The LA Kings’ Salary Cap Problem

Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has done an outstanding job over the past few seasons of assembling a balanced, deep, championship-winning roster. The veteran core has proven to be strong, while young players have been stepping into key roles as well. One thing that inevitably happens with such a structure, however, is that those young players command bigger contracts, which creates difficulties for teams in the salary cap age.

Muzzin Locked Up

One of those young players for Los Angeles is top-pairing defenseman and fancy-stat phenom Jake Muzzin, who recently signed a 5 year, $20 million contract extension with the Kings. At age 25, Muzzin’s best years are ahead of him, and given that he plays on LA’s top defense pair with Drew Doughty, is solid at both ends of the rink, and, perhaps most importantly, drives puck possession, a salary cap hit of $4 million for the next 5 years (after this one) has to be seen as a bargain for the Kings.



Muzzin was set to become a restricted free agent at the end of this season, so a contract was coming sooner or later. Nevertheless, this makes the Kings’ salary cap positioning even tighter than it already was. According to CapGeek, Los Angeles has less than $500K in available cap space right now. Add in Muzzin’s raise next year, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli becoming RFAs, and Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, and Alec Martinez becoming UFAs, and the Kings suddenly have quite the salary cap headache.

Cap Issues Lie Ahead

Martinez will likely command a nice increase from his current salary of $1.1 million. For Stoll and Williams, considering that they are veteran players who have likely already peaked, Lombardi and the Kings might be hopeful that the pair can re-sign for around the same amounts ($3.25 million for Stoll and $3.65 million for Williams) that they currently make. “Mr. Game 7” and reigning Conn Smythe winner Williams, however, could justifiably ask for more, even despite the fact that he’ll be 34 when next year’s regular season comes around.

The Kings will have veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr’s $3 million cap hit coming off the books after this season, and given his age and gradual decline, it seems likely that they’ll be perfectly content with letting him go to free up some room. The salary cap might also increase slightly for next season, giving LA and other teams a bit more of a cushion. Even so, the Kings will likely have too many expensive contract situations to sort out — in particular, the raises that will be due to Pearson, Toffoli, and Martinez. LA will likely have to let at least one of these players go or even consider moving another one.

Lombardi already passed on buying out center Mike Richards, which would have freed up $5.75 million in annual cap space. As a result, he and the Kings might have to sever ties with at least one of Stoll or Williams, both of whom have become critical components of the Kings’ success, as well as fan favorites. It’s more important, though, for the Kings to retain and develop young rising stars like Pearson and Toffoli. Perhaps other players with more movable contacts — such Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, or Slava Voynov — could be traded  if Lombardi feels more inclined to hold onto Stoll or Williams (disclaimer: this is purely speculation). Either way, Los Angeles will likely be unable to keep its roster completely intact next season.

Lombardi did a great job keeping the vast majority of the roster together between last season and this season, but the salary cap makes it incredibly difficult to keep things 100% intact over multiple years. It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The Kings should remain a solid contender for the next several years, as most of their core players — Drew Doughty, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick — are locked up long-term. Anze Kopitar, meanwhile, is signed through the end of next season, and it’s hard to imagine LA letting him go. With the Kings’ core likely to remain intact, it will just be interesting to see what changes they make to their supporting cast.

17 thoughts on “The LA Kings’ Salary Cap Problem”

  1. Kopitar is not locked up “long term”. He’s signed through next season. It’s also been reported that the cap could rise by as much as 12mil next season. Pearson and Toffoli will likely be signed to bridge contracts depending on how tight the Kings cap situation actually is next season.

    Several inaccurate assessments being made in this article that aren’t really backed by the facts. And given the decision to keep Richards, as well as some of the recent extensions made to players such as Greene and Gaborik, i’d imagine that Lombardi can find a way to work with both Stoll and Williams if that’s the way he wants to go. But with Richards staying, Lombardi definitely has a bit of leverage over Stoll, although i suspect he would like to keep him.

    • Hey Chris, thanks for pointing out the inaccuracy about Kopitar — I made a mistake looking at the figures and have since edited that part of the article. And yes, the cap could very well rise next year, but the $12M number is no guarantee.

      Regarding the second part of your comment, I’m not sure how keeping Richards, Greene, and Gaborik gives Lombardi any leverage. Wouldn’t that make it harder for him to keep Stoll and Williams since he will have less cap room?

    • Hey Jack, thanks for pointing this out. I made an error when looking at the cap information and have since corrected that part of the article.

  2. Voynov stays, Stoll and Williams will stay. Regehr will go and with great certainty, Richards will go because he doesnt produce or justify the salary he’s getting. Keep in mind, Pearson and Toffoli will also be awaiting their turn at the bank…..Lombardi is smart and will get this done.

  3. The worst contract IMHO is Brown. I get he’s the Captain and blah blah blah… The guy is already past his prime and I believe we now have eight more years of him and his decline.

  4. Decline or not, Williams and Stoll have more value than just they offensive numbers. I think they will stick around with a ‘discount’ unless a team comes and gives them a ridiculous 5-6 year contract (which is a possibility). Deano did not buyout Richards because he does so many other things well even though he may not have the stats anymore. I think the biggest problem contract is Gaborik since he is just a purer scorer and not really that great at other aspects of the game (PK, D help, checking..). If he doesn’t produce the cap hit is massive…and good luck trying to trade him!

  5. After this morning’s developments that is not such a sure thing, Mik3ysfv. I figured they could only keep one of Slava or Martinez anyway, plus lose two or three veteran forwards over the next two years (maybe even Richards if he doesn’t show improvement over last year).

  6. BTW regardless of Voynov’s arrest, defense wins championships and a top 4 of Doughty Voynov Martinez and Muzzin has the potential to be a wicked force not just today but for years to come. Slava can get arrested as many times as he wants, he aint going nowhere! BOOK IT.

  7. It’s all about age. Williams and Stoll are older and will decline, Pearson and Toffoli are young and improving. So bye bye both Stoll and Williams .. their cap will be used for Toffoli and Pearson raises. Similarly say sayonara to Regehr and use that cash to keep Martinez. OUT with the old and declining, in with the new and improving. SIMPLE.

  8. No issue here, Deano is a magician and he’ll get a home town discount out of everyone. Why you ask? Simple, anyone want to leave So. Cal for Calgary or Toronto? Yeah, you don’t make the big $$ in contracts here but we’ll get you a nice advertising job with one of the local sponsors, to make up the difference. And I guarantee having your face attached to the Los Angeles Kings is worth more money than being the “new star” who’s career is going down the toilet in a rotten market with no prospects.

    So, instead of making $5 mil a year you make $4 and get a $2 mil advertising deal from Honda or Toyota, boo hoo. Just ask Lundqvist from NYR whether he’s leaving NY and his Gillette and Bayer contract because he’s no longer a part of a big name team.

  9. You make a good point but according to the players’ impacts on the team, Stoll is worth half of what Williams is worth. Dwight King can leave, Lewis won’t be given more than a million a year and Martinez has to be kept by the Kings. He’s worth at 3 million a year if you ask me. It will definitely be an interesting time next offseason to see what Deano is going to do. The biggest problem, I think, is Gaborik’s deal given that it seems as though his same nagging injury has come back.

  10. Tom, Slava goes nowhere. Deano covets D-men. Jeff Solomon, the Kings’ capologist and Dean will pull off that which needs to be done. Park and ride.

    • Well now I’d say Voynov’s career is in jeopardy. Hey, that would free up some cap space if the Kings end up terminating his contract. But of course, it doesn’t have anything to do with the content of this article, which was written prior to the domestic violence news about Voynov.

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