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Welcome Mike Richards to the trade rumor mill

Los Angeles Kings v Phoenix Coyotes - Game One

GLENDALE, AZ - MAY 13: Mike Richards #10 of the Los Angeles Kings looks on during a break in Game One of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Coyotes during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Arena on May 13, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Coyotes 4-2. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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On Tuesday, Los Angeles center Mike Richards popped up on the ol’ trade radar.

The blip came courtesy a pair of radio segments from TSN’s Darren Dreger (see here) and Bob McKenzie (see here), in which both explained that Los Angeles’ ongoing cap crunch, depth down the middle and market value for quality centers all leads to one conclusion -- Richards is a logical choice to be moved.

“I don’t think the notion they might be prepared to part with him is necessarily performance-related as much as it is reality-related,” McKenzie said on TSN 1050 radio. “And that is on a team that’s got Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jarret Stoll as your top three centers.

“Do you have room for a guy making that kind of money as arguably a fourth-line center?”

Richards is halfway through a monster 12-year, $69 million deal that carries a $5.75M annual cap hit. This summer, he was the subject of buyout speculation following a fourth-line demotion in Stanley Cup Final -- a series in which he went up against another pricey, demoted center named Richards (Brad), who was eventually bought out by the Rangers.

Buyout talk was so feverish that Kings GM Dean Lombardi came out and said he wouldn’t amnesty Richards’ deal. Lombardi did so with the understanding that Richards would “make some adjustments in his offseason training,” alluding to the fact the 29-year-old wasn’t in tip-top shape a year ago.

“Essentially, I have to trust him,” Lombardi said prior to the June 30 buyout window closing. “Once that deadline goes, we’re locked in.”

As mentioned above, Richards hasn’t been bad this season. He’s scored seven points in 15 games but is playing even less than he did a year ago -- 15:17 TOI per game, his lowest average since his rookie campaign in 2005-06. (And yes, part of that is due to the guys in front of him.)

At the end of the day, though, a move might be more about the money than it is about Richards. The Kings missed out on their first chance at financial relief when they balked on buying him out; now that they’re mired in salary cap hell, they might not pass on a second opportunity.