Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan addressed the media before Thursday's game at Barclays Center and outlined how the Capitals came to a one-year contract agreement with 30-year-old center Mike Richards. Here is a transcript of MacLellan's pre-game interview:
On the timeline surrounding the signing:
I think we talked about him internally near the end of the summer and kind of monitoring his situation with L.A. and wanted to see what the outcome was of that. We had discussions with his agents just to keep in contact and see what the situation was going to develop into, [if] Mike was going to want to continue playing, and what was going to happen with his court cases and so forth and we just kind of kept in contact the whole time. We took an opportunity when we were in Toronto near the end of November to meet with him—me and Barry. Had a good discussion with him for about an hour, hour-and-a-half, just got a sense of where he was at personally, where he was at with his playing career, what he wanted to accomplish, emotional stuff. Felt a good comfort level from there and then we had further discussions with his agent. He had a number of teams interested in him. We kept pursuing him and monitoring his court cases. We had our lawyer talk to his lawyers. We had immigration lawyers involved. So, it’s been a long process. It ended with us signing him the other day.
On whether Jay Beagle's injury led to the signing of Richards:
No, I think we were pursuing him regardless of what happened with Jay. We’re looking to add depth at center for us. I think the goal at the end of the summer was to have a left shot centerman that could take faceoffs, play against hot lines, do some PK work for us, and he was on our list just to thorough with it.
On the strong comments by Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi in October:
I’ve heard Dean’s comments. I think it was important for us to hear the other side of the story, too—from Mike. There’s always two sides of the story. We listened to his side. Both people have a case, and we were comfortable with what Mike expressed to us about the situation.
On what he and Barry Trotz asked Richards when they met with him near the end of November:
It was more where he was at. I think he’s had some experiences here that have affected him personally and career-wise. We wanted to get a sense of how he was recovering from that and what he was looking to do, going forward, and could he accomplish it, and did we feel he could accomplish it?
On what legal issues lie ahead for Richards:
“He has a hearing. I think it’s a little uncertain, but he has a hearing coming back January 28, which I think is more a status hearing. We’re in communication with his lawyer. We think he’s going to plead not guilty. We think we’ll have a favorable outcome for him in this case. It may drag on. I think it’s open from our communications with his representation. It could be over. It could drag on.”
On what makes Richards worth the work it took to get him:
I think the player that he was. He’s got over 120 games playoff experience. He’s been on a lot of championship teams from junior to American League to NHL to Olympics. I think that doesn’t happen by accident. We’ve followed him in all of those. There’s a quality person, teammate there that we were interested in, and we think we can get a lot of that back out of him.
On monitoring Richards' progress off the ice:
I think we’re going to support him any way we can. Playing-wise, physically, emotionally, mentally. We have a good group here. Our room is solid. He has a good friend in Justin Williams in our room. Barry’s a good coach. We have a good coaching staff. The environment is good, and I think he recognizes it. I think it’s going to be to be very comfortable for him in that environment. If he needs help, we’ll get him help.
On if he feels Richards understands how grave his situation is:
Yeah, I do. He’s played a lot of hockey, and I think it has a toll on you, physically, mentally and emotionally. I think with the time off with his recovery, physical stuff. Whatever has gone on in his personal life, I think it’s been important for him, I think it’s been important for him to reestablish how much he enjoys playing and the level that he enjoys playing at.
On Justin Williams' input in signing Richards:
I think most of the input we asked from Justin is: What kind of guy is he? The one thing we wanted to get a sense of, is if we put him in our locker room, what’s he going to be like? I think Justin basically said that there was no chance he would be a bad influence within our room. He’s a good person, brings a lot to the table. He spoke very highly of him.
On where Richards is physically and whether he will play in AHL Hershey before joining the Caps:
We’re leaving it open. We’re going to have skate with us for however long, we’ll see how he does. We’ll do some conditioning skates. We’ll monitor his progress. We’ll see how he feels. It will be up to Barry and him. We can use the two weeks conditioning period if we want. He can go down to Hershey for two, three, four games. It depends how Mike’s doing and what the coaching staff wants to do with him.
On messing with the Caps' locker room chemistry:
A lot of that was…Justin pretty much said there would be no problems with the person he knew. Mike’s in a good spot when we talked to him. I don’t think that was a major concern for him. I think the only thing we’re waiting to see is what level he’s at physically, where he can play in the lineup.
On how much he knew about Richards:
I’ve been a personnel guy for a long time. I’ve watched him in the World Junior. I watched him in Philly. I watched him in L.A. So, I have a good grasp of who he is on the ice. I mean you hear stuff off the ice, but again, I’ve talked to people around who know him, and everybody wants to see him do well. They all comment on how competitive he has. They all comment on [that] he’s an impact player in the game. He raises his level during big games. That’s what you’re looking to get out of him.
On whether the Capitals are finished adding players:
“I think we need to wait here a little bit and see how Mike, where he fits in our room and make decisions based on that. ... Last year we were looking to add some depth. We tried to fill a couple of holes. We’ll probably do the same thing this year if we feel that’s a need. I think we have a most improved lineup this year. I don’t think the sense of urgency to add, especially if Mike works out, will be there.”
On Lombardi’s comments that NHL teams need to be better prepared to handle players' off-ice issues:
I think we are. You never know until a circumstance comes up. I think our group is tight. I think there’s a lot of support within the group, and I think if we had a circumstance that needed to be addressed, it would come from players or it would come from assistant coaches or it would come from the coach, and we’d address it. I think the most important thing is for guys to ask for help, ask their teammates for help. I think we have a good environment right now for that.
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