Lombardi has a Mitchell update and too many defensemen

Earlier today we shared some comments from Kings GM Dean Lombardi regarding ongoing contract negotiations with several of the team’s young players.

In addition to re-signing Keaton Ellerby to a one-year contract, Lombardi also added unrestricted free agent Jeff Schultz last Friday. Now, when you add in the qualifying offers he made to Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin (plus the five defensemen already under contract), that would give LA nine defensemen.

Even with a healthy scratch or two on a final 23-man roster, that’s still too many blueliners to start the season with.

“We have a number of players who are at different stages of their careers, and different reasons,” Lombardi started to explain when speaking with MayorsManor on Wednesday. “All of them have potential to be better. And one of the things you do is (ask), ‘Who’s going to step up here?’ We have multiple options to piece it together and, the way it’s been done, not take significant hits on your cap. That was a better option to us than maybe going out and trying to get an older guy at $2-million or something. We’d know what he is and it’s clearly a short-term thing just to get by. So, we said, ‘Load up and make these kids better over the summer.’ Let’s see if Schultz can get back on that plus-50 season, make Keaton better, get Marty back on track and Muzz, just keep getting better. So, we have multiple options there depending on how they grasp ‘I gotta get better.'”

And then there’s the wild card in the whole conversation – the health and availability of Willie Mitchell, who has one year remaining on his contract.

“If Willie plays, it’s a different schematic. It he doesn’t, it’s another different schematic,” Lombardi said. “The bottom line is, we’re covered either way. The problem, and even the frustrating thing all summer, since we started this, is Willie’s been the wild card, right? The fact that he’s now back on track is great, but it also made it more difficult. Let’s just say he was done – then it’s easy because the $3.5M is off the cap, buy it out or LTIR, retire or whatever. At least the decision is done and the cap implications are done. Now you’re sitting here with a critical guy, a good player, a really good player. My trainers have guaranteed me he’s going to play 80 games next year [ed note: that was a joke, as head trainer Chris Kingsley was standing nearby].”

In a recent Hockey Night in Canada radio interview Lombardi made a passing comment that it looks like Mitchell is coming back. So, we asked him for some clarification on that statement.

“Well it does (look that way) right now,” answered Lombardi. “It’s fair to say that given where he’s at right now, it made us, and the proof’s in what we did, that we believe clearly he’s on the right track. And we did everything around his (salary cap) number. If we didn’t feel that way and I was smoking you, I would have done something to get out of that number.”

At that point, the normally boisterous Lombardi seemed to almost slow to a crawl. You could practically see the wheels turning.

“It’s a tough one,” he said with a measured pause, perhaps choosing his words carefully. “In some cases, if he comes back, we all know how good a player he is and how good of a partner he is with Voynov. On the other hand, it probably would have been a lot easier if three months ago, ‘Alright, I’m done’ – at least from a planning perspective. It’s probably the most difficult challenge I’ve ever had, and sitting with Solly (Jeff Soloman) and Hex (Ron Hextall) all the time – it’s hard enough to fit your guys in under the cap, and then to have a guy here who…you know. So, when I say it’s been a science project the last three months I wasn’t kidding.”

For the most up to date look at the Kings salary cap situation and how Lombardi might ultimately piece it all together – and why a trade is still very likely – click here.

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  1. I suppose it’s a good thing to cover all your bases, but it still seems you’re going to have at least one odd man out if Mitchell isn’t ready to go or two if he IS ready.

  2. Lombardi is doing this wrong. Why?

    1. Mitchell is clearly a player that, if he’s available, you want him on the roster, and he’s worth his contract.

    2. As of this moment, Mitchell appears on track to play next season.

    Meaning that…

    3. You plan as if you’re going to have him! You don’t waste cap space signing 20 other defenseman just in case he re-injures himself! Because if he stays healthy, now you’ve already wasted all your cap space, and you can’t get out of it unless teams are willing to accommodate you with trades! Which is no guarantee!

    So then what do you do if Mitchell re-injures himself? THEN you sign a replacement, or trade for one! The Kings just wasted money re-signing Keaton Ellerby, who they won’t need if Mitchell re-signs. Well when they acquire Ellerby in the first place again? Oh yeah, it was early last season, and it only cost a 5th round pick!

    So the attitude that you have to sign a bunch of potential replacements right now JUST IN CASE Mitchell gets injured again because there won’t be any replacements available once the season starts and it will be too late is BULL! There will be options already on your NHL team, like Martinez. There will be internal options within your prospect pool like Forbort and others. Remember Alec Martinez coming out of nowhere to make the team? Well you can always just do something like that again.

    Plus, there are always cheap depth guys available through trade for late picks, like Ellerby last year, or Jeff Schultz who they just signed for free.

