As hard as it is to repeat as Stanley Cup champs these days, the Los Angeles Kings may be better positioned than any other recent winner to pull it off.
For one, this was a team tied as the second youngest group in the league.
And, more importantly, the Kings have hardly any key free agents and more than enough cap space to improve their team.
With the NHL’s temporary off-season cap set at $70.3-million but expected to be brought back down to somewhere in the $65-million range under a new CBA, Kings GM Dean Lombardi has wisely committed only $54-million to his roster next season.
The only players in need of new contracts, meanwhile, are unrestricted free agents Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner and Colin Fraser and the team’s lone restricted free agent Dwight King.
Even if Lombardi opts to bring all four back, they shouldn’t cost more than the team’s available space, meaning Los Angeles could enter next season (whenever it may start) with an identical cast to the one that dusted off the New Jersey Devils in six games on Monday night.
That kind of retention is possible mainly because some of the Kings key pieces are still on relatively cheap deals at the moment. Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick makes just $1.8-million for another season while the team’s entire defence core is signed for $18-million ($7-million of which is Drew Doughty).
Then there’s Justin Williams and Dustin Brown, two first liners who are locked up until 2015 and 2014 respectively on contracts that pay less than $3.7-million a season.
The Kings contractual commitments remaining
The 2012 Stanley Cup champs have all but four regular players signed for next season and have 37 per cent of their team locked up for two or more years.
Near term, the biggest headache is going to be re-signing Quick, who is now due a massive raise in 2013. Coming off the books by then will be Simon Gagne’s $3.5-million and Rob Scuderi’s $3.5-million, freeing up a little bit of room without taking too much talent out of the lineup.
For the most part, however, Lombardi has his core in place. Top centre Anze Kopitar has four years left on his deal. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have eight and 10 years remaining.
And Doughty, at 22, could be anchoring their blueline for another two decades, is signed until 2019.
This team will not be, in other words, anything like the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks, who had to dismantle their roster the season after winning to fit in new contracts for core pieces like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Ten key Kings under contract
The Kings key cogs are all already off their entry level deals, and they even have some trade ammunition in the likes of backup netminder Jonathan Bernier to attempt to bring in other cheap pieces to fill in for people like Penner if they don’t decide to bring him back.
They may not win again with this cast, but they’ll certainly get another run at it with the same pieces in place, proving that it is possible to win and retain your talent under the salary cap.
Who’s signed? (Contract expiration in brackets)
Brown (2015) - Kopitar (2016) - Williams (2015)
Penner (UFA) - Richards (2020) - Carter (2022)
Lewis (2013) - Stoll (UFA) - King (RFA)
Richardson (2013) - Fraser (UFA) - Nolan (2013)
Scuderi (2013) - Doughty (2019)
Voynov (2013) - Mitchell (2014)
Martinez (2013) - Greene (2014)