Last month, we brought you part-one of what will most likely be a summer-long process of re-evaluating where the LA Kings stand relative to the 2017-18 salary cap. New GM Rob Blake has plenty of work ahead of him, as he works to re-tool his roster and the fly and put the Kings back in championship contention. Several updates have taken place since that article, including new contracts for Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, along with confirmation of a $75M salary cap ceiling. Then, this morning, we published a report regarding who the team is expected to lose in the Expansion Draft.
Sources lead us to believe LA Kings will be losing defenseman Brayden McNabb to Vegas Golden Knights in #NHLExpansionDraft
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) June 21, 2017
Given all of the above information, let’s take an updated look over the Kings current cap situation:
The above 23-man roster would come at a price tag of $69.3M (including the $1.57M penalty the Kings are paying next season for terminating Mike Richards’ contract and the $833K cap penalty for buying out Matt Greene). At a cap ceiling of $75M, that would leave Blake about $5.7M to play with for roster upgrades.
– Yes, the above numbers in red are estimated amounts for new contracts that will be needed in the weeks ahead. They are conservative estimates, as none of those players will likely receive more money.
– Marian Gaborik is a bit of a wild card in all of this. He is injured, so he can’t be bought out. Which means either a trade (and that would most certainly have to include the Kings sending a prospect/pick in the deal to sweeten things) or LTIR, which comes with its own set of problems once he is finally healthy enough to play. Said differently, that is only a temporary solution.
– If you’re looking to upgrade at forward or on defense using internal candidates, it comes in the form of prospects. Most likely, Justin Auger and Michael Mersch (both forwards) and Kurtis MacDermid (defenseman) are the trio who could/should push hard for jobs during training camp. On the plus side, none of them expected to carry a cap hit north of $1M. Conversely, none of them have NHL experience to speak of and, realistically, how many youngsters can the Kings effectively have on their roster? More likely, if any of the three make the team, that probably means they pushed some combination of Shore, Andreoff, and/or Nolan off the NHL roster. From a cap perspective, that would essentially be a wash, as the dollars would pretty much cancel each other out.
– More on the Reign trio: Auger, Mersch, and MacDermid all require waivers next season. Thus, if they don’t secure an NHL roster spot, the Kings will risk losing them to another team when they attempt to send them back to Ontario.
How do we see this all playing out?
Begin with the assumption of placing Gaborik on LTIR to create some cap space (this move comes with some risk, as the Kings will still need to potentially deal with another round cap gymnastics if-and-when he returns, but he is too much of an unknown quantity at this point and the team needs a top line player for opening night). Then, things will likely shake out something like this:
Our projected roster comes at cap cost just shy of $66M, so Blake and Company would have more than $9M to go out and get a legit winger to play with Kopitar. And, of equal importance, the Kings are able to keep intact a defensive core that was one of the best in the league during the 2016-17 campaign. Some of the money might also be used to upgrade the backup goaltender position. We just believe that is a much lower priority at the moment.
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