A few of the worst kept secrets in Los Angeles have been officially revealed over the past few days – Vinny Lecavalier is officially retiring, Milan Lucic wants to stay in Los Angeles, and the Kings’ still haven’t solved their problems on defense (largely caused by the departure of Slava Voynov).
Thus, it will be another fun-filled summer for Dean Lombardi and crew; as they once again will lean heavily upon team VP Jeff Solomon to help solve a complex salary cap riddle before the puck drops on the 2016-17 season.
In December we wrote about why one of the team’s four key contracts is likely to be traded this summer – that of Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Jake Muzzin, or Alec Martinez. In reality, it’s not that the organization is overly thrilled with losing any of those players; it’s simply the reality of the salary cap era. Debate which of those you’d rather lose all day long – and there are clearly vociferous supporters and detractors of at least three of them – the fact remains Lombardi’s calculator and spreadsheets have to be pulling at his heart strings.
Considering the team has rather gaping holes on defense, we’ll assume Muzzin and Martinez are not likely to leave town. They both have affordable contracts and come with an attractive mix of youth and experience that the Kings should still covet for several more seasons. What that means for Brown and Gaborik will be fodder for much discussion between now and mid-July.
As a starting point, penciling out a 2016-17 Kings roster at the moment (removing players heading toward unrestricted free agency), would net out something similar to this:
LA Kings current lineup
TBD – Anze Kopitar – Marian Gaborik
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King – Nick Shore – Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford – TBD – Jordan Nolan
Extra forwards: Andy Andreoff and TBD
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez – TBD
TBD – Matt Greene
Extra defenseman: Rob Scuderi
Clearly, that potentially leaves a pile of work to be done this summer. However, several of those spots could (and should) be filled by players within the organization. And even if the coach or others in management may not want to go in that direction; they may have no other choice due to the cap.
Before you start to build your personal arguments regarding who should be moved, allow us to quickly arm you with some numbers. As we always say when reviewing salary cap information, please ignore the line combinations and defensive pairings, they are only for illustrative purposes. The more important thing to focus on is the way dollars are spread across a 23-man roster.
The 2016-17 NHL salary cap is believed to have an upper limit of around $73-74 million. Reviewing the Kings’ contract situations in total, and assuming Lucic returns with an average cap hit of around $5M, that would leave about $3.5M for some blueline help. Take a look:
LA Kings 2016-17 Projected lineup
Add in the $1.57M penalty for the termination of Mike Richards’ contract and the Kings would be pushing the upper limit of the proposed cap.
$73,759,393 PROJECTED TOTAL WITH PENALTY
– If Brown is moved, it would most likely cost the Kings a package of players – i.e. Pearson (who could be replaced in the lineup by Mersch) or a prospect like Adrian Kempe or Derek Forbort – to balance out the deal. This would only further necessitate the Kings willingness to balance out their pricey top lines with some less expensive players in the bottom six and/or among the lower pairings on defense.
– Lucic is coming off a contract where his average cap hit was $6M. He says he wants to stay, thus it’s fair to assume he and his agent understand that likely means a pay cut, considering L.A.’s cap crunch. Trading another contract could open up more money for Lucic (but really should instead be used on a defenseman). That said, if the Kings were to retain any salary in such a trade (for Brown or Gaborik), they would almost have to be assured of adding a young defenseman under a long-term contract (either in the trade or in a separate deal – like one involving Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets).
– In addition to the Lucic signing and a $3.5M addition on D, the above example also assumes UFAs Trevor Lewis, Jamie McBain, Kris Versteeg, and Luke Schenn do not return. Other assumptions include RFA Brayden McNabb not being part of the opening night roster (although he could be, depending on a few of the other players staying/leaving), and RFA Dowd re-signing at a modest rate (moving from $600K this season to $850K next season).
– None of the above is meant to suggest “this is the Kings 2016-17 opening night roster,” it is merely a guide for their cap situation leading into what should be an interesting summer.
THIS IS A MUST-READ RE: The LA Kings Cap Situation and Their Future
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