If you like what you’ve seen from the Los Angeles Kings, get ready for a lot more of the same. For a long, long time. That’s because their core players keep coming up and GM keeps knocking them down, and all of them on long-term, cap-friendly deals.
The Kings, in fact, are building themselves some kind of empire. And as anyone knows, all empires need foot soldiers, which is why Lombardi was eager to get defenseman Jake Muzzin’s name on a five-year contract extension worth $20 million. It’s a great contract for the Kings - who get a No. 3-4 defenseman for an average of $4 million - and further proof that the Kings are now a desired destination for players who are willing to take far less money in exchange for the chance to have a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup every year. If you take into account the fact that Muzzin's cap hit for this season is just $1 million, the Kings have him for the next six seasons for $21 million, an average of $3.5 million.
There was some sense of urgency to get Muzzin under contract. He has outstanding Corsi numbers, a a favorite of defense partner Drew Doughty and would have been able to take the Kings to arbitration this summer in search of a one-year deal. Then he would have become an unrestricted free agent after the 2015-16 season. But now he’ll be in Kings uniform until at least the summer of 2020.
For those of you keeping score at home, that brings to eight the number of core players the Kings have under contract for at least another five seasons, including this one. Some of those eight- and nine-year contracts might start looking a little ugly toward the end, but it guarantees the Kings will be at the top of the league for at least the next five years.
And that’s without Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson being signed to extensions. Toffoli and Pearson are up this summer, but neither has arbitration rights, so it’s looking very much like bridge deals are in their futures. Unless, of course, the two of them accomplish so much playing with Jeff Carter that the Kings want to sign them long-term. Pearson is playing just 12:32 per game so far this season, but has four goals on seven shots. Toffoli, playing just a minute more per game, is tied for second on the Kings in scoring with five points.
So next summer will be a pivotal one for the Kings. Not only will they have to work out deals with Toffoli and Pearson, they’ll enter into a period next July 1 in which they can begin working on an extension for Kopitar, who is scheduled to come up for unrestricted free agency the same summer as Steven Stamkos. The Kings are just a few hundred thousand dollars under this year’s salary cap of $69 million, so they’re hoping league revenues continue to grow and the cap expands enough in the next couple of years to accommodate those deals.
If they do sign all three players, for the next five years, the Kings will be filled with stars in their primes. By the end of the 2018-19 season, which is five years from now whenDoughty’s contract comes up, Doughty and Slava Voynov will be just 29. Kopitar will be 32, Jonathan Quick will be 33, Muzzin will be 30 and Toffoli and Pearson will both be 27. Carter, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown will be 34.
Even if they can’t find a way to sign everyone, the Kings have enough of their core locked up to be a force in the NHL for a long, long time.