With the NHL off-season rolling right along, LA Kings GM Rob Blake has already completed the bulk of his heavy lifting. This opened with a pair of Unrestricted Free Agent signings (more on that in a minute), followed by recent news that several of the team’s Restricted Free Agents had inked new two-year deals. What’s left? Only forward Adrian Kempe.
Keeping the tag team division alive and kicking, here's some additional action…
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 10, 2019
While everybody remains on Kempe-watch, let’s update the team’s salary cap situation.
Previously, we had pegged winger Alex Iafallo to come in around 2.5M. When all was said and done, he signed a two-year contract with an AAV of 2.425M. So there wasn’t much news there.
Where things really became interesting was with a trio of young players.
Mike Amadio, Daniel Brickley, and Matt Roy all signed for 700k each over the next two years, what looked like a pay cut on paper. However, that’s only when scanning the NHL portion of their contracts.
Little more info on Amadio contract…
On first pass, AAV is "pay cut" vs last deal – yet, that's only true if he was in NHL all that time (he wasn't).
New contract is:
But 250k guaranteed
700k NHL (one way)
It's all about guaranteed money.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 15, 2019
In the case of Amadio, we get it. It would have been a real gamble to accept his Qualifying Offer (what would have amounted to a 5% pay increase if he was in the NHL… and only 70k when playing in the AHL) and be back in the same spot next summer. He’s certainly expected to be on the Kings NHL roster. However, nothing is guaranteed for a team in such flux. Also, when considering he’ll likely be on the fourth line, it’s not like there is a realistic hope for a monster season worthy of a huge contract in July 2020.
By comparison, Kevin Lebanc bet on himself when signing one-year contract with the Sharks this summer, well under market value. He put up 56 points in 2018-19 and is counting on a solid 2019-20 campaign to then cash in with a multi-year deal at many multiples higher on the AAV. Given the minutes he’ll likely see in San Jose, we believe that’s a well-calculated gamble.
On one hand, we would have liked to see Roy follow the Lebanc route. He should be a regular player on the Kings NHL blueline this coming season. And, of the three who took these 700k deals, Roy has the best opportunity to break out with a good year.
What may have caused Roy to double clutch when it came to pulling a similar move? On July 1st, the Kings signed defenseman Joakim Ryan (725K). He’s 26 years old, a left shot, and has 106 NHL games played over the past two seasons in San Jose. He was drafted and developed by the Sharks at a time when new Kings coach Todd McLellan was heavily involved in things up in those parts. He knows Ryan well and it should be safe to assume the Kings wouldn’t have signed him unless McLellan thought there was something there to work with. Ryan also requires waivers to be sent down. If he was to make the big club, Ryan could be taking the spot occupied by Roy.
Granted, Roy is a right-shot, typically something highly coveted by NHL coaches. Yet this is where you have to dig deeper. If they slot Ryan in on the left side of the third pairing — and you assume they don’t want to risk losing Paul LaDue or Kurtis MacDermid on waivers — that leaves one NHL roster spot available on defense (provided McLellan goes with the traditional 7D). In that scenario, it comes down to a coin flip between Roy and Walker. And if that was in the back of Roy’s mind, it should have made it much more difficult to roll the dice when signing his new deal.
Regardless of how things play out with the roster decisions surrounding these players in October, they will only get more complicated in the months following. Once Walker has played 21 NHL games, he’s no longer waiver exempt. Ditto for Roy after 45 NHL more games. Tricky, tricky, tricky.
Blake also signed a pair of unrestricted free agent forwards – Mario Kempe (700k AAV) and Martin Frk (700k). Both will be given an opportunity to earn a spot in camp. If either are successful in that regard, it will most likely come at the expense of Matt Luff or Austin Wagner – two guys who can be sent to AHL Ontario without needing to be put on waivers first. Given the similarity in salary, there isn’t much of a difference cap-wise in any of the four forwards.
Given all of the above, here is our latest projection of what the Kings opening night roster could look like on October 12, 2019…
NOTE: You can debate the line combos and D pairings below; that’s not really the most important point.
This configuration of a 23-man roster takes up $75.2M of cap space (after including penalties the Kings are paying next season for terminating Mike Richards’ contract and buying out Dion Phaneuf).
With the 2018-19 NHL salary cap limit set at $81.5M, that leaves Blake just over 6M to play with… assuming the Kempe contract comes in where we estimate.
DOWN ON THE FARM
This week’s big news came from the goal crease.
LA Kings sign goalie Cal Petersen to 3yr deal (AAV of $858,333).
Two-way contract in the first year. The final two years are one-way. https://t.co/NPLqMchQ6a
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 16, 2019
LA’s No. 1 ranked prospect, goaltender Cal Petersen, inked a new three-year deal, as we had tipped you off to a few days prior.
After a dismal campaign in 2018-19, the Ontario Reign looked to begin the season with a much improved roster – especially on defense. Assuming none of the young blueliners find a way to unseat one of the names penciled into the Kings roster above, coach Mike Stothers should be looking at a group of Kale Clague, Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, Daniel Brickley, and Austin Strand on the back-end. Plus, with Roy or Walker likely starting the season with this group, the Reign could have their most potent defensive core ever.
Up front, they should pick up a pair of the Kings most notable prospects, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Rasmus Kupari. Blake Lizotte will most likely provide additional offense, as he’s expected to start the year in Ontario after signing with Los Angeles as a college free agent late last season. Sheldon Rempal, an AHL All Star in his rookie campaign last year, should also see continued growth in his second professional season.
What about Matt Moulson or some additional veteran help, you’re wondering?
Few Ontario Reign nuggets…
– Nothing new to report on Matt Moulson at this time. Appears preference is to play out east. However, if he's still on the market in Sept, two sides may reconnect.
– Not expecting many (if any) AHL only deals to come. May look for another fwd.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 16, 2019
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