Kings double down on roster, sign Alec Martinez to 6-year, $24-million extension – but change will still come

The Kings signed defenseman Alec Martinez to a six-year, $24-million contract extension Wednesday – and although the signing leaves GM Dean Lombardi with little wiggle room with which to sign L.A.’s remaining free agents, that’s a reality all GMs eventually face under the salary cap system.

Under GM Dean Lombardi, the reigning-champion Los Angeles Kings have put a premium on player loyalty in an era where roster turnover is all but a given. That process continued Wednesday when Lombardi signed defenseman Alec Martinez to a six-year, $24-million contract extension – but it also guarantees the team will have to make changes next summer whether or not they win the Stanley Cup again this season.

Martinez’ contract – and its average annual value of $4-million a season – means the Kings have committed $60.1 million in cap space to just 14 players for next season; given that the cap isn’t guaranteed to rise beyond its current $69 million ceiling next season, that leaves precious little room to pay soon-to-be unrestricted free agent veterans Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams and restricted free agents Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Martin Jones, among others.

This doesn’t mean the deal Martinez got is unfair.
In fact, it’s the going rate for second-pair defensemen these days – and Martinez’ teammate, Jake Muzzin, essentially got the same value from Lombardi earlier this season. However, it means Lombardi will have to make some difficult choices with his remaining free agents, and that means something’s got to give. You can’t blame Lombardi for that, as he’s been one of the league’s best managers of his cap situation. Rather, you have to blame the cap system, because it was designed to spread out talent throughout the league regardless of the circumstances under which championship teams are built. It happened to the Blackhawks; it happened to the Bruins; it happened to the Penguins; and it will happen to the next Cup-winner and the champion after that.

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So enjoy the Kings while you can, because they’ll be broken up to some degree by July. If you’ve got a problem with that, take it up with the league administrators who came up with the cap structure, not the GMs who, even when successful, always must have the notion of salary cap damage control lurking somewhere at the back of their minds.