Manor Kings Expected to Take ‘Wait and See’ Approach with Roy and Other UFAs

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These days, pro sports has become as much about contract negotiations off the ice, field, or court as it is about the box scores derived from nightly games. Each of the four major professional leagues have their own version of a salary cap-type system that can be limiting tona General Manager building out their roster.

When it comes to hockey, much of the ‘big picture’ talk of late has been about the NHL salary cap going up next season — giving some relief to teams who have been operating in a relatively flat-cap system over the past several years.

This all sounds great and wonderful. However, the reality is very different for many teams, like the Kings.

In the case of Los Angeles, don’t expect a radical improvement in their cap situation simply because the cap is going up and Anze Kopitar’s lower-priced contract extension will be kicking in. Like last summer, there would need to be some pretty heavy lifting to create some real salary cap space.

Now, to his credit, Blake did a rather remarkable job of moving money around last offseason. Put aside any comments about PL Dubois’ performance for just a moment and look at the math work Blake and his army of cap experts were able to accomplish. They repositioned the Kings from where they were projected to be about $5 million OVER the salary cap (this is important to understand when others write about ‘they should have just kept Gabe Vilardi’) to a situation that created about $10 million in available cap room (via trades of Cal Petersen, Sean Durzi, Alex Iafallo, etc.). Not only did the Kings gain some all-important cap room, they also created potential playing time for players like Jordan Spence, Brandt Clarke, and Andreas Englund… plus it allowed them to re-sign Vladislav Gavrikov and sign a pair of new goaltenders.

Last summer’s LA Kings roster makeover required more than a few complex gymnastics moves. Did Blake stick the landing? It’s too soon to tell at the moment. We’ll know more at the 82-game mark and then again after the team’s assumed post-season run.

For now, let’s circle back to the present.

LA Kings 2023-24 Roster: From October to Now​


The Kings entered this season with a plan to essentially carry a 21-player roster. That would only give them just one extra player to work with because they simply couldn’t afford (from a cap perspective) to carry a second or third healthy scratch as insurance. The preference at that point was to have the extra player be a defenseman. Thus, they were going with 12 forwards, seven defensemen, and two goalies.

LA’s original cap compliant roster was set to be:

Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Fiala – Danault – Moore
Kaliyev – Dubois – Arvidsson
Grundstrom – Lizotte – Lewis

Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence
Bjornfot

Talbot
Copley

A last-minute injury to Viktor Arvidsson muddied the waters a bit. The team earned some much-needed salary cap relief via the 30-year-old forward going on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). Yet, as we reported recently, he’s expected back next month. Thus, the salary cap is back in the news, so to speak.

What happens when Arvidsson returns?

Quick math yields the following update…

Since opening night, Toby Bjornfot was lost to waivers. He carried an AAV of $775k and having Clarke in his place right now comes at a cap cost of about $100k more. If Jacob Moverare was moved into the seventh D spot, he would cost about the same as Bjornfot would have, i.e. a net-neutral move.

David Rittich has replaced Pheonix Copley on the goalie side, which {based on their comparative cap numbers) saves the Kings about $625k.

When you add in Copley’s LTIR savings for the balance of the season, it helps a little, but not much because he was on a deal carrying only a $1.5M AAV.

Bottom line — once Arvidsson returns — even with Moverare on the NHL roster over Clarke (for maximum savings), the Kings would still come up about $100k short of being able to keep Alex Laferriere as a 13th forward. All things being equal, he would need to be sent down to AHL Ontario — which he can do without waivers.

What’s interesting in this scenario is the Kings would have just enough money to keep either Jaret Anderson-Dolan or Sammy Fagemo in that spot on the roster, as both players earn $100K less than Laferriere. That could be one way to get to a 22-player roster.

Essentially, though, most roads lead to the Kings being right back to where they were at the beginning of the season, with a roster of 21 players.

Trade Possibilities​


Another possibility to free up money would be to put somebody like Carl Grundstrom on waivers to create the cap space necessary to keep Laferriere as one of the 12 forwards. About their only other options would be to trade somebody like Lizotte or Arthur Kaliyev.

Arvidsson’s injury pretty much rules him out from being traded, despite the fact he’ll be an Unrestricted Free Agent in July. If nothing else, the Kings will view him similar to a rental at the Trade Deadline.

