Winning a Stanley Cup championship is hard enough, but as Kings GM Dean Lombardi has stated numerous times since 2012, trying to do it again brings even more challenges. Six players who suited up for Game 5 vs. the New Jersey Devils are no longer with the organization and several more players on the current roster will most likely not return for next season. That’s just the reality of a salary cap era.
It’s also one of the many things that probably keeps Lombardi up at night. As much as solving the team’s holes on defense have almost surely been driving him mad, contract issues for the coming year have been simmering over on the side burner. Entering the current campaign, Lombardi and his Executive VP, Jeff Solomon, needed to potentially work on new contracts for four pending unrestricted free agents (Alec Martinez, Robyn Regehr, Jarret Stoll, and Justin Williams), as well as six restricted free agents (Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, Martin Jones, Jake Muzzin, Tanner Pearson, and Tyler Toffoli).
The duo went to work right away – and what shouldn’t have come as a surprise to those paying attention – they started on defense. First, came a new five-year deal with Muzzin, followed by a six-year deal with Martinez.
Earlier today, they fit the next piece of their 2015-16 jigsaw puzzle into place, locking up forward Jordan Nolan for three more years, at a salary cap hit of $975K per season.
Usually, contract announcements are followed by media and fans offering their myriad of opinions as to why or why not the deal carries good value for the team and/or player. Before you go arguing with your friends, we’ll give you a little to chew on and ponder how this could impact Kyle Clifford’s next contract.
A few ground rules maybe worth pointing out here – specifically, you can’t value contracts for defensemen and forwards in the same manner (nor goaltenders for that matter), and Anze Kopitar’s deal coming off of his Entry Level Contract isn’t comparable to a guy like Clifford.
With that in mind, below is a quick look at somewhat comparable players – a point some of you will want to debate, and that’s fine. Dwight King would likely be viewed as a second/third line player, while Clifford is more of a third/fourth line player. Additionally, Nolan has basically settled into a fourth line role.
Even so, what this shows is King, Nolan, and Trevor Lewis were all on similar deals coming off their initial NHL contracts. King and Nolan both signed two-year extensions off their ELCs. Lewis is a little different, in that he initially signed a one-year extension, but he only had 11 games of NHL experience at that point. The following year, he played in 72 regular season games and then signed a two-year extension. In an effort to try and keep things comparable, we will average those three years for Lewis and refer to that as his “2nd deal” in the table below. [note: If any of that math explanation is confusing, don’t worry about it. We only mentioned it for the hardcore number crunchers.]
On the next deal King signed, currently in the first year of that three-year contract, (labeled “3rd deal” below), he received a 160% increase over what he was being paid before. Over the next three years of Lewis’ time with the Kings, he essentially received a 94% pay increase.
Today’s three-year extension for Nolan will give him just short of a 40% pay increase.
While it might not be totally fair to simplify things in this manner – and as one Kings executive told us earlier today, this certainly is not how they evaluate contracts (while also indicating he knows some agents and other managers think in these terms) – it does provide a quick starting point for a discussion on Clifford’s next deal.
The 24-year-old winger is due for a raise. Using three players just mentioned, should he be paid in the $1.5M range? The $2.75M range? More?
|2nd Deal||3rd Deal||increase|
|2nd Deal||3rd Deal||increase|
From what we’ve been able to gather via multiple sources, talks between Clifford’s agent and Lombardi/Solomon have been going on for some time and are said to be progressing. However, the two sides aren’t close to finalizing a deal at the moment. That is typically just the nature of negotiations, though, and things can change pretty quickly.
[UPDATE, FEB. 25 – The Kings and Clifford have agreed on a five-year extension with an average cap hit of $1.6M. In short, this offers good value for both sides and should be seen as a win-win deal.
Now, exactly what happened between yesterday’s article and a deal being done? After a few phone calls, here is what we’ve gathered… The original note about them not being close was from around 10:30am PST. They had been talking, and for a while. In the end, things moved very swiftly, as several phone calls took place in the afternoon between the Kings and Clifford’s agent. A five-year deal was pretty much the focus, after previous discussions had briefly touched on shorter term deals. In short, the issue with the five-year term centered on the dollar amount. Contracts are largely about projections of a player’s future performance and there was some initial disagreement. Again, that is a standard part of negotiations. A five-year deal also bought out three years of unrestricted free agency. The Kings were able to bridge the gap in the afternoon and the new deal was finally agreed to around game time last night. Clifford made it clear throughout negotiations; Los Angeles was where he wanted to play.
The actual contract breaks down as:
$1.35M in 2015-16 ($700K of that is a signing bonus, only $650K is salary)
$1.25M in 2016-17
$1.7M in 2017-18
$1.8M in 2018-19
$1.9M in 2019-20
NOTE: the following paragraph and subsequent poll were part of the original article posted yesterday.]
If you were the Kings, how much would you be offering Clifford? He had 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) two years ago. Last season, he recorded eight points (3G, 5A) in 71 games, and this year he has 10 points (3G, 7A) in 56 games played thus far.
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