With Viktor Arvidsson set to make his season debut any day now, it’s time for another edition of LA Kings Salary Cap Gymnastics.
As a quick refresher, prior to the team’s opening night roster being thrown a curveball with Arvidsson needing back surgery, GM Rob Blake was set to enter the season with a group of 21 players, two short of the NHL maximum. The plan at the time was to have their lone ‘extra’ player be a defenseman.
Because Arvidsson was placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (an option when a player is expected to miss 10 games or 24 days), the Kings never really had to face the stark reality of life with just 21 players. Instead, they’ve been allowed to exceed the salary cap by several million dollars due to Arvidsson’s $4.25M cap hit being moved to LTIR.
Since then, goaltender Pheonix Copley ($1.5M) also was placed on LTIR, giving them even more wiggle room.
Now, that’s all about to change.
Per PuckPedia’s Kings page, the team currently has $2.045M available in cap space. Obviously, that’s not enough room to activate Arvidsson’s $4.25M off of LTIR. What will they do?
For starters, the plan is to move Blake Lizotte to LTIR. Unlike when the Kings first used LTIR this season, they don’t need to make a bunch of roster moves first to get as close to the cap ceiling as possible. Since they’re already in LTIR, they can simply move Lizotte to LTIR and his $1.675M gets added in full. However, once Arvidsson is activated, they’ll be short $530K in cap space. So… they’ll need to make a roster move.
Here are the most obvious options:
1. Trade somebody. Sure, that’s always an option. It’s just not the plan.
2. Put somebody on waivers. That too is an option. For example, to send Jaret Anderson-Dolan down to AHL Ontario, he’d first have to be put on waivers. From what we’ve gathered over the past 48 hours, there isn’t much of an appetite to go that route at this time. It’s also worth noting that Arthur Kaliyev is in a rare position, he is still on his three-year Entry Level Contract — which is usually a signal that a player can be sent down without waivers — yet, he’s played more than the maximum 160 NHL games. Thus, he now requires waivers to go down. For those scoring at home, Quinton Byfield has played 146 NHL games, so he’s nearing the max too. Not that he was ever in danger of being assigned to the Reign, though.
3. Which leads to the ‘best’ option available, send a player down — but choose a player who is waiver exempt. This leaves Brandt Clarke, Jordan Spence, Alex Turcotte, and Alex Laferriere as the four options. They all have an AAV between $820-895K, so there isn’t much of an advantage contract wise to go with one player over another.
On one hand, Turcotte probably looks like the easy target. New coach Jim Hiller could slide Trevor Lewis over to center and insert Kaliyev into the lineup, problem solved. Blake could also opt to send Laferriere down. After all, over the past two seasons at Harvard, he played 35 and 34 games. He’s already up to 48 with the Kings. Going back even further, Laferriere’s highwater mark over the past four years was 49 games in the USHL during the 2020-21 season. Thus, he’s going to be playing more hockey than he’s used to if he stays up.
Conversely, he’s played well enough to keep a spot in the lineup and pulling him out now would mean PL Dubois would essentially end up with two new wingers, as Laferriere as really been his only steady linemate all season. JAD was only recently added to the mix.
Speaking of challenges, though, sending down Clarke or Spence would mean Hiller would only have six defensemen at his disposal on the trip. As we noted earlier in the year, that’s not as much of a concern when the team is at home because they can relatively easily grab somebody from the Reign, if needed — assuming Ontario is home at that time.
We’re hearing Arvidsson is targeted to return against New Jersey on Thursday.
Assuming everybody comes out of the Buffalo game healthy on Tuesday, what does that mean for a roster move?
When all four options were considered, it sounds like the Kings have landed on sending down a defenseman according to the sources we’ve spoken with. They will opt to go this way for three reasons. First, they like Laferriere in the lineup, as explained above. Second, they want Turcotte to play 4C until Lizotte returns. And finally, because they’re comfortable with how the schedule lays out on this road trip. Meaning, they can run with just six defensemen against the Devils. If they needed to recall somebody, they don’t play again until Saturday, which means they’d have time to get a guy to Boston before they play the Bruins.
Playing it out even further, that’s a morning game. So, if something went awry, they’d have time to get a player to Pittsburgh before puck drop on Sunday evening.
Once they’re back home next week, playing with six defensemen is much easier to navigate anyway. After the Reign play in Tucson this weekend, they’re essentially in SoCal for the next three weeks.
After a defenseman is sent down — and it looks to be Clarke, as they’re looking for continuity right now on the backend — the lineup would most likely look as follows:
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Laferriere – Dubois – Arvidsson
Grundstrom – Turcotte – Lewis
JAD – Kaliyev
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence
Rittich – Talbot
That’s a 22-man roster.
From a cap perspective, once Lizotte is ready to return, the Kings will need to make moves to get back to where they were at the beginning of the season; only able to carry one extra player (i.e. a 21-man roster).
At that point, sending down Turcotte and replacing him with Lizotte would still have the Kings at 22 players. They will need to get another player out of that group to get down to 21. Using the information above, the most likely candidate would become Laferriere, who is waiver exempt… or, they’ll to put a player on waivers, or make a trade.
And what about getting Clarke (or even Jacob Moverare) back onto the roster as a seventh defenseman? All in good time. One thing at a time.
Right now, the focus is on playing the Sabres and then making the moves necessary to get Arvidsson back in the lineup on Thursday.
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