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What Should the Kings Be Willing to Pay Milan Lucic?

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We still don't know if Milan Lucic will sign a long-term contract with Los Angeles. If he does, how much should it be worth?

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A quiet few weeks for the Los Angeles Kings (aside from something about a captain) might be leading into a very busy month. As with all of this offseason's rumors, it's going to start with Milan Lucic. We've been waiting for a while for the first domino to fall in dealing with unrestricted free agents, and with the only remaining RFA regular (Brayden McNabb) having now gotten his contract, any more signings will be based on Lucic's deal. And we don't know what that deal will be.

Lucic says he and the Kings are in "the same area code," but what if that area code is 805, and Lucic is at one end with the Kings in the other? (Hi, Santa Barbara.) It sounds like Lucic isn't venturing that high if you listen to his year-end quotes...

To be honest, I really don’t have much interest in hitting the open market, or even hearing what’s out there — because in my mind, this is where I want to be. Why flirt with something when you know what you want?

... but assuming Lucic isn't looking to capitalize on a successful debut season is naive. Recent speculation indicates that he'd be open to signing with Edmonton or Vancouver, both of whom could throw more money at the winger.

The Kings would probably love to get Milan Lucic at $5 million a year, a figure that has been thrown out by some speculative LA sources, but he made $6.5 million in salary this season and carried a $6 million cap hit on his last deal. Unless Lucic really wants a seven-year or eight-year deal, or unless he's willing to take a heck of a hometown discount, it could take upwards of $6 million to do it. Let's start with that assumption.

Is he worth that investment? Let's start with a look at players with a cap hit of higher than $6 million next season. (Fifteen players, from Joe Pavelski on down to Erik Johnson, have a cap hit of exactly $6 million.)


Highest NHL Cap Hits in 2016-17 (via Spotrac)

Rank Pos Name 2016-17 Cap Hit Rank Pos Name 2016-17 Cap Hit Rank Pos Name 2016-17 Cap Hit
1 C Jonathan Toews $10,500,000 17 LW Zach Parise $7,538,462 33 D Brent Seabrook $6,875,000
RW Patrick Kane $10,500,000 18 C Jason Spezza $7,500,000 C Ryan Kesler $6,875,000
3 C Anze Kopitar $10,000,000 RW Vladimir Tarasenko $7,500,000 C Patrice Bergeron $6,875,000
4 LW Alex Ovechkin $9,538,462 C Ryan O'Reilly $7,500,000 36 RW Phil Kessel $6,800,000
5 C Evgeni Malkin $9,500,000 21 G Sergei Bobrovsky $7,425,000 37 D Mark Giordano $6,750,000
6 D P.K. Subban $9,000,000 22 RW Bobby Ryan $7,250,000 C Joe Thornton $6,750,000
7 C Sidney Crosby $8,700,000 C David Krejci $7,250,000 C Mikko Koivu $6,750,000
8 RW Corey Perry $8,625,000 D Kris Letang $7,250,000 40 C Nicklas Backstrom $6,700,000
9 G Henrik Lundqvist $8,500,000 25 D Dion Phaneuf $7,000,000 41 LW Patrick Marleau $6,666,668
10 C Claude Giroux $8,275,000 D Drew Doughty $7,000,000 42 D Alex Pietrangelo $6,500,000
11 RW Jakub Voracek $8,250,063 G Tuukka Rask $7,000,000 G Carey Price $6,500,000
12 C Ryan Getzlaf $8,250,000 G Pekka Rinne $7,000,000 C Derek Stepan $6,500,000
13 D Shea Weber $7,857,143 LW Daniel Sedin $7,000,000 LW Thomas Vanek $6,500,000
14 LW Rick Nash $7,800,000 C Henrik Sedin $7,000,000 D Erik Karlsson $6,500,000
15 D Dustin Byfuglien $7,600,000 C Paul Stastny $7,000,000 47 G Braden Holtby $6,100,000
16 D Ryan Suter $7,538,462 32 D Zdeno Chara $6,916,667 48 C Henrik Zetterberg $6,083,333

Based on this table, you start to get an idea of where Lucic's demands might go from reasonable to unreasonable. He compares favorably with some of the players in the 6-7 range, and I'd take him over guys like Vanek, Marleau, and Seabrook based on age, fit, and ability. Only eight wingers make more than $7 million, though. You can nitpick about whether Lucic is a better value than Bobby Ryan or Rick Nash right now, but it's hard to argue that Lucic belongs in that group with career highs of 30 goals and 62 points.

The more pertinent question is whether LA can even go that high with their current cap situation. Dustin Brown may not have the C but he's still a King, and without dumping a contract there's no hope of having Lucic back. Even if the Kings do deal Brown or Marian Gaborik, it'll be a tight squeeze, and any chance of upgrading the defense likely goes out the window.

An seven-year or eight-year deal for Milan Lucic seems like the only way to avoid a hefty price tag, but it also seems like a nice way to plunge LA further into cap hell down the road. So you tell us: what deal works for you?