Who will still be on the Kings in 2013-14?

2013-14, that’s this fall, by the way.

The NHL and NHLPA have apparently agreed to allow 2 buy-outs per club for 2013-14. That’s two buy-outs that will not count against the cap. The point is to make it easier for teams to get below the presumed $60 million cap ceiling. I don’t know what other asterisks and exceptions the new CBA will contain, but let’s — for the sake of argument — assume that the cap rules are essentially the same as they have been.

Here’s a roster I put together for 2013-14, using only players currently in the Kings system. I took the liberty of re-signing some players who will be free agents this summer, and letting others walk. As you will see.

Brown – Kopitar – Williams

King – Richards – Carter

Nolan – Loktionov – Toffoli

Clifford – Stoll – Lewis

(Pearson, Andreoff)

Mitchell – Doughty

Scuderi – Voynov

Martinez – Greene

(Muzzin)

Quick / Bernier

Before you start complaining that Loktionov doesn’t deserve to be on the third line, or that Bernier will most certainly be traded, or that I let go of Penner, Gagne, Richardson, Westgarth and Fraser, or whatever your objection is — just hold onto your hats. We’ll get to that.

We have bigger problems with this roster.

I re-signed Scuderi at $3MM (feel free to sign someone else at a similar value to play with Voynov). I re-signed Voynov at $2.5MM, Lewis at $2MM, Clifford, Martinez and Bernier at $1.8MM, Nolan at $1.5MM, Loktionov at $1.25MM, Muzzin at $1MM. We can quibble about the amounts here, but it doesn’t matter much. Why?

Because this team would have a cap hit of $66.94 million, which is about $7 million over the cap ceiling for 2013-14.

Who will the Kings be forced to buy-out in order to comply?

(Before we get started, assume when I say “buy-out” I mean that Lombardi will of course try to trade assets before he just gives them away; the point is, one way or another, $7MM worth of cap hit is going to have to go.)

Untouchable: Kopitar, Brown, Richards, Carter, Doughty and Quick. But who does that leave? In descending order of cap hit:

And that’s it. There is literally no one else whose cap hit is big enough to make a difference. No matter which way you slice it, you’re going to lose at least two very significant veteran players, cup-winners, heart-and-soul guys. Not to mention the fact that Penner, Gagne, Richardson, Westgarth and Fraser will also be gone — that’s five guys from the cup team, plus whoever we have to lose of Williams, Mitchell, Stoll and Greene. And given that Bernier will in all likelihood get moved and someone a few bucks cheaper brought in or promoted, that’s 8 guys from the cup team gone within a year. So much for keeping the team together.

So let’s look individually at Williams, Mitchell, Stoll and Greene, to see who should stay and who should go.

Justin Williams

Why keep him: he’s probably good for 20-30 goals; he’s got two cup rings; he’s cute.

Why let him go: he’s got a history of injuries (though not lately); he’s getting older.

Who can replace him: Tyler Toffoli.

Willie Mitchell

Why keep him: he’s some kind of hockey genius; he’s a warrior; he’s a veteran and a teacher.

Why let him go: old and has a history of concussions.

Who can replace him: I really don’t know. The d in the pipeline include Muzzin, Hickey, Campbell, Deslauriers, and — further on — Forbort and Gravel. None of those is ready to play top-four minutes on d.

Jarret Stoll

Why keep him: he’s excellent at face-offs; he’s a veteran; he can hit; he dates super-models.

Why let him go: he’s over-paid to be a bottom-six center; he’s not very good at wing; he’s kind of a tweener, not skilled enough to be a top-six, not defensive enough to be a bottom-six.

Who can replace him: depends on what you want out of the C3 or C4 slot. If it’s offense, there’s Loktionov. Traditional 3C a la Eric Belanger, then Trevor Lewis.

Matt Greene

Why keep him: he’s a veteran, he blocks shots with his face; he’s huge; he’s hilarious.

Why let him go: he’s slow; can’t play top-four minutes like Mitchell can.

Who can replace him: maybe Jake Muzzin is ready for third-pair minutes. He’s the only one with the size, until Forbort or Gravel arrive, which isn’t happening any time soon.

Conclusion?

