The Los Angeles Kings’ $160 Problem

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

Robyn Regehr's injury exacerbated a major financial problem for the Kings. (Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Robyn Regehr’s injury exacerbated a major financial problem for the Kings. (Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

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:

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.

20 thoughts on “The Los Angeles Kings’ $160 Problem”

  1. James, as you noted, the Bruins got Marc Savard off of their cap by putting him on LTIR. They do not have the same option with Voynov – the league has given them absolutely no way to clear his contract from the cap, in essence, reducing their cap by over $4M. I don’t think there has ever been precedent for having one cap number for 29 teams in the league and a different cap number for 1 team, but that is essentially what is happening here.

  2. Someone wrote the Kings shouldn’t get any ‘special dispensation’ but this is a special case. Chicago might even be in worse shape should this happen to them. All teams know the deal… if you bump against the cap and a player gets injured, you’re going to have to put them on Long-Term-Injured-Reserve to get cap relief. A team wouldn’t want to do that, but at least it’s an option in this cap era. No team assumes that a presumed-innocent player will be removed from their roster by the NHL, with pay, week after week, with no way at all to get cap relief. If I were the Kings organization I would be livid in thinking this was punitive punishment.

  3. Mr. Lombardi, if you are out there… Please stick to your guns. On a micro level, someone needs to isolate the root of the problem – the cause. Voynov is obviously a good player.

  4. What ever happened to due process? The player and the team are being penalized for what? A suspicion, an alleged incident that has been denied by all parties involved? Meanwhile we wait on the DA…… Oh, and the 4 million cap hit applies while the player is denied his right to play. Insane.

  5. I see two problems here. The first being the obvious, this is the risk they took by pushing to the cap limit. Facing facts, do they have a team that deserves max cap?

    Second, I think if the NHL suspends someone like that, at least during the investigation phase the NHL should be the ones that foot the bill. It’s not really fair to suspend someone like that and leave the team. The team pays for the player, there should be out clauses. Foe example state if you do something illegal, all deals are off. However it should also state that if the NHL is the one that suspends the player, then the team is allowed to call someone else up to take said players spot without added cap space (instead he just takes the cap space the suspended player uses) Then when the player comes back, the called up player is sent back down without going through waivers.

    • Agreed on all counts. Although not uncommon by any means, they did push up against the cap. However, the dead cap space is a huge financial roadblock in which they have no resolution until the league is good and ready. That’s too arbitrary.

      Your idea is a good one. Thanks for reading.

  6. No, the Kings don’t deserve ‘special dispensation’. The Cap is there for a reason and it shouldn’t be altered unless all the teams owners AND NHLPA sit down and work out a solution. You can’t just ‘wing it’…especially for a cap max team that has won the Cup 2 of the last 3 years. Others teams have traded away talent to avoid a problem like this. LA should manage their Cap better…very simple.

    Further, people thinking teams will fight the NHL with lawyers have absolutely no clue of the power the League has over teams. The NHL has more power over teams than Communist China has over cats and dogs in their country.

    The Kings dressed 13 forwards because they wanted to ice the maximum players and thus avoid arbitration by the NHLPA. The players have seen this problem before and they have warned the NHL that teams who fail to ice a full team will face labor unrest.

    Voynov has been CORRECTLY suspended while an NHL investigation takes place. A suspension is not a finding of guilt at all. Companies do it all the time. The suspension process actually protects people from arbitrary actions by employers. How long that investigation takes largely depends on Voynov and his lawyers. There may be inquiries into incidents that happened in Russia which would surely add time to the investigation.

  7. Well, who told the Kings to push their salary structure to the cap limit? The NHL? They’re complaining about no cap relief as if they didn’t know pushing themselves to the ceiling is risky.
    Simple solution, make a trade to free up some space or just deal with what you have and quit the bitching.
    Was there any sympathy for Chicago when they had to deal away players in order to free up cap space to sign others on their roster to new contracts?
    This is the new NHL (salary cap world). Obviously they didn’t learn seeing others struggle with cap space, so operate your organization within the rules and limits and stop looking for excuses.

