forward.”
“We’ve talked to his representation,” MacLellan told Vogel. “We’ve had legal people involved to determine what could possibly happen on the outcomes, and we feel comfortable where we’re at and where he’s at that it will not be an issue.
“I know he’s pleading not guilty going forward, and we think everything will work out in his favor.”
During the 2013-14 season, Richards scored 11 goals and 30 assists, and he had 10 points in 26 playoff games in the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup. His numbers dropped off last year, as he had five goals and 11 assists and was a in 53 games for the Kings last season, and he was re-assigned to the American Hockey League. Richards has registered 482 points (179 goals, 303 assists) in 710 career NHL games with Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
The most obvious place for Richards, 30, to plug in with the Capitals would be at third-line center, the spot vacated by Beagle’s injury. Washington had moved Marcus Johansson there for its past two games.
“We’re going to see where he’s at physically and mentally and try to incorporate him into our lineup where we see he fits,” MacLellan told Vogel. “He could be a third-line center. He could be a fourth-line center. We’ll just kind of play it by ear and see where he goes.”