So far, the summer of 2013 hasn’t been quite the magical ride for Dean Lombardi that he experienced last year.
Not only did the Kings fall short of their goal – winning a second Stanley Cup – he also was faced with a shrinking salary cap to go along with three Unrestricted Free Agents and more than a handful of Restricted Free Agents.
With Rob Scuderi and Brad Richardson having moved on to new teams, and things not looking good on the Dustin Penner front, action may start to pick up on the RFAs.
One such name was already scratched off the to-do list when defenseman Keaton Ellerby signed a new one-year contract last Thursday. Curiously, the Kings could have qualified him the day before – essentially promising a 5% raise in most cases, while continuing to work on a new contract. When they didn’t qualify him, Ellerby became a free agent. Thus, it looked like his time with the Kings was up.
Then, 24 hours later a new deal was announced. Usually when this happens, a team re-signs the player at the same salary as the prior year (or occasionally less), because they’re no longer bound by the qualifying rules – remember, the player is an unrestricted free agent at that point.
Specific to the Kings situation, they were also negotiating with Rob Scuderi right around that time. So, some wondered if something changed on that front, causing the Kings to loop back and pick things up with Ellerby again.
According to Lombardi, all of those theories may make for great stories, but the reality was little bit different.
“I think what happened is, there was dialogue up to that point (the cut-off date to qualify him) and I think we had agreed,” the Kings GM explained. “Then, what happened is, he was over (in Slovenia) at Kopi’s wedding. So, it’s kind of like what I’ve said (in the past), where things go down until the end and then…I think his agent realized this is the best thing for him right now, to regroup here and take a one-year deal. He thinks this is a good spot for him to learn. In terms of what happened, that part, they had agreed to it. But, then he had gone to Kopi’s wedding. The bottom line though is the deal was done. And then we had some paperwork flying back and forth.”
So, you didn’t change your mind in a 24-48 hour period because of other factors or negotiations going on?
“No. We had always been talking around those numbers and one of the things deadlines do is force people to make decisions. So, I don’t think all the arbitration stuff was really a factor (with Ellerby). It was just – like I said, it’s a good story, in the sense we couldn’t get him because he was at a teammates wedding.”
All parties continue to work on new deals right now also.
However, four of those players filed for salary arbitration on Wednesday. For those unfamiliar, this is a process allowed by the CBA, where agents and players can ask for more money than the small increase guaranteed when they were qualified.
The dates for arbitration hearings would be sometime between July 22 and August 6. But, it may not get to that point, as the two sides can continue to negotiate until then. In fact, it would be very surprising if all four ever made it to arbitration. Most are likely to sign before then.
“Arbitration is part of the process,” Lombardi told MayorsManor. “So it doesn’t mean its going to arbitration. Two things happen – one, the parties get a little more in the ballpark and then arbitration takes it to the next level. I think obviously our issue… the thing you have to realize is that when we’re going one contract, we’re doing five or six, and then you’re looking at next year’s cap. So, it is much more involved when you’re looking at a player like this and trying to negotiate with him. Then also, he clearly has to fit into the big picture. I think this is a new experience for all of us, it’s kind of difficult. There’s two things – it’s one thing to come to a fair number; that used to be all you had to worry about. But, now you have to get a fair number that fits within your grand economic scheme. So, that makes things a little more difficult. We had five guys at the same time… but, to make a long story short, we just have to work through the process. But, it’s not easy.”
But, what about Clifford? Word last week suggested he was about to sign a new two-year deal.
So, is a deal with the rugged 22-year old forward, any closer than with some of the other guys?
“It gets closer every day, it’s whether it’s close enough,” Lombardi quipped. “I don’t think with all these guys we’re far apart. But, as we find out more and more as we get into this, unfortunately, every hundred-grand is…particularly when we’re a cap team, and the cap is coming down as we try and regroup. So, unlike in the past, it’s not as easy to say ‘Alright, let’s throw another hundred-grand on there and get ‘er done. Every nickel counts.”
Next up, we’ll get into the abundance of defensemen the Kings appear to have on the roster and ask Lombardi what the future might hold.
Meanwhile, for an update look at the Kings salary cap situation and how it might all piece together – and why a trade is still very likely – click here.
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