The wait is finally over as the LA Kings have extended both Mikey Anderson and Sean Durzi.
The two young defensemen were in need of contracts heading into the 2022-23 NHL season, and since they were considered huge contributors to the LA Kings’ defensive core this past year, the holdup on the contracts was delayed.
After almost four months of negotiations and waiting for the contracts to be settled, both players received short-term cheaper extensions that would have them end up as RFAs (restricted free agents) once their contracts ended. Mikey Anderson received a one-year deal, whereas Sean Durzi ended up with a two-year extension.
Mikey’s team-friendly deal
Mikey Anderson received his extension first, signing a one-year, $1 million dollar contract. Based on the term and money, it felt like the two sides knew the Kings were up against the cap and both sides agreed that they could attempt to find a longer contract next summer.
It can also serve as a prove-it type of deal for Anderson, which can solidify his spot on the first defensive pairing and even give him an extra year to unlock some of his offensive potential.
Durzi gets his money
Sean Durzi surprised us all when he came into the NHL after injuries riddled the LA Kings earlier on in the year. What surprised everyone is how he managed to hold up in the NHL. In a matter of a couple of months, Durzi played in 64 NHL games and had 27 points.
He was also a key factor on the LA Kings’ powerplay and had 55 penalty minutes, including a few fights. The fact that the Kings managed to get him back so cheaply at $1.7 million AAV at two years is impressive.
While Rob Blake didn’t go overboard with signings this summer, he did improve the team by bringing in Kevin Fiala. The moment that the Kings traded former Minnesota Wild winger, they signed him to a seven-year deal that would carry $7.875 million AAV. It’s a hefty price, but it was worth it knowing that the Swiss-born winger was one of the best even-strength scorers in the NHL last season.
Now that all the holes have been patched up and the team is set to take the stage, we wonder what the LA Kings would look like with their money. Obviously, the delay in the Anderson and Durzi contracts had us all nervous, but the Kings found a way to construct their roster while staying under the cap.
We have a good idea of how the lineups will look when the season rolls around, but we’ve still got numerous questions about the cap space. How much money do the Kings have as of now? What will the cap look like at the trade deadline? Can the Kings make roster moves easily, or will there be restrictions? Today, we’ll take a deep dive into the current cap situation that the LA Kings have.
Current cap space
An NHL roster consists of 18 skaters and two goalies nightly. That’s a total of 20 roster players set to play every single game. NHL teams are allowed three extra players to be healthy scratched every night, and those players also count against the cap.
Assuming that the Kings do decide to roll with 18 dressed skaters, two goaltenders, and three scratched players this year, they’ll match the 23/23 roster limit. We still don’t know what the depth part of the team looks like with all of the rookies trying to earn a spot, but we can, once again, assume that the bottom six will look like this:
Alex Iafallo – Quinton Byfield – Arthur Kaliyev
Carl Grundstrom – Blake Lizotte – Gabriel Vilardi
The healthy scratches would be Jaret-Anderson Dolan, Brendan Lemieux, and Jacob Moverare. Tobias Bjornfot would be sent down to the AHL simply because he is waiver-exempt. Sending Bjornfot down makes things so much easier for the Kings with roster moves and with cap issues.
With the lineup looking fairly similar to last year’s roster, with the exception of Kevin Fiala, the Kings have a total of $1,390,833 in cap space. For a team that had us worried about the cap space, this is a massive breath of fresh air.
Is it enough to make roster moves?
Simply put, it’s enough to make roster moves. If the Kings were to send down Lias Andersson on waivers – and he would clear them – he would likely be the player that LA calls up in case there are any sudden injuries. Putting anyone on injured reserve and calling up Andersson, who carries an AAV of $750k, the Kings will be just fine as they’ll still have over $600k in cap space remaining. But the likelihood of that happening feels almost impossible because of the two extra forwards that the Kings would have scratched on a 23/23 roster.
As for defensemen call-ups, there are a few options. Both Jordan Spence and Bjornfot are not waiver eligible, meaning that they could be called up from and sent down to the AHL with no risk of losing them to waivers. The question is, who gets called up?