Mitchell stays, Stoll goes and one of Williams or Greene go. And as a roster, that would look like:

Option 1 (buy-out or trade Stoll and Greene)

Brown – Kopitar – Williams

King – Richards – Carter

Nolan – Loktionov – Toffoli

Clifford – Lewis – Andreoff/Pearson

Mitchell – Doughty

Scuderi – Voynov

Martinez – Muzzin

(Hickey or other cheap 7th d)

Quick – Bernier (or Bernier replacement)

Option 2 (buy-out or trade Stoll and Williams)

Brown – Kopitar – Toffoli

King – Richards – Carter

Nolan – LewisCliche

Clifford – Fraser – Andreoff/Pearson

Mitchell – Doughty

Scuderi – Voynov

Martinez – Greene

(Muzzin)

Quick – Bernier (or Bernier replacement)

Which is better?

You’ll notice that, in option two, I swapped out Loktionov for Lewis and Cliche. The reason for this is that Loktionov really won’t thrive without a sniper, and moving Toffoli up to the first line leaves Loktionov without anyone to finish for him. Therefore, it makes more sense to go more defensive with the third unit. But this isn’t a good option either because Nolan – Lewis – Cliche is too inexperienced to be effective. Whereas — as in option one — you conceive of the third line as a speed/offense line (a la Granato – Millen – Donnelly), then Nolan – Loktionov – Toffoli is an excellent alternative.

So I prefer option one as far as forwards go.

And it’s much easier for me to imagine Jake Muzzin taking over for Matt Greene. The third pair is traditionally where you would want to break in Muzzin anyway. And Greene is only going to get slower. I’m not happy with losing Greene, but I think he’s less valuable than Justin Williams at this point, especially given how hard it was for the Kings to score goals last season.

This is another reason that subtracting Stoll and Greene (neither of whom is the answer to anyone’s scoring problem), and adding Toffoli and Loktionov while also keeping Williams, is a huge net-positive for the Kings.

So, for me it’s option one, and the cap total for that is $61.64 million. Which means that if the cap is really down to $60 million, the Kings will still have to shave $1.5-2 million, by trading Bernier and replacing him with someone a million dollars cheaper (Martin Jones or a cheap but wily veteran), and then maybe by shaving $100K here or there from those various re-signed players (Voynov, Nolan, Martinez, Scuderi, Lewis, Clifford), you can just barely duck under the cap.

And then hope the cap goes up for 2014-15, because Dustin Brown is due for a huge raise.

 
  • LBlocal

    Why is Jeff Carter considered an ‘untouchable’ and not a buyout candidate? Toffoli is an ideal replacement for Carts… And, DB23 will be due for a raise, don’t you agree?

    • http://www.mcsorleys-stick.com/ Quisp

      that’s an interesting point. i can see the logic of going the carter buy-out route. however, he is a sniper and his cap hit is reasonable (contract length, less so). I want goals. Goals, dammit!

      • Kings of Hockeywood

        I actually think Carter and Richards could both be sacrificed. The Kings have a lot of very talented players in Manchester who can hopefully replace them within the next two years (in addition to Toffoli, there are Brandon Kozun, Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey, and Jordan Weal), not to mention Oscar Moller, who could still be brought back into the fold.

        I would not want to see them both go right now, especially at the same time and for no return, but they both have big salaries with large cap hits, exacerbated by the fact that the cap will be going down so much next year ($5.75 million per year for Richards and $5.272 million per year for Carter). Richards is signed through 2020 and Carter through 2022, and by the time they are in the twilight years of those deals, neither of them is likely to be worth anywhere near what their cap hits will be and they will be completely untradeable at a time when the Kings will probably be looking to take a last few swings for the fences with their core players aging (Kopitar, Brown, Doughty, Quick).

        And while you mentioned Brown, don’t forget, Kopitar’s contract expires after 2016, and even though he’s already making $6.8 million a year, he is still in many ways the most valuable player on the team because the offense runs through him and this is a team built around its defense so it needs him in some ways more than it needs Doughty or Quick. Kopitar will only be about 29 when his contract expires, and if his development as a player continues along a path similar to the Sedins he will be in the midst of the best 4-5 years of his career. If the Kings win the Stanley Cup again during the next four seasons, Kopitar will undoubtedly be a huge key to that and will be demanding a big payday that the Kings will have to give him. I’d rather be able to keep a younger and better Kopitar than Carter and Richards.

        • Matt George

          you lost me at “Richards could be sacrificed”

        • http://www.mcsorleys-stick.com/ Quisp

          I just think it makes no sense to jettison goals. Carter had scored nearly 150 goals in the four seasons prior to last year. Richards scored 104 over the same period. If Lombardi got rid of those guys and kept Stoll, I would be surprised and disappointed.

          • https://twitter.com/BobKnob2point0 Bob Knob

            Quisp, when are you gonna start applying for assistant GM positions?

