Brother, can you spare sixteen hundred dimes?
Going into Saturday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks, the Los Angeles Kings had a financial problem, triggered by a longer-term salary cap problem. Defenseman Robyn Regehr left Friday’s practice with an unspecified injury and was unable to play against Vancouver. Naturally, every team in the NHL faces the same issue, and all have contingency plans to deal with it.
Ordinarily, the next-man-up doctrine applies, with the most NHL-ready player called up to fill the bill. But what if the team can’t afford it? [If you like this post you can get more just like it sent for free to your Inbox. Just signup here for our weekly Newsletter.]
The roster problem was caused by the Slava Voynov suspension
The Kings were up against the NHL’s $69 million salary cap before defenseman Slave Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the league on October 20th for an alleged domestic violence incident. The Voynov suspension created perhaps an even bigger problem for Los Angeles than just the loss of the talented, fourth-year player: $4.167 million in dead cap space. That’s one heck of a lot of dimes.
With Voynov’s status essentially frozen, Los Angeles was in the strange position of not having the financial flexibility every other team has to deal with injuries.How short were they from being able to call up a minimum-salaried player from the minors, you ask? Basically, the equivalent of a decent restaurant tab for two: $160.
Granted, the Kings could elect to put Regehr on the long-term injured reserve list, but that’s an extreme move for an injury that appears to be day-to-day in nature.
Los Angeles played with just five defensemen and won
Despite being unable to afford calling up a replacement player, the Kings managed to pull out an on-ice victory over the visiting Canucks Saturday night at the Staples Center. The coaching staff mixed and matched the lines and defensive pairings to compensate for the manpower shortage they faced. In the end, the defensemen skated the following amount of ice time: 29:46 for Drew Doughty, 25:36 for Jake Muzzin, 25:30 for Alec Martinez, 19:42 for Matt Greene and 17:26 for Brayden McNabb.
One might think the problem of five defensemen would result in a struggle to protect Jonathan Quick on the ice. Ironically, the opposite ended up being the case. L.A. played perhaps its most complete game of the season, allowing just 18 shots on net while scoring five goals in a dominant 5-1 win. “It was a good team win,” said Martinez. “Everyone stepped up. Throughout the year, you’re going to face adversity whether it be injury, or in this instance, cap space.” He went on to acknowledge the remarkable nature of the problem the team faced: “I’ve never come across anything like this before.”
The NHL has refused to grant the Kings salary cap relief
Team officials are said to be fuming over the NHL’s refusal to grant the club special dispensation with respect to the cap, given Voynov’s suspension and the millions of lost cap space. “We’ve got $4.1 million in salary-cap purgatory,” said senior vice president Jeff Solomon. “How do you get out of that? That’s really beyond our control.”
The Voynov situation could resolve itself soon. According to one report, Redondo Beach detectives will meet with the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office on Monday. However, there’s no certainty a decision will be made at that time.
The Twittersphere reacts
The Kings may be struggling with their salary cap problem, but Twitter didn’t struggle to react. A few samples:
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) November 8, 2014
— Deborah Lew (@by_DeborahLew) November 9, 2014
"When U only have 5 D in lineup, it’s about trying 2 break out of our zone, so U dont use up 2 much energy in your own zone” #LAKings Sutter
— Frozen Royalty (@frozenroyalty) November 9, 2014
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 8, 2014
The Kings are off until Wednesday, when they play the cross-town Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center, who sit in first place in the Pacific Division. Hopefully, Regehr will be back. If not, someone pass the collection plate around.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.