In the short time that we saw Spence play, he was exhilarating. Offensively and defensively gifted, Spence was making huge plays left and right, and even potted a few goals. His size was definitely a red flag, but just like any other player, he’ll be able to grow.
Bjornfot has been a regular on the LA Kings lineup for the last two years. While that does give him the larger chance to be the first one called up, he looked like he was missing a lot in the first two years. Miscommunication errors, defensive breakdowns, and a few other mistakes that felt very avoidable kept occurring. He also played all of last season without scoring a single goal.
So we don’t really know who will be the guy that gets the call-up, but we can assure you that no matter who goes up, the LA Kings’ cap space will be completely fine.
What will the cap space look like at the trade deadline?
If you weren’t aware of this already, the cap space usually increases for every NHL team at the trade deadline. Depending on how much previous cap you had and how much you had available, the cap space should fluctuate from team to team.
For the LA Kings last season, they had $1.2 million throughout the majority of the regular season. That was less than they currently have. With this year’s team having about $100k more, the cap space at the 2023 NHL trade deadline could very possibly be around $5.8 million at the trade deadline. That’s a lot of money.
If the Kings don’t make any more signings or trades throughout the season before the deadline, they could have some money (and some assets) to spend on a player that can help them win in the postseason. Since the Kings are ready to take that next step to be a contending team, that money could come in handy if they bite on a bigger player available at the deadline.
Next year’s cap space
Before we get into how much money the Kings will have next year, here are some of the key restricted and unrestricted free agents that the Kings will have in the 2023 off-season. If they have an (ARB) next to their name, that means they are arbitration eligible.
Restricted free agents:
Lias Andersson (ARB)
Miley Anderson (ARB)
Austin Wagner (ARB)
Unrestricted free agents:
So with a total of 16 RFAs and five UFAs next season, the Kings should have $13,251,500 opening up in cap space from expiring contracts alone. That’s quite a bit of extra cash freed up.
But we’re not done yet because there are still a few factors that give the Kings even more money to work with next season. That includes Dion Phaneuf‘s buyout, which will give LA an extra $1,062,500 in cap space. Plus, Mike Richards‘ termination penalty decreases by $200k.
And we shan’t forget how the cap is on track to increase by another $1 million just like it did this summer. That puts the Kings up to $15,904,833 in availability, plus the current cap space. That means that the Kings will have almost 16 million dollars to spend for a few depth and rookie players to deal with next summer, plus a goalie and the hope to re-sign Trevor Moore. That should be more than enough to make those adjustments.
A percentage breakdown
Finally, the percentage breakdown. This part is one of my favorites because we get to find out how much money the Kings are investing in particular areas of the roster.
The LA Kings are spending $46,688,334 on forwards as of today, which counts for 56.6% of the cap. Fairly, more than half of the cap is going to the 14 players that are likely to start on the Kings roster come October.
The defense costs the Kings $21,012,500. That’s 25.47% of the entire salary cap. A fun fact is that Drew Doughty makes almost half of what the entire defensive cost makes. Take that as you will.
Finally, the goaltending. LA’s goaltending was really weird last season. It was Cal Petersen that earned himself the $15 million extension but recorded a sub-.900 save percentage last season. 36-year-old Jonathan Quick remastered his prime career play to lock it down in net. Next season, the LA Kings will be spending a total of $10.8 million dollars on goaltending which is 13.1% of the entire cap. That’s a lot of money for something that could’ve been better last year.
Now that the LA Kings are finished with their off-season signings of their final two RFAs, we can go into these last few weeks before the season excited, knowing that everyone will be back.
The point of all of this was to show that Rob Blake has done a terrific job with the cap space in LA. He’s managed to conduct a successful rebuild that we, as fans, will be able to enjoy for many years ahead. He’s set the Kings up extremely well financially without losing anyone critical in free agency or to trade. The LA Kings have enough flexibility for the season cap-wise; they have enough money to improve the team next year and going forward.
Credit where it’s due, Rob Blake is one of the best cap managers in the entire National Hockey League.