LA Kings Jakob Chychrun

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Having an open salary cap and some extra cash lying around is always a rewarding and beneficial phenomenon to NHL teams. Especially when the team is in a race for a playoff spot and with extra assets to spend.

That’s the exact position that the LA Kings are in right now. Sitting in the second Wild Card spot and only one point away from a radical playoff spot, the Kings have intensely begun to look at multiple players around the NHL.

The Kings have shown interest in players like Travis Konecny, Ben Chiarot, and the biggest name of them all, Jakob Chychrun.

The Kings are starting to make a serious push for the 23-year-old Arizona Coyotes defenseman. Kings fans have been pushing and rallying for the Kings to acquire the high-scoring LD ever since his name was thrown out into the hail storm that we call rumors, but now that Rob Blake and his crew are the front-runners, it’s got everyone on their toes. 

The Kings have the assets to acquire the big-name player, but how will the importation of Chychrun (or any player, in fact) impact LA’s current salary cap situation? Today, we’ll take a quick look at the current state of the salary cap for the Kings and how it may look with a player like Jakob Chychrun on the team.

How the money looks going into the deadline

The trade deadline is still a month away, but the big names have always been moved before the actual day in recent years. With Tyler Toffoli of the Montreal Canadiens being traded to the Calgary Flames, it fired off the cannons of the trade deadline. Just a few days later, Ilya Lyubushkin was packaged up with Ryan Dzingel from Arizona and sent off to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Nick Ritchie and a conditional draft pick. 

Now, it’s starting to heat up. Players’ names are being thrown around left and right, and it feels like there’s going to be a massive bombshell dropped within a few days. 

Fingers crossed, it’ll be the highly-anticipated trade where Jakob Chychrun gets moved to the LA Kings. We can only dream.

Having money for these players is critical, especially to the LA Kings, considering they’re in quite an interesting predicament with the cap space. At this moment, the Kings have $1.2 million available. It is important to know that there are a few players on LTIR expanding the cap by quite a chunk. With Alex Edler and Sean Walker on long-term injury reserve, as well as a few contracts buried in the AHL, the Kings have $8.6 million available to spend. 

In some cases, NHL teams will have their salary cap expand a little bit at the trade deadline giving them some more cash to spend, but unfortunately, the Kings will stay with their $8.6 million. Not like that’s a bad thing, though. 

Among every other NHL team and their projected cap space at the deadline, the Kings rank 15th in the league, which is mostly in the middle of the pack.

The teams that have the most cap space are the teams outside of the playoffs looking in. The only notable teams ahead of the LA Kings are the New York Rangers and the Minnesota Wild. The Rangers have almost $32 million opening up at the deadline, which will cause them to buy players from sellers like they’re children at a candy store.

The wise thing for them to do would be to use that cap space to broker trades to western conference teams (or teams that won’t negatively impact the Rags) with zero cap flexibility. That will turn away the available talent from rival eastern conference teams, leaving them with poor talent. Think about it: the Rangers have way too much money on their hands, and they have all three of their retained salary slots available. That’ll help out the cap-struggling western conference teams while filtering away top talent from their rivals. 

Will they do it? Probably not. Should they do it? Absolutely. They won’t be able to spend all of that money, and retaining cash on soon-to-be UFAs won’t hurt the Rangers in the long run. In fact, it’ll help them short and long term. 

Additionally, the Minnesota Wild have almost $12 million to spend at the deadline with a stockpile of prospects and unused draft picks. If they can find a number one centerman, they may be one of the top teams in the league. The issue for them is that it’ll have to be a rental with no chances of re-signing because trading for future money will kill them next season, as Ryan Suter’s and Zach Parise’s buyouts start to really kick in.

The LA Kings don’t have the luxury to broker trades to the eastern conference because of their limited money. But, they don’t have to worry about trading for money for next year because they’ll open up millions upon millions of dollars in salary next year. So that puts them into a bit of a different type of spot at the deadline.

How would the salary cap space look like if Chychrun was traded to the Kings?

Jakob Chychrun carries an economical cap hit for another three years after the 2021-22 season at $4.6 million AAV. For a 23-year-old defenseman who’s shown that he can put up high numbers playing with mediocre teammates, that’s a fantastic deal with almost no negatives.

In the final two years of the deal, Chychrun has a modified no-trade clause, where he can submit a ten-team no-trade list. Even then, it doesn’t have much of an effect because if the Kings do keep him for the long term, they won’t need to move him.

If the Kings do end up trading for Chychrun at the deadline, they’ll have to be ready to take on $4.6 million. If the return is strictly prospects, then the cap space obviously decreases by a lot for the rest of the year. Let’s not forget how Alex Edler will likely be back before the playoffs begin, leaving the Kings even less cap space to work with.

So, if the Kings end up receiving Jakob Chychrun, they won’t have that much of an issue dealing with the cap. They’ll have just a smidge over $4 million remaining in cap space after the trade. It isn’t too bad at all. In fact, it’s quite helpful. 

Alex Edler carries a cap hit of $3.5 million AAV, leaving the LA Kings with $500k after both Chychrun’s hypothetical arrival and Edler’s return from injury. It will make roster moves like sending down players from LA to Ontario much more difficult. Still, it’ll put the Kings into a comfortable situation where they can afford both Edler and a player like Jakob Chychrun. 

If the Kings would like some more cap flexibility, they’d have to find a way to move Olli Maatta to Arizona in the suggested Chychrun trade. That would free up an extra $3.3 million, and after the trade and with Alex back in the lineup, the Kings would have roughly $3.8 million bucks. It won’t help in the long run considering Maatta’s contract ends after the 2021-22 NHL season, but it will make roster moves a little bit more flexible. Maatta would probably be losing his roster spot anyways because both Edler and Chychrun are left-handed shooters, and it’s highly doubtful that Maatta outplays Mikey Anderson for that final LD spot.

Again, moving Olli would be totally optional, and it won’t change much for the rest of the season, but it’s all about having more flexibility and a bit more freedom when it comes to money management within the team. It’s all about perspective and how Rob Blake views Maatta as a member of the LA Kings.

The NHL trade deadline is coming up, and the rumors are starting to drive everyone crazy. Who’s going where, or which team will overpay for who? It all becomes legitimate and real in the next five weeks, and the LA Kings will be active. They’ll look to improve as a team heading into the final stretch of the year, and they could seriously pull off something wild to help the team. Now that we have a basic understanding of the cap system that’s happening with the Kings, it’ll make this deadline much more interesting in the sense of affordability.

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