Dean Lombardi talks LA Kings contracts and buyout options

Mike Richards Stanley Cup Kings MayorsManor by Ikiri
Ah, ah, ah – not so fast.

You probably thought once the NHL season finally started the CBA talk would go away, right?

Well, this isn’t necessarily about the lockout itself, but it certainly is a discussion that was born out of what resulted from all those NHL/NHLPA meetings over the last six months.

Among the many nuances associated with the new CBA is an option teams will have to buy out ‘bad’ contracts.

Perhaps the easiest way to look at the big picture for the Kings is like this:

– The salary cap this season is set at $70.2 million and will be reduced to $64.3 million for next year.

– LA has a few players who will become unrestricted free agents next summer (namely Rob Scuderi and Dustin Penner).  So, their current contracts will come off the books. However, they would either need to be re-signed or replaced.

Dustin Brown is eligible for a contract extension beginning on July 1. He has one more year remaining on his current deal, but his agent and the team can begin negotiating this summer. Like the team did with Jonathan Quick in 2012, they’ll likely want to move as soon as possible once that window opens. It’s hard to work on other deals until you have your key pieces locked up.

And then there’s the two compliance buyouts. Basically, to help General Managers reduce their payrolls the necessary amount, each have been given two ‘do overs’ for any bad contracts they have on the books. If they buy a player out, either in the summer of 2013 or 2014, that money won’t count towards the salary cap.

Scott Gomez and Wade Redden were already bought out by their respective clubs.

In Los Angeles, the two most likely candidates for something similar would be Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

This has nothing to do with their skills and abilities. It’s only a math problem in a cap crazy NHL.

When the Flyers signed Richards and Carter to big money, long-term deals, some wondered if those were smart moves in the cap era. Now, Dean Lombardi owns those contracts.

Richards is signed through 2020 and Carter is inked until 2022.

That’s a long, long time.

Given the dynamics of the new CBA and the impact it will have on the salary cap, does Lombardi – with the benefit of hindsight – ever wonder if he’s made the right deals the last few seasons?

“I do that all the time, and I’ll continue to do that,” the Kings’ GM recently said. “Every General Manager, I don’t care if it’s Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, or whoever there is, that’s generally what deals are supposed to do, don’t forget. They’re supposed to work for both sides. Very few deals are lopsided. The other General Manager is not an idiot you know. You’re not going to get a deal because the other guy is stupid.”

No, but sometimes, things look differently than they once did.

“To question everything? That’s just the nature of the beast,” he continued. “You’re always questioning if you should do it; and if you do it, then you’re always evaluating and you continue to evaluate….A lot of times when (you’re trading) youth for older players, three years later you might say, ‘Oh that wasn’t a very good (deal)’ and it’s flip-flopped. But that’s part of getting better too. If you’re not constantly questioning this trade or this draft, you’re not going to get better at anything. And like I always say, any General Manager who says he doesn’t have a lot of skeletons in his closet is lying. We all have a lot of skeletons.”

Short term, the Kings look to be the winner in both the Carter and Richards deals – after all, LA won the Stanley Cup.

However, what if they hadn’t won last season?  Were they still smart trades?

“I think that’s the Neil Smith thing. Remember the Rangers, when Neil totally unloaded Tony Amonte, (Tony) Granato, Doug Weight and a whole slew of really good players who went on to have great careers?” Lombardi said, as he began to explain things with a long-term perspective in mind. “It kind of turned in a hurry right? They win the Cup and the next year they’re out (of the playoffs)…Then they had to bring in Wayne (Gretzky). But, that always came back in Neil’s defense, ‘Well, we won the Cup.’ And that’s always the question; it’s like selling your soul to the devil.”

Funny choice of words given who the Kings played in the Stanley Cup Final.

“If I come and give you the Cup, but I’m going to decimate your farm system, you might take it right?” asked Lombardi. “So it’s a Faustian deal. But, if you get the Cup is there any price that’s too high to pay?”

Maybe.

Maybe in a salary cap era, yes.

Which brings us to what’s ahead.

Would Lombardi consider a compliance buyout to either help the team’s salary cap pressure moving forward or maybe to get out from under some pretty hefty contracts that he acquired via those trades?

“No compliance buyouts for us,” he said firmly. “If you’re asking me if they do anything for our organization, they don’t. I mean I don’t have a guy I want to get rid of or a bad contract. So, I guess I should have done one so I could get one.”

That’s Lombardi for you, always putting a sly spin on things.

But, he wasn’t done just yet.

“(There’s also) the buyout that is probably more like in football, a decent player,” he said, just before setting up a hypothetical situation to explain further. “I have a good player here that can’t keep up, so I have to release him or re-do his deal. There’s that type. I don’t think hockey has ever seen that with the cap. There hasn’t been a player bought out that’s a good player and they just can’t fit him in. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. In year two, everything is based upon two things – one, you can now share salaries when you trade a guy; and two, I think the fact that the cap goes up (in 2014-15), when originally it was projected to be so low…I think it gives us room to breathe a little bit.”

Sounds like a one year problem then. The salary cap is going down next year, then up the following season.

So, if Lombardi and Jeff Solomon – his cap guru – can get through this summer, they won’t need to use either of the buyout options provided in the new CBA.

“If you’re asking my prediction now, I would say no.”

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Comments

  1. Jason Kahn says:

    I hope they don’t have to buy anybody out. I also hope Brown gets resigned.

  2. Colo king fan says:

    I love this team. Don’t buy anybody out! Just keep the band together (or at least the core guys)!

  3. Nice read. Thank you.

  4. awsumlove says:

    I love this team. Don’t buy anybody out! Just keep the band together (or at least the core guys)!

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