Over at LAKi (and I assume elsewhere) there's been a lot of talk about the possibility of signing Brad Richards. Dean Lombardi revealed to Rich Hammond that he has been told the cap is likely rise to $62.5-63MM. I covered a lot of this ground already in a post two weeks ago (Kings cap situation rhymes with pucks) but let's go back over it with Richards (and Lombardi's new cap number) in mind.
The bare bones roster
including all players already under contract for next season, plus the obvious must-signs at (in the name of being super optimistic) absolute bargain-basement prices. They are Doughty ($5MM), Simmonds ($1.5MM), Martinez ($1MM), Moller, Lewis and Richardson (each at $950K).
This roster does not include UFAs Handzus or Ponikarovsky, nor does it include prospects like Brayden Schenn, Thomas Hickey, Viatcheslav Voynov, Andrei Loktionov or Jake Muzzin. The last three of those prospects are easier to fit under this year's cap than the first two (Schenn and Hickey) because, as this will be the last year under the current CBA, there will be no bonus cushion, so all of Schenn's and Hickey's (and everyone else's) bonuses will count in full against the cap, with no allowance (cushion) for going over.
This roster also doesn't include Richards, yet (though it does include his son). Here it is:
- Assuming the highest figure for Lombardi's estimated cap ceiling ($63MM), and the lowest imaginable cap hits for Doughty, Simmonds (et al), this roster is $4.8MM under the cap.
- As I mentioned, this roster does not include Handzus, Poni or Schenn. Or Richards.
How much do we expect Brad Richards to get paid this time around?
The Pipe Dream Brad Richards Roster
- This roster is over the cap by $750K.
- Assuming the highest ceiling.
- Assuming the lowest figure for Richards, Doughty and Simmonds.
- Without even addressing the issue of other signings (Handzus, Poni) or other prospects (Schenn, Loktionov, Muzzin, Hickey, Voynov), at least one salary would have to be dumped to make room for a big UFA like Richards.
- What are the odds of Richards and Doughty both signing at the lowest imaginable figure, and the cap going up the highest imaginable amount? I would say, zero. So I'm going to add another $1MM to the overage, bringing it to $1.75MM.
- In order to clear that amount, this would likely mean salary-dumping a contract with a minimum cap hit of $2.5MM, and replacing that player with someone making peanuts.
- It also means burying Brayden Schenn in the minors and not being able to recall him if you wanted to. But let's stick to the issue of who gets dumped. The candidates:
Brown Williams Scuderi Mitchell Johnson
Based on Lombardi's comments to Rich Hammond, I think DL believes Penner will have a bounce-back season. He's going to hit the gym. And it's a contract year, so he's got a lot to prove. I think that's what DL thinks, but I know it's what I think. So I'm crossing Penner off the list.
Kopitar/Richards/Stoll down the middle is a pretty expensive set of centers, but would Lombardi sign Richards and then entrust the shut-down center job to Lewis, Richardson or Schenn? That could work in a pinch, but it seems like a risky thing to take on as Plan A.
A safer option would be (in the world in which Stoll is dumped and Richards is signed) re-signing Handzus for a steeeeeep discount at something like $1MM. Would Handzus do that? I guess he might. It's a long drop from $4MM, but he's old. Would he do better elsewhere? Probably, and my guess is, if Lombardi waits like he did with Alex Frolov, Handzus will end up signing with any one of a dozen teams needing a 3rd/4th line center/Obi-Wan, and that will be the end of the Zus era.
Even at that price, would it be worth it keep Handzus at C3? Or would it be better to go with team speed and faceoff proess, in the form of Stoll?
Given the offense is one of the Kings' putative concerns, and given that Handzus seemed to lose a step between last season and this one, I think Lombardi will stick with Stoll (in the Richards scenario). So I'm crossing Stoll off the list, too.
No, I don't think anyone's going to take on that cap hit in trade. Smyth has a NTC and I doubt he would be willing to be traded to a team that is so lousy it needs to add salary to get to the floor. There are some convoluted and wacky scenarios in which a Smyth trade might be possible and might be attractive, but I am saving that for a future post.
But you could buy him out.
This would save us $3MM in cap space right off the bat. The problem is:
- It's mean. Smyth waived his NTC to come here.
- It would create a hole at LW2. Maybe Parse jumps up into the LW2 position (like he was supposed to this year). Is Parse/Richards/Brown-Williams better than Smyth/Stoll/Brown-Williams? Probably.
- But then again, Smyth/Stoll/Williams was one of the best lines in the league for awhile this season. So maybe expecting Parse/Richards/Brown-Williams to improve on that would just be setting ourselves up for disappointment.
- And I keep coming back to the cruelty of buying out the venerable Smyth. I think that would be hard to do.
Yeah, he's a leader and he's a character. But he's sloooooow and he takes those fabulous penalties. (maybe I'm still too close to the playoffs to be rational about this; factor that in.) And Muzzin, for example, is cheaper and also physical. Is Muzzin ready for prime time?
Or, if not, would Lombardi consider signing a cheaper (Sean O'Donnell-esque) veteran? I can see that.
Another solution would be to give Voynov (or Hickey, but really...Voynov) his shot, and go for the super-mobile offensive d-corps. That certainly would be one way to address the lack of offense this season; though it would come at a significant price in terms of team size and toughness.
For me -- and what do I know? -- trading Greene for a pick is the best of these options. In a world in which I am locked into signing Brad Richards, and have to make room, my preference would be (1) trade Greene, (2) buy out Smyth, (3) trade Stoll.
But that begs the question:
Is it even worth it to sign Richards under these circumstances?
- Signing Richards, promoting Schenn, buying out Smyth and trading Greene, this line up is $616K under the $63MM cap. If that's the cap.
- If Doughty signs for $5MM.
- This is a faster, younger team, with more offense.
- But less size.
- And it would take a certain amount of cap finesse -- and luck -- to make it work. You would have to hope that the cap is closer to $63MM than $62.5MM, hope Doughty signs for less, hope Simmonds signs for less, hope Richards will take a short-term deal. And you have to buy-out Smyth. Which makes you a bad person. Or makes me one for suggesting it.
- There are a lot of ifs there.
- Bottom line, saying "why doesn't he just go out and sign Brad Richards?" is also saying, "which of our expensive players are we going to ship off for picks, to make room?" Not as easy a question. Even with UFAs, you have to give up to get.
- If I had to wager, I think Lombardi will test the waters, Richards will go elsewhere, fans will complain that Lombardi is wishy-washy, Lombardi will quietly double-down on his prospects, and I will be happy.