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Kings' Mike Richards says L.A. 'not a bad place' to start over

HOCKEY

The center, acquired from Philadelphia, says he looks forward to having a lower profile in Los Angeles.

July 27, 2011|By Helene Elliott
  • Kings forward Mike Richards speaks to reporters during a news conference in El Segundo on Wednesday.
Kings forward Mike Richards speaks to reporters during a news conference… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)

Center Mike Richards was still torn about being traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles a month after the surprising deal was done. His perspective changed after he took a stroll along a South Bay beach.

"I started thinking it's not a bad place to be and not a bad place to start a new career," he said Wednesday.

Richards, projected to ease the scoring burden carried by top-line center Anze Kopitar, got his new uniform Wednesday in El Segundo and said he looked forward to joining a team that "made a lot of big steps in the last couple years." The next step for the Kings will be to re-sign restricted free-agent defenseman Drew Doughty, but that doesn't appear to be imminent.

General Manager Dean Lombardi said he and Doughty's agent, Don Meehan, on Tuesday had their first extended conversation in a while.

"It's safe to say we're still having dialogue. Just keep trying to move forward," Lombardi said. "We'll be talking again here shortly. … We're still on track."

Lombardi said the scheduled Aug. 2 arbitration hearing for standout Nashville defenseman Shea Weber won't provide a perfect standard for Doughty because Weber is 26 to Doughty's 21 and Weber is a year from unrestricted free agency.

But he said he would consider making Doughty the team's highest-paid player if Doughty would take a long-term deal and give up his first shot at unrestricted free agency. Kopitar has the Kings' top average annual salary at $6.8 million through 2015-16.

"If you get more free-agent years then I think you can be more flexible that way," Lombardi said.

Lombardi also said center Colin Fraser, acquired from Edmonton for Ryan Smyth, is in town for more tests on the ankle injury whose severity the Kings dispute. Lombardi left open the possibility he will file a grievance with the NHL if the doctor's report shows insufficient healing.

Richards, who planned to fly back East on Thursday, said he looked forward to having a lower profile here. He said he didn't know why he was traded but downplayed a recent Philadelphia Daily News story in which two unnamed Flyers said his hard partying was a factor.

"It's tough sometimes seeing these articles or hearing some things that are said when you know that they aren't true," he said. "It's almost mentally draining when you keep having to back your story up off the ice, defending yourself when people say things that aren't really correct."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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