Last year, the Capitals took a flier on two-time Stanley Cup champion Mike Richards, whose career was derailed in Los Angeles by a drug possession charge (which was later stayed). Richards, who had to be reinstated to the league by Gary Bettman, signed a pro-rated one-year, $1 million contract on January 16, 2016.
In 39 regular season games with the Capitals, Richards scored only two goals and had a dreary 4.3% shooting percentage. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Richards was a strong penalty killer and had a 51.8% shot-attempt percentage at even strength, tilting the ice in the Caps’ favor when he was on the ice. During the playoffs, Richards delivered several big hits and even bigger clears, receiving 15 to 20 shifts a night from Barry Trotz.
Despite being a permanent part of the Caps’ line-up at the end of the year, Richards, an unrestricted free agent, appears likely not to return. Desiring an improved bottom six, GM Brian MacLellan non-tendered RFA Michael Latta, traded for third-line center Lars Eller, and signed forward Brett Connolly, shaking up the team’s third and fourth lines. Jay Beagle, the leading candidate to be the team’s fourth-line center, has two years remaining on his three-year, $5.25 million contract.
On Tuesday, the Capitals announced that Connolly will wear Richards’ number 10 next season. That’s kind of awkward if you ask me.