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Richards: I gave Lombardi ‘my word’ I’d work harder in the offseason

2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 13: Mike Richards #10 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates with the Stanley Cup after the Kings 3-2 double overtime victory against the New York Rangers in Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 13, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Mike Richards wants to reward Dean Lombardi for showing faith in him.

In a conversation with ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, the 29-year-old Kings forward spoke about his general manager’s decision to keep him, as opposed to buying him out of the last six seasons of his $69 million contract.

“I really didn’t want to become a free agent and leave,” said Richards. “I want to be part of the Kings for a long time. So I was a little nervous from that point, even though I didn’t think Dean would do it, there’s always that chance that it could happen if he thought I couldn’t be the player I was before. If he thought I was on the downward track, maybe he would have done what was best for the team and bought me out.

“But it’s good to see he has confidence I can be back to being that player. It’s not easy working out every day and pushing towards it, but I’ve done it before and I felt I could do it. I gave him my word I would work towards being the player I was before.”

Certainly, Richards is under pressure to get back to being more than a fourth-line center. Lombardi defended his decision to keep the player by saying, “Time and again he shows up at critical moments.”

But Lombardi also said this: “The biggest thing in the meeting with Michael – the important thing – is that he realized he’s going to have to make some adjustments in his offseason training.”

And that’s something with which Richards couldn’t disagree: “I think before, not that I didn’t work hard, but I think I just took it for granted, where stuff was going on and you could skip a workout a day or two and not think it would be problem ... and then at the end of the summer, you’re probably not in the best shape you need to be in going into a season.”