Darryl Sutter Undecided on Return; Will the Kings Go All In to Keep Him?

The coach's return is contingent on LA's offseason moves. Will they mortgage the future any further?

With everyone talking about whether the Los Angeles Kings will re-sign Milan Lucic, I think we all had forgotten about another guy in need of a new contract. Dean Lombardi didn't forget, though! Head coach Darryl Sutter, whose contract expired this offseason, received an offer to continue coaching the Kings. He hasn't turned it down, but he hasn't accepted it either...

For the other side, you can set aside a half hour or so and read Dean Lombardi's comments on the matter via Jon Rosen. I'm not quoting any of it here because, my goodness, that must have taken hours to transcribe.

The gist, though, is that we're at "wait and see" time. Past rumors have indicated that LA has every intention of promoting from within when Sutter moves on, so time is not of the essence here. Otherwise, LA might have at least put feelers out to Bruce Boudreau or Guy Boucher, both of whom found jobs last week. With those ships having sailed to Minnesota and Ottawa, there doesn't seem to be much question that John Stevens or Davis Payne will be LA's next head coach; the question is when.

So the key here is that Sutter might make up his mind based on LA's offseason, and whether the team is a Cup contender next season. Really, they'll have a shot as long as they hold onto Kopitar, Carter, Toffoli, Doughty, Muzzin, and Quick, but I imagine Sutter will need to see a roster that's as good as this year's edition, if not better. Combine it with Lombardi's assertions that they're "going to have to make some adjustments," and we're left with this:

If the Kings want to keep Darryl Sutter, they're probably going to dive even further into "win now" mode. What does that mean?

  • That means re-signing Milan Lucic. Yes, he's the most expensive winger available as an unrestricted free agent. But are there any other wingers on the free agent market who can have the impact on LA next year that Lucic had this year? Aside from Kyle Okposo, there probably aren't.

    2016 Unrestricted Free Agents - Wingers (min $2M cap hit)

    Name Team Position G A P Age Previous Cap Hit
    Milan Lucic LAK LW 20 38 58 27 $6,000,000
    Shane Doan ARI RW 28 19 47 39 $5,300,000
    Radim Vrbata VAN RW 13 14 27 34 $5,000,000
    Tuomo Ruutu NJD LW 0 1 1 32 $4,750,000
    Teddy Purcell FLA RW 16 29 45 30 $4,500,000
    Kris Versteeg LAK LW 16 24 40 29 $4,400,000
    Andrew Ladd CHI LW 26 22 48 30 $4,400,000
    Loui Eriksson BOS RW 30 33 63 30 $4,250,000
    David Jones MIN RW 11 8 19 31 $4,000,000
    David Perron ANA LW 13 26 39 27 $3,812,500
    Mikkel Boedker COL LW 17 34 51 26 $3,750,000
    Troy Brouwer STL RW 22 24 46 30 $3,666,666
    Alex Tanguay ARI LW 8 27 35 36 $3,500,000
    Rene Bourque CBJ RW 3 5 8 34 $3,333,333
    Michael Grabner TOR RW 9 9 18 28 $3,000,000
    Jamie McGinn ANA LW 24 17 41 27 $2,950,000
    Kyle Okposo NYI RW 24 48 72 27 $2,800,000
    Brandon Prust VAN LW 1 6 7 31 $2,500,000
    Jason Chimera WSH LW 21 21 42 36 $2,000,000

    And even if there are, the Kings don't have exclusive negotiation rights with anyone else, and they won't get a hometown discount from anyone else. Aside from Kris Versteeg, but I'm pretty sure LA isn't prioritizing him.
  • That means acquiring a top-four defenseman. If LA doesn't trust Brayden McNabb to play with Drew Doughty full-time, they'll find someone else. They'll have to give up a good young forward or a prospect to do it.
  • That means spending to the cap, making a couple more in-season trades as they did this year, and giving away at least a couple of the eight picks they have in the 2017 NHL Draft.
  • That means more veterans getting more playing time. If Sutter wants to win that Cup he is seeking, is he going to rely on Kevin Gravel and Derek Forbort to play significant minutes? Is he going to let Michael Mersch experience further growing pains? Or is he going to ride the horses that Lombardi picks out for him? Forbort's an RFA right now and Gravel and Mersch are RFAs in 2017-18; if they don't get a shot this year, what happens next? The cap constraints (especially if Lucic re-signs) might force the coach's hand on that front, but Andy Andreoff, Rob Scuderi, and Jordan Nolan are still under contract. We'll have a cap breakdown within the next couple days to further explore that.

Darryl Sutter's system has been a boon for the Los Angeles Kings, and the team has used it to win two Stanley Cups. Does the benefit of keeping Sutter around outweigh the potential long-term effects of borrowing from the future even more than LA already has? Every summer since 2013 has seemed to be the most important summer for the current iteration of the Los Angeles Kings, but in this case we're probably telling the truth. The win-now mentality is understandable for a team which is getting perilously close to what we call "cap hell," but Dean Lombardi's moves are going to have a major impact further down the road. It'll be very interesting if the driving force behind these moves is the current indecisiveness of Darryl Sutter.

Or maybe all of this is moot, and Sutter just takes the open Calgary job. How fascinating would that be?