Dean Lombardi got a lot of praise for “bringing back everyone” from the cup-winning roster. This was never really totally true, though, since Kevin Westgarth, Simon Gagne, Andrei Loktionov and Davis Drewiske were all moved either before the lock-out-shortened 2013 season started, or before the trade deadline. And Willie Mitchell has yet to play a game since lifting the cup. In the off-season, we’ve said good-bye to Jonathan Bernier, Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi and Brad Richardson. And Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis are dangling in the balance of their RFA negotiations.
That’s eight players gone, one (Mitchell) nearly gone, and a further three (Clifford, Nolan and Lewis) at least one of which is going to be squeezed out by cap/roster concerns.
I don’t think Lombardi is worried about Jordan Nolan. But I think Clifford and Lewis he would like to bring back at the right price. What I want to know is, what happens if Clifford won’t sign for less than, say $1.5MM, and Lewis is awarded $1.5MM in arbitration? Is that unreasonable? I’m sure Lewis’s agent will be trumpeting the fact that Lewis has been cited several times as one of Darryl Sutter’s favorite players. That makes him seem kind of valuable, doesn’t it?
Can the Kings afford Clifford/Lewis at a combined $3MM?
Not with Carcillo, Ellerby and Schultz on the team. It puts them about $700,000 over the cap.
Since the Kings currently have nine defensemen signed, I assume the plan is to see if Mitchell can play, and if he can, then get rid of one of Schultz or Ellerby (alternatively, trade one of Martinez or Muzzin, but that would be sad, not to mention dumb).
So when that happens (losing one defenseman), the Kings would squeeze under the cap, signing Clifford/Lewis at $3MM combined. Obviously, if Mitchell can’t play, that frees up more cap space. But if his health is not a question, there would be no reason to bring in Schultz (and re-sign Ellerby) in the first place.
And, as far as the forwards go, Lombardi is either going to sign Nolan and let him battle it out with Carcillo for the press-box seat — or he’s going to deal Kyle Clifford. Can’t see him dealing Lewis, but it could happen, depending on the award.
Probably what’s happening is that Clifford is asking for more than $1.5MM, and Lombardi is worried arbitration could award Lewis closer to $2MM. Even a difference of $500K would mean getting rid of someone else. And who would that be? Would Lombardi demote or move both Ellerby and Schultz and rely on Mitchell not to re-injure himself? He’s certainly not going to go with 12 forwards.
Maybe Lombardi is thinking, trade Clifford and let Tanner Pearson, Andreoff, O’Neill, Shore (and maybe even Kitsyn or Prokhorkin) duke it out for a spot. Does he think Linden Vey (or Marc-Andre Cliche) is ready to replace Lewis? Doubt it.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be tight. And I bet I’m not going to like it.