    That’s why you don’t waste the cap space BEFORE anything bad happens. You wait to see what happens with Mitchell, because there are good odds you won’t even need replacements because he’ll be fine, and then even if he isn’t, you’re still fine because you have tons of options to replace him, and it’s not like they’re really going to be that much of a downgrade on the likes of Ellerby.

    So Lombardi’s “science” makes no sense so far, unless he’s planning to trade Regehr or something.

    • Very good point,+1…GKG…

    • “Trade Regehr” is also wrong.

      Regardless of what happens with Mitchell, Scuds is no longer on the team, so there is zero chance we are trading Regehr. Well, unless Mitchell gets hurt and we give up chasing the cup for a season or two, or three.

      • Trade RR?

        No.. Lombardi should start erasing that mistake he made by signing the 6’6″ vagina Schultz. There is no need for him at all. All that did was take vaulable cap space away from our restricted free agent forwards or getting a LW2.

        I hope Schultz is no where near the roster come the start of the season.

        • Well…if Mitchell is a no-go, then we’ve go not shot at a cup. Even if he’s placed on LTIR an equally good dman is most likely not gonna be available. So I’m guessing he’s making a big desperation move in hoping Schultz can play top 4 in the meantime. Or we could see Muzzin/Voynov or a switched-over Greene/Voynov. Not pretty. Everything’s riding on Mitchell, I guess.

        • Yeah a lot of fans are down on Schultz and probably for good reason. Makes me wonder if Lombardi bases his trades on plus/minus…hehe.

    • “Well you can always just do something like that again”

      Really? Because you can always count on a solid defenseman to come out of nowhere?

      “Lombardi’s science” brought LA their first Cup, but I guess maybe you’re the expert on what makes sense.

    • Choralone says

      Dean’s doing it the right way. The Kings can be over cap for the summer, as long as they are under the cap once the season starts.Dean just explained his reasoning: see how the 4 young guys develop, pick the winners, deal or waive the others, and move forward. He’s signed all those guys to cheap, short deals which will make it easy to move any of them when the need arises.

  3. Ultimately he’ll piece it all together before the September’s puck drop!…GKG…

  4. I disagree completely. There was no BIG money wasted in signing Ellerby and Schultz. AMart not signed yet either and no guarantees he will be. All 3 are available for trade if needed and since it seems Dmen are gaining more and more value these days, this is a very good hand to hold at a great price. Also maybe there is some concern on Greene maybe taking a step back again. Then yer out 2 strong Dmen again if WM can’t go. Even 4 mediocre Dmen doesn’t equal 2 good ones. Many times players are acquired not necessarily to play on your own team. Time will see how this unfolds.

    DL knows very well what he’s doing. You will see AGAIN!

  5. Come on guys, have a little faith in Deano…maybe it’s just your youth? I am 55 and can remember all the past GMs-including a plethora of “yes men” hired by jkc-may he rest in loser’s hell! They chased away more raw talent and traded off people for reasons beyond the realm of the Twilight Zone in a manner commensurate with working for “the Fed”. But the past two or three GMs have really turned things around-I think because we have a top-notch ownership (that is my opinion anyway!), and I really want to continue being patient with them. I know, I was becoming antsy a year or two before we won the Cup. But Dean L kept his word…as did Luuuuuc and Tim L, and Mr Anshutz. It cost them time, hard work and money, but they made things happen. And a contingent of really good coaches and trainers and staff kept things working pretty smoothly-barring unforeseen accidents of fate-ie. having Anze and Williams go down that one year…

    So come on all, I watch daily, too, wondering if we have to lose one or two of the guys I really wanna see make the team again. I remember their feats of accomplishment that helped get us a banner. I cannot even pick one over another at this point. As many of you have prior said, I’d’ve been far more likely to leave off 2-3 others instead. But maybe this is better as it puts each guy into the line of fire of the next, knowing they could still be traded, let go, released, lost to waivers or worse yet, simply not resigned. So competition will be for the job rather than for the highest wage. Young people getting so much money thrown at them at such a young age might quickly forget that it’s still a business, and their job is entertaining the rest of us…by winning games and championships-seriously-that’s what it comes down to. Entertainment. So I stand by Dean Lombardi and wish him the best-his pedigree is certainly solid-God Bless you Linda and our best to dear old dad-another King’s legend-if not short lived-again because of jkc!


  1. […] Mayor John Hoven reported already, Lombardi believes that Mitchell will play this season, but who will be the odd man out? […]

  2. […] the defensive side of things – where the Kings have nine players under contract – after speaking with Lombardi last week it appears he’s going to let the guys fight it out in Training Camp and go from there. At […]

  3. […] Lombardi has a Mitchell update and too many defensemen […]