  8. .This is a much deeper rooted problem then a salary cap issue. Here’s what we know…..Slava Voynov took his wife to a hospital in Torrance Ca. with undisclosed injuries. Hospital personel took these injuries to be caused by domestic violence. Both Slava Voynov and his wife speak fluent Russian, and broken English, and unfortunately the folks at the hospital don’t speak Russian and could not understand what the Voynovs were telling them had happened, so they called the Torrance police department. The officers involved who also aren’t trained in fluent Russian arrested Slava Voynov, and transferred him over to the Redondo Beach PD as that is the city the “alleged” crime was commited. Redondo Beach PD interviewed Mr. Voynov, I assume also Mrs. Voynov, and released him.
    To date, we, the general public have not received much info, other then Mr. Voynovs attorney stating no domestic violence occurred, and Mrs. Voynovs attorney stating her story is pretty much in line with her husbands.
    The general public, nor the NHL has any idea if Slava Voynov did or did not assult his wife!!!! What everyone does know is that a month after Mrs. Voynov was injured her husband has NOT been charged with any crime. We also know the NHL has suspended Slava Voynov indefinitely …. and why they did this should be unacceptable to anyone who believes in due process.
    Colorado goaltender Semyon Varlomov was arrested last year for domestic violence. The next night he was in net, and at no time was suspended by the NHL. Why the difference here. The answer is very simple. At the time of Semyon Varlomov’s arrest, Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens NFL franchise had not been seen on video tape knocking out his wife in a casino elevator. We are all aware of the media and public outcry that was directed at Roger Goddall and the NFL for their response to the incident.
    Now because of the national attention the Ray Rice situation caused, Slava Voynov has been suspended indefinitely by the NHL for something he may or may not have done, strictly because NHL commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t want any media heat coming his way. Making the situation even more disturbing is that Slava Voynov has been suspended with pay …. in other words he has been sent on a paid vacation while his employer, the Los Angeles Kings are the ones being punished. How does punishing an employer for the actions or in this case possible non actions of an employee off company time make any sense whatsoever. Simply stated it doesn’t.
    Gary Bettman and the NHL should not have acted against Slava Voynov or the Kings in any way until it was determined through judicial process if Slava Voynov did or did not assult his wife.
    Until it is determined if Slava Voynov did or did not assult his wife, the NHL has completely disregarded due process, Slava Voynov’s right to work, and undue punishment levied against the Los Angeles Kings

  9. James, you’ve decided Voynov beat his wife when the police themselves haven’t determined whether or not he did. When did you become the police, and can you share with us all the information you have that shows Voynov is guilty? Didn’t think so. Thanks for your well thought out comments, btw.

  10. The NHL is in the WRONG here. If the league is going to suspend someone then their salary should instantly come off the team’s CAP. It’s a horrible hole in the CBA that should be addressed immediately. And I’m not even a Kings fan, just a fan of the game.

  11. Because they suspended him for something that wasn’t an on ice incident, that might not even be an incident at all? Because they don’t have the option of putting him on LTIR? Because the suspension is unprecedented in the NHL, in that there is literally ZERO timetable? Voynov could have the charges dropped against him on Monday and the NHL could leave him suspended for another month, even the full year, if they felt like it. So he’d be suspended for something he DIDN’T do,and the Kings are taking a hit because of it. The next time the league tries this, you can absolutely bet that neither the team or player involved will accept it. Appeals and lawyers are going to be involved from the first minute.

  12. It’s even worse than the article portrays, as the Kings would have to move cap space, i.e. a trade, to make room for another roster spot. Help could be on the way as Regehr could be back any game and Voynov’s suspension may be lifted if the police drop their case and there are no charges going forward. One other note, the Kings did dress 13 forwards for a full team on the bench.

    This was the situation in Chicago and Boston before the season started and why they traded valuable defensemen to the NY Islanders. Good thing also, as both teams have had a slew of injuries that they have been able to back fill as they made cap space, though both teams have caught a lot of flack for making trades and not getting much back and nothing that could help them this season.

  13. Why should the league give the Kings special dispensation!? Give me a break! Voynov shouldn’t have beaten his wife or whatever he did.. The Bruins lost Marc Savard 5 years ago to a concussion he suffered due to a dirty hit by Matt Cooke and they had to take a 5 million dollar hit against the cap until they put him on long term injured reserve.

    • Marc Savard is a bad comparison. This was an off ice personal time thing and the kings are only asking for $160 to pull up some crappy minors player. Totally different situation. Savard is also a forward which is in a lot less demand than defenseman. Many teams go well over the cap during trade deadline. Hawks would not have one if they didn’t manipulate the system. The proof is they had to trade half their team after they won the cup. The kings are well managed and the league should let them pull up someone else if they aren’t going to come to terms with their suspension length soon.

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