It’s natural to say “the Los Angeles Kings will be back next year and are a team of the future” as a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel statement following their tough Game 6 loss. In fact, that was more or less my message last night. That being said, the team is reaching a crucial fork in the road; they can either squander their considerable, growing talent or make all the right moves to jump from a threat to a true contender.
Let’s take a look at the team’s salary cap situation and see which decisions will have an impact on the 2010-11 season … and beyond.
Los Angeles Kings 2010-11 Salary Cap Commitments (Figures taken from CapGeek.com)
Forwards (7 of 12): Kopitar ($6.8 million), Smyth (6.25), Handzus (4), Stoll (3.6), Williams (3.5), Brown (3.1), Simmonds (822K)
Defense: (6 of 6): Doughty (3.48), Scuderi (3.4), Greene (2.95), Johnson (1.43), Drewiske (617K), Harrold (583K)
Goalies: (2 of 2): Quick (1.8), Ersberg (750K)
Buyout: McCauley (666satanK)
Total Cap Hit: $43.813 million
Cap space if cap remains the same: $15.83 million
Key Free Agents: Alexander Frolov, Fredrik Modin, etc.
Most notable prospects: J. Bernier (843K), O. Moller (875K),B. Schenn (3.14), Hickey (1.32), Teubert (946K)
After the jump, I analyze the Kings’ cap situation and some key choices that must be made.
Of course, with such a young team, there are pluses and minuses. The good thing is that they can affordably fill their roster with the Hickeys and Teuberts of the world (if they’re ready). The bad news is that Drew Doughty stands to see a staggering raise (what’s reasonable for him? A $6 million cap hit? Or maybe 7 or 8?) and Jonathan Bernier could also see some serious bank if he has a great season at the NHL level next year. On the other bright side, though, Jonathan Quick (1.8 through 2012-13) and Dustin Brown (3.17 until 13-14) are wrapped up for a few bargain years. It always helps to have some bargain contracts.
If I were Los Angeles, I’d take the opportunity to sign Doughty the second they can extend him. Teams are allowed to sign players to extensions the year before they can become restricted free agents, which is what the Penguins did with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and what the Washington Capitals did with Alex Ovechkin. By re-signing Doughty to a big extension, they would send a message to both their team (“See, we reward our talent”) and free agents (“We’ll pay to win”).
Beyond extending Doughty and deciding the future of other contracts that will expire after next season in Bernier, Johnson and so on, the Kings face the more immediate decision of Alex Frolov. Things haven’t always been peachy with the Russian forward, but he still brings some skill to the table. They could either re-sign him or consider nabbing a free agent forward such as Patrick Marleau or Ilya Kovalchuk. Whatever way they go, The Kings must make sure that they can afford Doughty and that other in-house decisions are made before they paint themselves into a salary cap corner.
Oh, and I would also stay away from Kovalchuk. That’s just one man’s opinion.