Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can buy out up to two players this summer or next and not have those contracts count against the salary cap. The compliance buyout period begins 48 hours after the last game of the Stanley Cup Final and runs through July 4.
Free agency begins July 5.
Richards, who is signed through the 2019-20 season, has seven years left on his contract at an annual salary cap hit of $6.667 million.
While he's scheduled to earn $9 million next season, his salary drops to $1 million, per year, in the final three seasons of his deal.
The Leafs were among the teams that heavily courted Richards two summers ago, but fell short and lost out to the Blueshirts.
According to the Star, the Leafs could use Richards, especially if they end up letting center Tyler Bozak walk an unrestricted free agent.
Bozak is believed to be looking for a contract north of $5 million per season, while Richards might only cost closer to $3 million per year.
However, as the paper notes, the Dallas Stars could also pursue Richards, if available, and might have an edge as the 33-year-old thoroughly enjoyed his time in Texas.