Almost two months ago, the 2013 season came to an end for the Los Angeles Kings. With everyone eager to get "Chelsea Dagger" out of their heads, we started making plans for the upcoming campaign just two days after the team was eliminated. The comments section of our first "Choose Your Troops" post offered plenty of debate on what Dean Lombardi should do over the summer. When all was said and done, we got a few things right (Bernier traded for a winger, the rest of the RFAs came back, bye bye Penner, a new D-man) and a few things wrong (we traded for a grinder and a goalie, Mitchell seems healthy!, the new D-man might not even make the lineup).
Before we go any further, let's recap, using what Niesy wrote back in June.
Unrestricted Free Agents: See Ya Later
Rob Scuderi ($3.4M): He could command much more on the FA market today. Does the vet want to stay? Gonchar just got $5M/year.
Dustin Penner ($3.25M): Penner improves Richards' line by helping keep the puck in the zone, but he hasn't scored much. He may be a victim of the cap crunch either way.
Brad Richardson ($1,175,000): Sutter likes him, and he can slot in almost every line in a pinch. Do the Kings still want to keep him in the fold at that price?
Turns out Scuderi didn't want to stay, favoring a move to the East Coast and the Penguins. Penner was indeed a victim of the cap crunch; $2 million from Anaheim was enough to pry him loose. And the Kings favored cheaper options on the fourth line, letting Richardson go to Vancouver.
Restricted Free Agent Skaters: Welcome Back
It doesn't get any easier here. It'll be a work of art to juggle them all.
Slava Voynov (Minimum qualifying offer: $826,875). The prize of the bunch. A long term contract is likely $4M/year or more, short "bridge" contract less. A definite offer sheet risk.
Jake Muzzin (at least $635,250): Putting up points in his rookie year could draw interest from other clubs.
Alec Martinez (at least $774,375). Why not offer sheet two d-men and put the Kings in a bind? If I were Martinez, I'd jump at the chance to sign with another team.
Keaton Ellerby (at least $735,000): He was picked up to help the injury-riddled defense. Is his development still in LA's plans?
Trevor Lewis (at least $735,000): He's found a place as a defensive-minded utility player. Because his scoring is low, I'm not sure how much he'll command.
Jordan Nolan (at least $577,500). Can he bounce back from a rough sophomore season?
Lombardi delayed the tough RFA choices; he got Voynov's contract done early, and picked up everyone else with slight raises (though Ellerby's deal took an unconventional route). In the end, they've all got a shot at the roster.
Jonathan Bernier: Have Fun in Toronto
Jonathan Bernier (at least $1,525,000). The Kings can theoretically re-sign him, but a trade is the most realistic option. He has no incentive to sign cheaply with LA again, there's a big offer sheet risk, and he deserves a shot elsewhere.
Bingo. Bernier is being given every chance to win a starting job in Toronto, though the competition is stiff.
New Arrivals: Competition!
Lombardi only needed one move to trade AND replace Bernier, as Toronto backup Ben Scrivens came to the Kings. Toronto even took part of his salary, so LA is only paying him $550K next season.
The Kings could stand to improve their scoring depth, but they need bargains, bargains, bargains.
Lombardi certainly went the bargain route. Matt Frattin also came to LA in the Bernier deal, and with Toronto covering almost half of his paycheck, he's technically the cheapest player on the Kings. Meanwhile, new acquisition Daniel Carcillo only makes $825K, and the Kings only had to part with a conditional draft pick for his services.
They also have too many defensemen--but what's the best balance? It's important to have a reliable 7th d-man as insurance in case of injuries, too.
The Kings still have too many defenseman! But Jeff Schultz has been added to the mix, and he seems like a reasonable fit as the press box d-man along with Keaton Ellerby. Alec Martinez could also play that role, but I'd think the Kings would rather play him or let him go.
So, where does that leave us?
The Kings have 25 NHL players with contracts. CapGeek has them exactly $821,894 over the cap at this point in time. So the solution is simple: removing any two players from that Opening Night lineup gets the Kings under the cap. The tricky part, of course, is trying to figure out who will be there. Only one player (Tyler Toffoli) can be sent down without being exposed to waivers, but that easy solution is also not one any fan wants to see.
Anyway, the locks to make the 23-man roster appear to be:
Forwards: Brown, Kopitar, Williams, Richards, Carter, Stoll, Lewis
Defensemen: Doughty, Voynov, Regehr, Greene, Mitchell (assuming he's healthy)
Goalies: Quick, Scrivens
That leaves a lot of room for tinkering.
So, your mission is clear. Tell us what you think.
- Which players make your 23-man roster?
- How will they line up on Opening Night?
- What are you doing with the two players who aren't in that lineup? (Trade, waive, demote, etc.)