It’s time to get to work
Two of the most popular topics among hockey fans are potential trades and the salary cap. In fact, the two subjects have never been so closely linked. The good old hockey trades – that is, Mike Richards for Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn – are rare. More often than not these days, teams are trading players with an expiring contract (or, at best, with an extra year of tenure remaining) for draft picks and prospects.
For most of three seasons, LA Kings general manager Rob Blake was able to do just that. He traded players considered to be still at their peak in exchange for future assets. Now, with his team back in the playoff picture, Blake said he’s ready to be a buyer before next month’s trade deadline.
What could that look like for the Kings?
What would Jakob Chychrun cost the kings and should they do it?
We took an in-depth look at what a deal for defender Jacob Chychrun would likely look like in an article a few days ago. As noted towards the end of this review, one of the key aspects of this deal is the cost certainty it would bring to Los Angeles for the next three seasons. Now let’s look at why this is so critical.
We’ll start at the high level and then drill down into the details. Basically, the Kings are looking to improve three positions heading into next season – two forwards and one defensive position. And when all is said and done, they probably have about an “extra” $8 million in total to accomplish those three goals.
What “extra” means is that a base player (which would be a young player on an entry-level contract or an older vet on a one-year contract) would typically cost you around $1 million. AAV dollars.
Once we get to the math, some people get caught up in the names (because that’s the range they prefer). Actual row combinations and D pairings are somewhat irrelevant at the end. It’s more about looking at a 23-player roster and what that would cost relative to the $82.5 million salary cap for next season.
We’ll start with a few assumptions:
— Olli Maata, Andreas Athanasiou, Carl Grundstrom will not return next season.
— The yellow boxes indicate the RFAs we assume will be re-signed this summer, ie Adrian Kempe, Blake Lizotte and Brendan Lemieux. The first is a given, the last two are not quite set in stone. There’s always the possibility that Lizotte and/or Lemieux won’t be brought back (more on that in a minute).
What this shows is that the Kings would have about an “extra” $8 million to improve those three positions. At least one of these three candidates should come from an internal promotion. That means one of the Kings’ prospects should step up.
“Hypothetically speaking, if Turcotte were moved to a bigger role, there might be a place for Grundstrom to return eventually.
— Gabe Vilardi enters the conversation at some point. It could be him placed in this more important role. It could also be Turcotte and Vilardi on the roster, with Grundstrom out. Whichever two of those three players end up being placed in those boxes, the hit cap won’t change much. They all earn roughly the same. To keep things simple, we’ll leave Turcotte on the list for now.
“There’s also the Jared Anderson-Dolan factor to deal with. He’s no longer exempt from waivers next season, so it’s either the NHL or trade him this summer, or risk losing him to waivers if you try to send him to the AHL anytime from of September.
“Don’t forget Dustin Brown. He is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Let’s assume he returns to Los Angeles on a one-year, $2 million AAV contract. We’ll come back to that in a minute.
— While we’re pretty confident in Kempe’s contract projection, Mikey Anderson’s number may be too low in our example. There’s definitely the possibility of him getting a more expensive bridge contract. Such an increase in his AAV will come from the Kings pool of money that they are trying to use for roster upgrades.
– Brandt Clarke is very likely to make the jump to the NHL next season. He’s not eligible in the AHL, so it’s either the NHL or the return to junior hockey for the Kings’ 2021 first-round pick. That means Blake would slip him somewhere in the top six (dropping the place OPEN among the group) or would need to swap someone to free up a place. For one thing, Sean Walker would be the most likely candidate for such a scenario. However, given how much time he’s missed over the past two seasons, he probably holds very little commercial value right now.
Is that enough to help the Kings need more offensive production? Probably not.
If they could land Chychrun, what would it be like?
Now the picture is starting to get a bit clearer. With the certainty of Chychrun’s costs, what could the Kings do in free agency or via a striker assist trade?
Could they afford Brock Boeser? Probably not. They would need at least $6.5 million to do that. Even if they didn’t re-sign Brown, take that $2 million and add it to the remaining $3.4 million at the bottom of the sheet, it’s still not enough.
Could they afford Patrick Laine? It’s even worse, because it would probably cost at least $7.5 million in AAV.
Johnny Gaudreau? No question, it will cost even more.
What if the Kings forgot about Chychrun…and instead added Clarke to round out the defensive lineup?
Well, Blake would have $7 million left. He could combine that with the $1 million in the OPEN box or even add that to the $2 million allotted to Brown, and suddenly the Kings can afford one of the more expensive wingers.
If they could find a way to trade the Walker contract, that might free up some more cash. However, they would still have to fill the box — using a $1 million baseman — which could free up another $1.6 million.
Without getting too complicated, there are a few other scenarios that could be explored if necessary. For example, they could try to send Walker to the minors and bury the contract in the AHL. They would save just over a million dollars. So by the time they added someone to replace him, the net savings would likely be less than $500,000.
Not re-signing Andersson wouldn’t save much because we only listed him at $1 million. He could be replaced by Vilardi, Grundstrom, Fagemo, Kupari, etc. and the cost would not be much different. Even if Lemieux isn’t brought back, there’s not a lot of savings either compared to his likely replacement — maybe a $1 million savings. Still, probably not enough to swing a major addition in defense and a major addition up front.
Like the trades he made along the way to set up the rebuild, Blake’s additions will decide how quickly the Kings can return to the Stanley Cup. Danault, Arvidsson and Elder proved invaluable last summer.
REPORT: Rob Blake has new extension to stay on as LA Kings GM
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