Manor The Story: LA Kings Can’t Afford to Play Brandt Clarke

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There’s no denying that defenseman Brandt Clarke is the Kings top prospect.

They also really can’t afford to play him right now.

Like everything these days, it comes down to the salary cap.

At this point, some may be asking, ‘If they’ve already called him up, why can’t they afford to play him?’

Let’s tackle two things below — why call him if he isn’t going to play and why can’t they afford it?

Explaining Clarke’s Call-up Before the Road Trip​



For starters, Clake earned the call-up. He was coming off being named the AHL Rookie of the Month for December — and realistically, it could have been an award for the Most Impressive Rookie of the Season to Date. His 32 points (7G, 25A) in 30 games with the Ontario Reign were leading all defensemen in the American League and had him tied for the second most points among all skaters.

Impressive, indeed.

Now, why call him and then not play him? That’s the question circling on social media quite a bit in recent days.

The answer lies in roster construction and available options.

LA is currently playing the same three defensive pairs most nights (Anderson-Doughty, Gavrikov-Roy, and Englund-Spence). If something goes wrong when the team is playing at home, they typically have the Ontario Reign nearby. There are several players available in a pinch. Some of them most fans have never even heard of. For example, Kevin Connauton and Joe Hicketts. Both are defensemen with NHL experience with other clubs; they aren’t prospects. Among players LA actually drafted and are currently developing in Ontario, would be Kim Nousiainen (5-foot-9, left shot).

A more interesting player option might be Cole Krygier. He’s also a left shot, and somebody GM Rob Blake traded for late last season in a deal that largely flew under the radar.



Then, there’s Jacob Moverare — a name Kings fans have become more familiar with. He’s played NHL games in each of the last two seasons, and also sutied up for five games with the Kings just a few weeks ago.

The problem is, he also passed through waivers coming out of training camp. Meaning, he’s allowed to be on the NHL roster for a total of 30 days before requiring waivers again. It’s something we looked at in detail here not that long ago.



Moverare has accumulated 28 days on the NHL roster thus far. Therefore, with his next recall, the Kings may be forced to keep him in the NHL the rest of the season. With the loss of Toby Bjornfot to waivers earlier this month, the team has lost big piece of their defensive depth.

Back to the current road trip…

When the Kings go out of town — especially on trips to the other side of the country — they like to take an extra defenseman with them. Given the lack of depth just reviewed, that pretty much left Clarke as the best option. He is waiver exempt this season. He can go up and down as many times as Blake and coach Todd McLellan see fit.

So, even if he wasn’t going to play on the road trip, he was the best option as a seventh defenseman.

Could they have taken somebody like Krygier and left Clarke in Ontario to continue playing?

Absolutely. He’s under NHL contract and would be an option. However, he hasn’t skated with the Kings before, thus McLellan would typically be very hesitant to use him.

Why the Kings Can’t Afford to Play Clarke​



This is where things get tricky. And we fully acknowledge, math is hard.

Yes, the Kings currently have enough cap space to call Clarke up. That’s how they were able to recall him prior to leaving LA for their road trip.

However, at the end of every season, teams pay out bonuses to any players that have earned them. Bonuses don’t impact a team’s salary cap during the regular season. They’re tacked on at the end.

For example, goaltender Cam Talbot has a contract that included a $1 million bonus after 10 games played. While his one-year deal carries a $1.5M AAV, that bonus is sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Again, with bonuses added to a team’s cap spend at the end of the season, Talbot’s $1M bonus will be added after the season. Any money over the cap (once bonuses are added), comes off a team’s salary cap limit for the following season. To use easy math, with an NHL salary cap of $83.5M this season, if the Kings spend up to the cap ceiling during the regular season and then adding Talbot’s bonus on at the end of the season puts them at $84.5M in spend, the $1M ‘overage’ comes off the top of next year’s salary cap. In other words, the Kings would have $1M less to spend next year due to the penalty.

This is where Clarke enters the conversation again.

His Entry Level Contract comes with ‘A’ Level Bonus eligibility.

According to Puck Pedia, that means Clarke can earn up to a maximum of four ‘A’ Bonus, with each being worth $212,500, caping at $850,000 total (maximum 4 achieved).

He can earn those ‘A’ Level Bonuses by achieving any of the following milestones while playing in the NHL:

-10 goals
-25 assists
-40 points
-Top two among defensemen on team in blocked shocks
-End-of Season All Rookie Team

-Top four in Time on Ice among Defensemen (in total and/or per game) on team (minimum 42 games)
-Top three in +/- among defensemen on team (minimum 42 games)
-0.49 points per game (minimum 42 games)

-All Star Selection
-All Star MVP

Taking them in reverse order, he isn’t going to the NHL All Star, so the last two can be eliminated from this conversation.

By limiting Clarke’s playing time with the Kings this season, he almost surely won’t hit any of the middle block of bonuses, as he isn’t expected to get 42 games played.

Conceivably, he still has a shot at any of the first five ‘A’ Level Bonuses.

Even with the Kings getting the benefit of some LTIR cap relief of late, they’re still on track (and expected) to spend pretty much close to the salary cap ceiling this season. Which means Talbot’s bonuses will be charged as a penalty against next season’s salary cap. If Clarke earns bonuses too, that’s even more money off of next year’s cap limit.

And we haven’t even talked about the fact that Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev are also eligible for ‘A’ Level Bonuses this season — with Byfield (10G, 18A) already on pace to meet three bonuses: 20 goals, 35 assists, and 60 points. He will also likely challenge in at least three other bonus categories for forwards: time on ice, plus-minus rating, and 0.73 points per game. If he meets the maximum of four bonuses, that’s another $850,000 overage penalty charged to the Kings next season.

Plus any bonuses Kaliyev or Jordan Spence will likely earn. The latter will likely earn a games played bonus.

With Talbot already earning his $1M bonus, the Kings realistically can’t afford to play Clarke much this season, for fear of him earning bonus money that will come off their cap limit next season.

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