Free agency and salary cap compliance

When the subject of a Rob Scuderi contract extension was raised on yesterday’s conference call with Dean Lombardi, it brought up the question “But what to do about all of the team’s restricted and unrestricted free agents?”

As it stands now – and a primary assist to CapGeek on this – the Kings have 49.26 million dollars allotted towards 13 players for the 2013-14 season. Because the salary cap drops to 64.3 million dollars next season – and there’s certainly a chance that will happen – unless players currently under contract for next season are traded, Lombardi will be tasked with spending 15.04 million dollars on the following players:

Restricted Free Agents
Kyle Clifford
Trevor Lewis
Jordan Nolan
Slava Voynov
Alec Martinez
Keaton Ellerby
Jake Muzzin
Jonathan Bernier

Unrestricted Free Agents
Rob Scuderi
Dustin Penner
Brad Richardson
Davis Drewiske

Not counting players in the American Hockey League, there are four defensemen currently under contract for 2013-14. Two are currently rehabilitating long-term injuries (Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell) and one has never played in a National Hockey League game (Andrew Campbell).

Because of the scarcity of available top-four defensemen via trade, and the immense cost of obtaining one via free agency, re-signing Slava Voynov will be the team’s largest weight-bearing contract pillar between now and next season. It must be viewed as the team’s highest priority of all unsigned UFAs and RFAs. I’m assuming that Voynov receives a new contract that contains an annual cap hit of between three and five million dollars, which means the team is looking at roughly 10 to 12 million dollars to allot to the names above.

Scuderi isn’t likely to accept a pay cut with Los Angeles, considering he likely would earn more on the open market, and his “ugly but effective game” has been a part of two Stanley Cup blueprints and still translates into defensive success at this level. It’s fair to say that his current 3.4 million dollar cap hit is in the general ballpark of what any hypothetical extension would cost against the team’s cap space.

If Scuderi is to be re-signed, and if Voynov receives the amount of money highlighted above, that leaves roughly 6.5 to 8.5 million dollars of an annual cap hit to allot to the other 10 free agents. Kyle Clifford and Alec Martinez are obviously both heavily involved in the team’s current and future plans, and their new contracts should also be considered priorities, though not necessarily to the same degree as Voynov’s.

There are spaces to fill, prospects such as Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson worthy of consideration, and a limited amount of capital to make it all work.

So who gets extended? What should the team’s priorities be? What contract figures would seem reasonable to you? On which players is the jury still convening over? Who is likely to be in their last year in Los Angeles?

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