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?