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Kings making big push for free agent Brad Richards

July 1, 2011 | 10:44 am

Brad_620 Despite their protests to the contrary, the Kings are seriously pursuing premier free agent forward Brad Richards.

A delegation from the Kings that includes Tim Leiweke — the chief executive of their parent company, AEG — General Manager Dean Lombardi and other team personnel was waiting outside the offices of Richards’ agent, Pat Morris of Newport Sports, when the free agency period began Friday at 9 a.m. PDT.

“We are here to meet with Brad Richards’ agent,” Leiweke said via email.

Leiweke's presence is a strong indication of their intentions. Leiweke has been spending most of his time on issues surrounding the proposed AEG-backed NFL stadium in downtown Los Angeles, and for him to break away from that effort signals they’re putting on a major push.

They have an elaborate presentation planned, including video clips of the team highlighting how he would fit in and messages from prominent Southern Californians telling Richards what a great place L.A. would be to live.

Lombardi had low-keyed any suggestions he’d be in the hunt for Richards, saying the Kings had recently made their big move by acquiring Mike Richards from Philadelphia and that he would go after only "mid-range" wingers.

But he has more than $16 million in salary cap space for next season and believes the Kings are close enough to Stanley Cup contention that Mike Richards and Brad Richards could put them over the top. He might not be as close as he thinks he is, but it’s a bold try.

And think of Hall of Fame announcer Bob Miller juggling the names of Brad Richards, Mike Richards and Brad Richardson.

However, Lombardi still has to re-sign restricted defenseman Drew Doughty, and that could be tricky. Other teams can now take a run at Doughty with an offer sheet, but the Kings are sure to match any offer he gets. The math can work if both don’t try to break the bank.

But if teams like the New York Rangers go hard after Brad Richards and raise the average annual value toward $7 million, the Kings likely would be priced out. The Buffalo Sabres, with new owner Terry Pegula opening his wallet wide, and Toronto Maple Leafs are also expected to woo Richards.

In other early signings, former Ducks defenseman James Wisniewski signed with Columbus for $33 million over six years after the Blue Jackets had acquired his negotiating rights; the Florida Panthers signed goaltender Jose Theodore for $3 million over two years, Tampa Bay signed Mathieu Garon for $2.6 million over two years.

Tough guy Ben Eager left San Jose for Edmonton and $3.3 million over three years but Tyler Kennedy stayed with Pittsburgh for $4 million over two years and Sami Salo stayed with Vancouver for $2 million for one year.

Canada's TSN reported that Jaromir Jagr signed with the Flyers, though he supposedly wanted to return to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

We’ll have updates later at


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Photo: Brad Richards. Credit: Mike Stone / Reuters.