Not sure which team at the moment is best positioned for the 2009 draft lottery, the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders or Atlanta Thrashers, but look for the Kings to be throwing some serious money around between now and training camp.
Will the Kings’ spending spree coincide with an effort to revive a declining team that has been lost in an enormous market or to try to qualify for the post-season after five years on the sidelines during the playoffs?
Uh, no. According to nhlnumbers.com, the Kings’ payroll currently sits at just $27.756 million, which is almost $13 million under the mandated salary floor. Before the season starts, the Kings must crank up their spending to at least $40.7 million. And that’s after they dispatched two prospects to the Philadelphia Flyers for Denis Gauthier, who played all this season in the minors, but has a very convenient cap hit of $2.1 million.
For their $27.756 million, the Kings have 14 players under contract – forwards Michal Handzus, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov, Kyle Calder, Derek Armstrong, Anze Kopitar, John Zeiler, Raitis Ivanans and Matt Ellis; defensemen Tom Preissing, Jack Johnson, Gauthier and Matt Greene and goalie Jason LaBarbera.
That leaves restricted free agent forwards Patrick O’Sullivan, Jarret Stoll, Brad Richardson, Gabe Gauthier and Matt Moulson, defenseman Peter Harrold and a backup goalie left to sign, but chances are, the Kings will still have enough holes to fill and enough cap space left to throw big money at a couple of players who wouldn’t otherwise merit it.
Speaking of foolish spending, does anyone think it’s a tad silly that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman dressed down Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and his Anaheim Ducks counterpart Brian Burke for verbal warfare that really had no ill effect on the game, but did nothing to discipline the St. Louis Blues after their “screw you” to the Vancouver Canucks served no other purpose than to pay Steve Bernier far more than he’s worth and indirectly drive up salaries?
It all started when Canucks GM Mike Gillis offered a three-year deal worth $7.5 million to St. Louis Blues restricted free agent David Backes that the Blues were forced to match if they wanted to keep the player. Days later, the Blues offered Canucks RFA Bernier a one-year deal worth $2.5 million that had revenge written all over it.
The Canucks matched the offer, meaning both Backes and Bernier are making more money than they’re worth.
It has widely been reported that Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jonas Frogren, whose case will go before an arbitrator, had his contract nullified by the NHL because the league considered him a “defected player,” but the Leafs consider him an unrestricted free agent.
That’s not entirely correct. The NHL agrees Frogren is an unrestricted free agent, but has argued that because Frogren was once a defected player on the Calgary Flames’ reserve list – he no longer holds that status – he is subject to entry-level restrictions on his salary.
The Leafs and the NHLPA argue the collective bargaining agreement makes it clear that no European player 28 years old or older is subject to entry-level stipulations “under any circumstances.”
Also, don’t expect any resolution on the showdown between the NHL/Nashville Predators and the KHL/Salavat Ufa over Alexander Radulov before the end of this week at the earliest.
Ken Campbell, a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com, is at the NHL Draft in Ottawa covering the event. His blog normally appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.