Well it appears that rumors of Keaton Ellerby's demise were greatly exaggerated. As James Mirtle reported earlier today:
The amount of the contract is $735k according to Jon Rosen which is what his qualifying offer would have been regardless. It seems that LA is trying to cover all of its bases while also squeezing out as much cap room as they possibly can.
Although this does seem like a sign that the Rob Scuderi negotiations aren't going great, L.A. still has options. Let's break these down:
1) The first and seemingly most probable possibility would be that the Kings brought back Ellerby because they aren't really that close to signing Scuderi. Which would make sense since the free agent market is rather shallow. Scuderi should be due to receive a big raise from one of several teams looking to improve their back-end. The Kings just don't have the space to compete if it comes to that and would strike out. In that case, LA would have ~$2.5M in cap space with a 23 man roster and the possibility of Mitchell being listed as an injured non roster player to begin the year. LA could use that space to bring back Dustin Penner or go after a LW such as Clarke MacArthur. Even if Mitchell doesn't start the season on the injured list, they could easily dump a low cost forward and comply.
2) Another possibility is that they are still going hard after Scuderi and are close but need Ellerby because they need to move pieces after the signing. If L.A. re-signs Scuderi, at say a $4M cap hit, then LA would have about $1.9M in cap space with 19 men on the roster. They would then have to decide who to keep and who to dump. These options could be:
- Trade Robyn Regehr in order to get below the cap. This would be the simplest way to take care of the situation. That would free up $3M more in cap space and give them around ~$5M to resign their 5 RFA's which they would then easily be able to do. If it turns out Mitchell can't go, then they would have additional cap space to add a quality forward and would still have a solid corps of 7 defensemen. Still, it seems like this is unlikely because the organization holds Regehr in high esteem and may feel committed to keeping him since he was willing to work with them on a contract. Also, it's very possible they would get less value than the two 2nd round picks they gave up for him.
- The other option would be dumping one of Ellerby or Martinez as well as another low cost forward (Fraser?). They would then be butted up right against the cap with the very real possibility of Mitchell starting the year on the injured list, which would then give them some cap relief if Mitchell was unable to return. It would seem that since Ellerby now seems to have the cheaper cap hit, Martinez would be first in the firing line for perhaps nothing other than the fact that he has a slightly larger cap hit.
We'll soon gain more clarity on the situation, but as of now there are still several possibilities on the table.