        • https://www.icloud.com/ DougS

          But then we wouldn’t be Flyers West anymore, and that can’t possibly happen. :-)

  • jewelsfromthecrown

    I expected they would have to let a lot of the vets on D and the wings go over time, to be replaced by kids on the farm, even without this nutso $60M cap idea. (Fingers crossed it never comes to that, but a lot of contenders would be in an even more dire situation at least.)

    I think I read somewhere there would be about 300 players scrambling for new contracts in that year. A lot of pressure to sign for cheap or have no job at all. Guys like Muzzin, Campbell, Bodnarchuk, Hickey, Cliche, Toffoli, Vey, Pearson, Shore, Andreoff etc. want a place and carry bargain basement prices.

    So I wouldn’t sign either Clifford for $1.8M or the more useful Lewis for $2M. Wayne Simmonds’ second contract was $1.75M with a higher cap/salary inflation running rampant, and neither have his track record of scoring at even strength. Martinez’s second contract was $737,000. Squeeze RFAs. Pinch everywhere.

    Stoll I wouldn’t mind trading or buying out at all, especially if they’re keeping Richards and/or Carter. I’d like to keep Scuderi AND Mitchell but figured it wasn’t possible. Mitchell will be what, 37? Scuderi 35? Keeping just one would be OK.

    I guess I’d consider buying out Carter, but eh. I should go play around with Capgeek. Interesting problem.

    • http://www.mcsorleys-stick.com/ Quisp

      You’re probably right about the Clifford, Lewis contracts — but it doesn’t really matter since a half million in savings there won’t affect the buy-out picture. I DO think keeping both Mitchell and Scuderi is important and doable. p.s. they’re not THAT old. Mitchell will be 36 in April. Scuderi just turned 34 last week.

      • jewelsfromthecrown

        It’s kinda hard for me to sketch even two seasons ahead since the next season will tell us who stays healthy, which kids thrive, etc.

        But cool, let’s keep Mitchell and Scuderi. Let it be Stoll. Gosh I always hated that contract. And they have so many centers anyhow.

        BTW, I don’t think Mitchell and Scuds are too old to play at all, just making a general point that Lombardi would probably have to replace one sooner rather than later, even if you keep both through 2014. A $60M cap would just accelerate the trend.

        • https://twitter.com/geoffdes78 Geoff DeSouza

          Out of the two, while I think he’s marginally less important, I’d keep Scuderi. Mitchell’s injury history is just too risky to bank on for anything more than a one-plus-option type of deal.

          (Wait, can you do options for anything less than max contracts in the new CBA? My head hurts already….)

      • jewelsfromthecrown

        Also: Mirtle brought it up on Twitter that teams would be able to keep salary in trades. There was also a mention of trading cap space. We’ll have to see what happens. It is tough to keep all these hypothetical CBAs straight.

        • http://www.mcsorleys-stick.com/ Quisp

          I don’t know what is meant by “keep salary in trades.” I can see Lombardi swinging a number of tiny trades (Westgarth, Loktionov, Bernier, rights to Moller or Holloway…) for little bits of cap space which in the end actually add up to something. But it’s not going to eliminate the need to dump some big contracts — if, as you say, the hypothetical CBA we end up with has a $60MM cap.

          • jewelsfromthecrown

            Well, there we are, 2013-14 will have a $64.3M cap now.

            Kings’ position improves, although other top teams like Vancouver, Boston, Pittsburgh etc should still have their hands full.

            • http://www.mcsorleys-stick.com/ Quisp

              So at 64.3 we’ll have to lose one of those guys instead of two. That’s a much more interesting question. Is it better to have Loktionov and Greene but no Stoll, or Stoll and Muzzin, but no Greene? Who am I kidding. Lombardi is going to trade Loktionov anyway. I feel it in my bones.

              • jewelsfromthecrown

                At least Lokti will get a chance to play somewhere else. Nope, that’s still depressing. Sigh.

                I did not like Stoll’s cap hit before and like it less even now. Makes more sense to roll Kopitar, Carter, and Richards (Philly used Richards like that that in 2010). But Lombardi is always going on about how he’s a “glue guy.”

  • https://twitter.com/geoffdes78 Geoff DeSouza

    Damn. Missed this one, would’ve been fun to toss around.

    Toffoli’s interesting for any number of reasons. I think he’s got first line potential, but I’m hesitant about using him up there just yet. I guess playing the rest of this year in the AHL would help, though.

