Is signing Jarret Stoll a “must-do”?
I’ve decided that one of my summer projects will be to create a database with graphs charting the mood of Helene Elliott. First, though, we’ll be looking at this summer’s roster issues, pending UFAs and RFAs, logjams…you know, the fun summer stuff. Helene’s article from this morning gets the ball rolling.
Helene Elliott: Kings will be expecting more of this – latimes.com
Most of their key players are signed long-term except for playoff MVP Jonathan Quick, who has one year on his contract. The Kings can begin negotiating an extension with him July 1 and that will be a priority. Re-signing center Jarret Stoll, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, is another must-do. Winger Dustin Penner, also eligible for unrestricted free agency, made up for a lackluster regular season with an assertive playoff performance but might have to take a cut from the $4.25 million he earned last season.
Quick’s stock has risen — um, a bit — in the last month, and he’s clearly in line for triple his current salary, if not more. I agree with H.E. that Penner is likely to be offered a pay-cut compared to his previous offer-sheet driven salary (though I wouldn’t rule out someone like, say, Toronto, doing something stupid — Brian Burke, after all, signed Penner out of college).
But I’m of several minds on the topic of Jarret Stoll:
Stoll is 30. This is the last “big” UFA contract he’s likely to get. The next one will be for Stoll in his wily veteran years. This one, he’s just on the other side of the hill, but not yet “over” it.
Stoll is locked into the role of “third line two-way forward who wins face-offs and chips in with a goal or two”. I’m not diminishing the importance of that job. It’s important. Michal Handzus, Eric Belanger, etc.. Those guys are important (Handzus was key to the Kings’ success from 2009-2011) but not as rare as, oh, top-six snipers, or even excellent shut-down defensemen (e.g. Scuderi, Mitchell). Is it really worth it to commit $3-4MM to a guy that can be found on the free agent market without much difficulty, or even at the trade deadline if the need arises?
Stoll is not likely to want a short contract. Maybe Lombardi can get him to take one, but since Stoll knows his next deal (after this one) will be for “old” Stoll, he’s going to want this one to be as long as possible. Three or four years, not two. Do the Kings want $3MM worth of Jarret Stoll through 2015 or 2016? Will another team be willing to offer that?
Signing Stoll to a one-year deal, or two at the most, would leave more room when certain other contracts need to be renegotiated. I’m thinking of Quick (2013) and Brown (2014). Not to mention the fact that the list of free agents deserving new deals in 2013 is daunting (Voynov, Loktionov, Nolan, Clifford, Lewis, Bernier, Quick, Martinez, Scuderi). King and Fraser are RFA and UFA respectively this summer. Including Penner and Stoll (from this year’s crop) and Gagne (from next year’s), that’s 14 players from this year’s team who are due for new contracts between now and next summer (16 if you count Drewiske and Richardson, both of whom expire in 2013). Which of those players should Lombardi cast to the wind in order to retain Jarret Stoll’s 10-15 goals for three or four more years?
The logjam. Stoll is a third line center. He’s not really suited to wing, as we’ve seen over the last couple of years. Andrei Loktionov is waiting in the wings. He’s ready to go. Offensively, his floor is Stoll’s ceiling. Yes, I know he’s not a “shut-down” center. But Kopitar and Richards, despite being top-six, are shut-down centers. The third line can have a different role than the usual one assigned to its line “number.”
The goal-scoring issue has not yet gone away. It’s reasonable to expect Kopitar, Brown, Richards, Carter, Penner, Gagne and Williams to regress to their various means, which on the whole will result in many more goals. But the Kings were at the bottom of the league in scoring for most of the season, and their power-play was a blight. Jarret Stoll’s contribution to the power-play is generally to shoot wide. A Kings’ team with Andrei Loktionov and Tyler Toffoli on it will score more goals.
If you add Stoll to Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Gagne, Richards, Carter and Penner, that’s eight forwards (nearly the entire top three lines) all locked-in, with no room for any developing players to, well, develop. And developing players have to be allowed to develop. Because prospects must continue to percolate their way into the line-up from below, or the cap budget won’t work a year or two down the road.
I think I would rather have Penner for three more years at $3.5MM than Stoll at more or less the same price. Because: Penner/Richards/Carter seems to have found some chemistry; and LW2 has historically been a tough slot to fill. (Oh, if we think we’re signing Zach Parise, then both Penner and Stoll are almost certainly gone — but I don’t think that’s in the cards); Penner can at the very least bridge the gap until (for example) Toffoli (or Schumacher, or Kitsyn etc.) are ripe.
If you’re comparing Stoll to Loktionov, don’t forget that Loktionov is going to get older and better, while Stoll is going to get older and worse. I don’t think Loktionov is going to have too much trouble scoring 20+ goals a year, once he starts getting a regular shift. Do you want to see him do that on another team? Because signing Stoll likely means dealing Loktionov. It might not. Lombardi can still store Loktionov in the AHL for another year. But that’s kind of risky. If I were Loktionov, and I were demoted to Manchester in favor of Jarret Stoll in 2012-13, I would seriously consider the big tax-free bucks of the KHL. I doubt Lombardi wants to chance that. So I think Loktionov would have to be traded, to protect the asset.
Which I hope means that Loktionov stays, and Stoll signs with Detroit or whomever.