The season after next will be interesting cap-wise, as [commenter "src3" on the Inside the Kings "board" said] said. Not just because of Frolov being a UFA and the cap coming down a bit, but also because both Quincey and Quick will be RFA. Next year, Fro’s hit is 2.9, Quick’s .8, Quincey’s .6, and it would be reasonable to expect those three to be at cap hits of 5, 2.5 and 2.5, conservatively, with their new contracts. That’s AT LEAST $6MM more cap room we’re going to need, not next year, but the year after (which, after all, is really just next summer, one year from now — yikes).
Is DL factoring that into his thoughts about Frolov and whoever he’s going to bring in this year as a UFA (or via trade)? Absolutely. And clearly trading Frolov would make room for whatever will be necessary to do for the 2010 season. But, since DL has to think Frolov will be tradable at the deadline or even next summer, I don’t know that he’s really going to worry too much about that now. Actually, I think DL might make the calculation that putting Frolov and (to pick one of the UFA names) Hossa on the same line will drive Frolov’s numbers way up, thus driving his value up as well. In other words, it’s reasonable to assume that Frolov will be more valuable a year from now than he is now. And he’s pretty valuable now.
But let’s play the thought experiment:
Kings sign Hossa (or Havlat or Gaborik), re-sign Frolov, Purcell, Johnson and Boyle. Now, let’s skip the entire 09-10 season. It’s summer of ’10. Quick has had a great year, as have Quincey and Drewiske (all RFAs). They are resigned at 2.75, 2.5, 1.5. Frolov at 5. That’s a cap hit of $11.75. Let’s just say that’s a cap increase of $7MM. SOD retires.
The xx’s are the smaller contracts (Moller, Boyle, Purcell, Simmonds, whoever we draft this year, etc.).
Here’s what I think the actual strategy will be (and, in fact, ought to be). Sign the big UFA, resign Frolov, go up to within a couple million of the cap ceiling. Clearly, next summer, something will have to give. Somebody’s big contract is going to have to go, maybe two somebodies. But does DL want to get rid of Frolov NOW because he’s got to pay Handzus for two more years? I don’t think so. Handzus, actually, I think is the most vulnerable of all the big salaries. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded at the deadline next year. I think Handzus was the team MVP last season by numerous measures; but he’s overpaid and he’s a third-line center ideally. Also, he’s a defensive specialist and will be attractive to someone at the deadline, as he supposedly was this year.
Trading Handzus would be, of course, entirely dependent on other centers stepping it up and proving themselves to be ready. Namely, Moller, Boyle, Lewis, Loktionov, Azevedo, someone we might be drafting in a month…
Meanwhile, there are other candidates to be moved. Let’s say, for example, that we sign Hossa and keep Frolov, and next year we have our first line (with Kopitar) the likes of which we haven’t seen since Palffy/Alison/Deadmarsh. Now, what happens if Brown has a crappy year next season? He might be the one to get dealt. Let’s just say, Handzus is a rock and the first line is clicking… DL is going to be looking very closely at that group of Williams, Stoll and Brown. One of them would literally HAVE to be traded. Same thing is true on defense. If the prospects don’t pan out next season and don’t look like they’re progressing, veterans like Greene are safe. But if the prospects pick it up, Greene is another contract that can be dealt.
I think DL will play this out very deliberately and carefully. And you [SRC3] are certainly correct that if DL signs a UFA this July, next summer something’s gotta give. I just don’t think that means Frolov will be leaving. One of Frolov, Kopitar, Brown, Stoll, Handzus, Williams or Greene — definitely. In 2010. Not now.
Think of it the other way. You aren’t going to deny yourselves Hossa and Frolov this season because you might have to trade Handzus or Greene next season, right?