    JFTC touched on it briefly above, but something to remember is that there’s going to be a LOT of players scrambling for contracts next season. That’s why the NHLPA was willing to trade the escrow hit for the higher cap – they want to make sure most of these guys get paid something, even if that means everyone has to give a bit more back in escrow payments. So guys like Mitchell / Greene / Scuderi won’t have as much negotiating leverage as they might otherwise have, or, for that matter, there will be some comparable players out there.

    A demented part of my brain thinks that Hickey would be better at the NHL level than in the AHL. It’s not without precedent, but it’s very, very rare.

    Anyway, the prospect depth is strongest on D, so that’s where vets will be cut (although I think Stoll is eminently replaceable now that his shootout mojo’s worn off)

  • Mik3ysfv

    Don’t forget about Vey. Kid is good.
    Why not go Kopitar-Carter-Richards-Lewis down the middle, roll the top three lines relatively equally, and see how and which of Toffoli, Andreoff, Vey or Pearson can do the job filling out the wings?

    • http://www.mcsorleys-stick.com/ Quisp

      Vey is excellent, yes. Maybe a little young still. I fear that Lombardi is destined to squander Loktionov. Vey is a bit more versatile. He’s doing great right now in Manchester, but is benefiting from playing with Toffoli. I’m pretty sure Pearson/Loktionov/Toffoli would be equally impressive. I would like to see King/Loktionov/Toffoli as a third line, but no one is listening to me. It’s going to be Stoll, I fear, despite the obvious logic of getting rid of him.

  • Mik3ysfv

    Thanks, Quisp. How about the Kopi/Carter/Richards/Lewis thing? I fear you may be correct about Lokti. But that may just be residual fear left over from Terry Murray. I’m loved watching Lokti in the Memorial Cup run, thought he’d be special, especially as a two-way player. May just be he just needs to simmer a little longer. Not quite sold yet on his gamte being NHL quality…..yet.

  • Mik3ysfv

    Also, Vey is putting up assists when Toffoli isn’t scoring. Splitting hairs, though. The line of Pearson/Vey/Toffoli may be good for us in the future though. Can’t wait to see that in the NHL. They are tearing it up.

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  • Shiny

    It’s incredible how your predictions from 6 months ago still mostly hold up now. Either you’re some kind of a genius or you’re a psychic or you know something we don’t.

    I’d be curious to see your updated predictions as Gagne, Westgarth, Cliche, Hickey and Loktionov were all traded and Willie Mitchell most likely suffered a career ending injury and will be forced to either have his contract amnestied or he’s put on LTIR. Technically, Lombardi DID keep the team together – well the core that won the Cup anyways.

    Scuderi, Penner and Richardson are likely to walk this summer as UFAs, though I’m still hoping Scuds will re-up. I’m torn on Penner because he’s a great team guy but his regular season just absolutely blows. Is it worth $3MM to keep him until the regular season ends and Playoff Penner shows up? Richardson should walk so that way he can go somewhere he’ll actually be in the lineup on a regular basis – sad loss for the Kings, though, as he’s so versatile and play literally anywhere (offensively anyways) in the lineup.

    With his increased point production and significant improvement over last year, Voynov is due for an enormous raise as he approaches RFA status, which puts Scuderi’s impending contract into danger. If Scuderi decides to walk and get a lot more money elsewhere, would Kings benefit from keeping Martinez? And if Penner walks, do you put Pearson into the lineup to slot into his place or do you try and trade for a Top 6 LW where Kings have been thin for a long time?

    Boy I’m glad I’m not a real GM. This armchair GM stuff is hard enough.

    • http://web.me.com/kakitadoug/geekblog/Blog/Blog.html DougS

      Well, the armchair GM stuff got even harder with the cap coming down. :-)

      I agree that all 3 UFAs are dicey at this point. Although, precisely because the cap is coming down so drastically, I think it remains to be seen how much Penner will actually command. Maybe the Kings can let him sign elsewhere, then trade for him at next year’s deadline, just in time for Playoff Penner to show up. :-)

      I think that Martinez gets re-signed no matter what. He’s still a very good puck possession guy with real skills; I think his “upper body injury” this season threw him off more than I’ve seen anyone acknowledge. And because he was a little off this season, I think he will come relatively cheap. No point in not keeping him.

      I think you give Pearson a good look in camp to see if he’s ready. If an opportunity to trade for a replacement for Penner comes up, you give it a look but you don’t overpay. In other words, this may not be settled by the end of summer.

      • http://www.mcsorleys-stick.com/ Quisp

        If you ask me, the whole armchair GM thing is much less interesting if you are swimming in cap room.

        • http://web.me.com/kakitadoug/geekblog/Blog/Blog.html DougS

          Harder, more interesting — same difference, :-)