High-powered meetings take place in the White House every day. Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi added to the unofficial total Monday, while his team was at the White House to be honored for its 2014 Stanley Cup championship, when he sought out NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to seek clarification on projections for the league’s salary cap next season.
The salary cap is of great concern to Lombardi, who is juggling numbers for several players who can become free agents after this season. Right wing Justin Williams, center Jarret Stoll and defenseman Robyn Regehr can become unrestricted free agents, while Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan will be restricted free agents. In addition, the Kings can sign center Anze Kopitar to an extension after July 1. His contract expires after next season.
Bettman said during the recent All-Star weekend that the faltering Canadian dollar is likely to bring next season’s cap in under the initial projection of $73 million, perhaps to as low as $71.7 million if the Canadian dollar is worth 80 U.S. cents, where it is currently trading. Though Bettman said the difference isn’t dramatic, that amount is important to teams like the Kings that have been close to the cap limit and might find they won’t have as much space as they’d anticipated to re-sign key players.
“It’s a matter of how all these pieces fit into the puzzle,” Lombardi said Tuesday, after the Kings prepared for their game against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. “Then we also have this whole thing with the Canadian dollar. I’ve been talking to other GMs about that. It’s a crazy way to run a cap. Do I need a stat guy or do I need a currency trader to figure this out?”
Lombardi said he and Jeff Solomon, the Kings’ cap expert, have talked to their players’ representatives about new contracts but the Kings have generally held off on going too far because they want to get a better idea of where the cap might fall the next few seasons. Lombardi also said he’s waiting to see if Mike Richards, who was waived and sent to Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League last week, can get his game back because Richards has five seasons left at a cap hit of $5.75 million, a sizable chunk of any payroll.
In addition, the Kings are awaiting resolution of Slava Voynov’s legal issues. Voynov faces a March 2 trial on a domestic violence charge.
“We’re putting out feelers to a number of guys and trying to make all the pieces fit,” Lombardi said.
And no, Lombardi didn’t get many answers from Bettman. But the fluctuating value of the Canadian dollar makes it impossible to provide a firm answer now.