What could they do on defense to create money?

For argument’s sake, trading Spence doesn’t make much sense right now. It doesn’t really save them enough money. Sure, it creates more playing time for Clarke. But, once they add a seventh defenseman back to the roster (i.e. Moverare at that point), it’s pretty much a cap-neutral decision.

Could they trade Andreas Englund? Why would they?

This leaves Matt Roy as the only real chip on the table from their current seven blueliners. The impression we’ve been given from management is they plan on taking the bulk of this roster to the playoffs and seeing how far they can go in the 2024 post-season. That type of thinking would put Roy as most likely staying until the summer.

Another factor here would be the impressive analytics on Roy’s abilities as a shut down defenseman — something coveted in the playoffs.

What about an attempt to ‘upgrade’ the goalie depth on this year’s roster? Again, with what money? Acquiring somebody of significance with prospects and draft picks won’t be enough. The Kings are not in a position to add additional cap space. To make a deal like that happen, they would most likely have to trade out significant money to pull off something of that nature. Which is why this is likely an unrealistic option. Outside of the past few weeks, management likes this roster. If they can turn around the on-ice performance, they’re back in business. If things really go south over the next 30 days, perhaps they change course.

We’ve said all along, this is a bridge year for the Kings in goal. They will need to readdress the situation over the summer.

What About the UFA Status of Several Players?​


As things stand today, the Kings will have the following UFAs this coming summer:

Arvidsson (currently at $4.25M)
Lewis ($775K)
Roy ($3.15M)
Talbot ($1M AAV + $1M bonus)
Copley ($1.5M)
Rittich ($875k)

This doesn’t even take into consideration their key RFAs who will also need new deals, including: Kaliyev, Lizotte, Grundstrom, Spence, and Quinton Byfield.

Like we noted above, the sense we get is that the Kings are willing to take a wait and see approach to how the rest of the season plays out with their UFAs. They’ll save most of the UFA negotiations until late in the season or even the off-season. As the Trade Deadline draws closer, this approach could certainly change based upon the team’s performance over the next six weeks. However, being in the best possible position come playoff time is more likely to supersede the need to trade a player now for fear of losing him for nothing (if said player eventually leaves via free agency).

A Talbot extension could certainly become an option later this season. Maybe.

Perhaps the wild card in all of this is Roy. He’s very likely to command more on the open market than the Kings can afford next season; yet moving him before the Trade Deadline doesn’t improve the club’s odds in this year’s playoffs. Therefore, all things being equal, it’s not very likely.

Tying it All Together​


Below is a rough sneak peek at the starting cap situation heading into the summer, using the following assumptions and notes:

— Byfield signs a bridge deal for around $3.5M per season. That’s just a placeholder for now, not a definitive prediction.

— Roy is re-signed, at the same money Mikey Anderson is getting (because he really can’t earn more in LA). This would be similar to how the Kings handled Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez back in the day, giving them both similar deals.

— Kopitar’s new contract kicks in, at a lower rate of $7M AAV.

— The Kings are on pace to be hit with around $1M in overage penalties next season (see here).

— Just to illustrate how tight the Kings could be up against the cap next season (even with the cap ceiling going up), we’ve kept Talbot and Copley in the goaltending slots at their current price. Their names can be subbed out for other players via trade or free agency; it’s the money that really makes the point here.

202425fwd.jpg
202425def.jpg


Roll it all up and the cap situation isn’t much better in 2024-25, even with the upper cap limit being raised.

Most of the Kings core players are locked up on long-term deals. Replacing some of the fourth line guys with less expensive prospects or free agent signings won’t really save much money. It also wouldn’t free up enough to upgrade the goaltending depth.

One of Arvidsson or Roy will most likely not be retained (not for performance reasons, simply because of the salary cap restrictions). Perhaps even both of them won’t return in an effort to free up over $7M.

That’s all a conversation to be had down the road. For now, the Kings seem content to right the ship with largely the roster they have today and get back to their winning ways of earlier this season. Then, they’ll let the contract situations play out down the road.

Oh, one more thing.

If possible, LA would also like to re-sign Gavrikov this summer. Even though he is under contract for one more year, come July, he’ll be eligible for a contract extension that wouldn’t start until 2025-26. So, at least that’s a little further out and won’t be quite so urgent.

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