So. We’re 24 hours into free agency and you’ve just visited CapFriendly and saw a scary red number at the top of the page, saying that the LA Kings are currently over the NHL’s Salary Cap. Gasp!
Let’s pump the breaks here for a minute and take a look at the breakdown.
This total accounts for a few things, which is currently pushing the Kings over the cap. First and foremost, it accounts for 23 players on the roster and we know that the Kings won’t always carry 23 players this season, as General Manager Rob Blake said this week. It’s understandable why 23 are listed, because we don’t know exactly what combination of players will crack the roster for opening night, but we also know that a lot can change between now and then. Injuries, trades and roster decisions – not to mention the possibility of other signings – will all impact what this group could look like come October 11 versus Colorado. We know what the core looks like, but filling in around that group presents a lot of different scenarios.
“We’ll have to make sacrifices, and have already, that’s part of it the last four years without a real big cap increase,” Blake said. “We know the projections this year, we see the future projections the next couple of years and I have a good staff that manages that. I would imagine that we’re light on our roster for a lot of the time during the season. A lot of times you want to carry 23, but you need cap space to do it. I’m not sure that we’re going to be in that position going forward and that was something we talked to Todd about and we understood. As an organization, we know that there is going to be lots of juggling with the cap situation.”
First and foremost, the Kings are allowed to exceed the cap in the offseason. NHL teams are allowed to be over the salary cap by up to 10 percent at this time of the year. If this was the playoffs, the Kings could also exceed the salary cap because, you know, NHL. But, for now, it’s not a problem.
Secondly, that breakdown includes three goaltenders and if we’re talking about running with less than a full, 23-player roster, three goalies is a non-starter. The Kings now have three goalies signed who spent at least the bulk of last season in the NHL, including two they signed yesterday. Pheonix Copley is the incumbent and he is now joined by Cam Talbot and David Rittich. The expectation here is that the duo in net off the bat would be Copley and Talbot, with Rittich a more than capable third option, though you never know where things might go. If Rittich is the third goalie, that’s about as good a player in that position as you could ask for. Either way, you can subtract at least $875,000 (Rittich’s AAV), or more if he makes the team, from that number because once the season gets underway, the Kings will carry two goaltenders.
The third takeaway is that even with a goaltender removed, and a roster that shows 13 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders, there is not currently enough salary-cap space to carry two extra players without at least one roster move with a player who makes more than the league minimum. There is more than enough room to carry 21 players in total (2G, 6D, 12F and one extra skater) but having an extra at each position is currently not a luxury the Kings have, based upon Cap Friendly’s metrics. There is certainly the possibility of another move to come in one form or another, but until that time comes, we are likely projecting a Kings roster that consists of 19 skaters, meaning one scratched player.
What the situation means is that we should actually see some terrific battles during training camp for roster spots on Opening Night. Projections prior to the trade for Pierre-Luc Dubois and yesterday’s signings all went off of a 23-player roster, which meant an extra defensemen and two extra forwards. Now, with a roster that projects with at most 20 skaters, perhaps 19, the competition for not only spots in the lineup on October 11, but the extra position(s) as well will be that much greater. There might also be a different value placed on those extra players, such as having players who can play multiple positions, both sides on the blueline, ETC. That all becomes that much more valuable.
On the backend, the third pairing is wide open. The right side has promising young players Brandt Clarke and Jordan Spence, while the left side has Tobias Bjornfot, who is currently still a restricted free agent, as well as veterans Andreas Englund, Jacob Moverare and Kevin Connauton. Additionally, the Kings added Joe Hicketts (LHD) and Steven Santini (RHD) via free agency. That’s eight names with NHL experience, vying for 2-3 roster spots. We should expect at least one of Spence or Clarke on that roster, but is there room for both, especially at the expense of valuable playing time in the AHL? Both players also make more than the league minimum and the Kings could opt for a cheaper, veteran player as a potential seventh defenseman to save cap space. Heck, they could also play together on a pair……maybe? We also don’t know yet what Bjornfot’s contract will look like and it depends whether or not he accepts his qualifying offer, or if he and the Kings negotiate a separate deal. It’s certainly interesting and it’s something to watch as training camp gets underway in a couple of months.
Up front, the Kings mission yesterday was clear, as they added three forwards with a cap hit of exactly $775,000, the minimum total they can offer. Two of those players are well-known to Kings fans – Trevor Lewis and Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Both players embrace their roles in the lineup, both players work hard, are trusted by the coaching staff and play a responsible game. Both Anderson-Dolan and Lewis can also play center and wing. Additionally, the Kings signed forward Mikhail Maltsev from the Colorado organization, coming at an AAV of, you guessed it, $775,000. Maltsev has fluctuated between the NHL and AHL throughout his career, but found a scoring touch at the minor-league level and has some size (6-3), indicating he can play lower in the lineup. An intriguing add, at the right number for the Kings.
That’s not to mention the young players who will hope to take a step forward. Alex Turcotte and Samuel Fagemo (RFA) should look at these spots as an opportunity to potentially claim an NHL job, while recently acquired forward Hayden Hodgson has NHL experience and younger players like Alex Laferriere and Francesco Pinelli are first-year pros looking to make an impact, though it will likely first come at the AHL level. Still, there are jobs to be one and all seven of those forwards have a salary-cap hit of less than $1,000,000. The Kings will need players in that range to be impactful players this season, off the bat and when injuries inevitably arise, so there’s an opportunity for someone to step up.
“We’ve had some that have had the experience in the American League, gaining that, that we can put in,” Blake said. “When you get up against the cap and in certain situations, whether you’re in an emergency and you need a player, they have to be at a certain amount. A lot of that is entry-level contracts that fit those [situations].”
When you total all those figures up, plus you add in the $2,725,000 that the Kings are carrying in retained salary and contract termination penalties, you’re staring at some choices to make to come in under the salary-cap ceiling of $83,500,000 for the 2023-24 season. To play around with the numbers yourself, love to see some ArmChair GM rosters in the comments. Sure they’ve been in there over the last 24 hours, but was writing all day yesterday and didn’t have much time to look. Feature available on Cap Friendly HERE.
Should the Kings make any additional moves, they would likely come in the vein of what we’ve seen over the last 24 hours. Value contracts and players, who are targeted to fill certain roles at either the NHL or AHL levels, or perhaps both in certain situations. Will continue to update as we go along!