LA Kings: Will the Big Contracts They Have in Place Hurt Them in the Long Run?
Pretty good numbers, right? Nothing to fear here! The team has a number of young players and key stars signed to long-term deals, and the entire roster is back from last year's Stanley Cup-winning squad.
But as we all know in the world of the NHL, it isn't about being a one-and-done. It's about the long-term success. It's about the future. It's about being a dynasty.
Dean Lombardi has taken steps in signing core players to very long-term, and lucrative deals. However, is this a good thing? Is this how dynasties are built? Are these wise decisions?
Well, first of all, let's talk about just what contracts the Kings have taken or signed players to that are almost alarmingly long. (via CapGeek.com)
Mike Richards: Eight years remaining, $5.75 Mil cap hit, 27 years old
Jonathan Quick: 10 years remaining, $5.8 Mil cap hit, 26 years old
Jeff Carter: 10 years remaining, $5.272 Mil cap hit, 27 years old
Drew Doughty: Seven years remaining, $7 Mil cap hit, 22 years old
Perhaps you are looking at those four contracts and saying to yourself, "Okay, I can live with that." And that is totally understandable. At least for the next couple of years that is.
I, for one, think Drew Doughty's contract will pay dividends shortly, and when he is up for an extension in six or seven years' time, it will seem well worth the money. However, looking at Richards, Carter and Quick, while those contracts seem reasonable right now, how about thinking about them in six years or so, when all three of those players are 33 years old and eating up nearly $17 million dollars in cap space?
Add to that the number of extensions the Kings will need to hand out to other key players like Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar in two and four years respectively, and things can get a little murky.
So far, Dean Lombardi and Kings management have done a very good job of signing key role players and solid veterans to reasonable, short-term contracts. Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene, Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell all come to mind.
The Kings have been able to do these sort of things because they have some young players like Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis signed to either entry-level deals or league minimum contracts.
These sorts of things will not stay true forever. The Voynovs and Kings of the organization will almost certainly earn raises, along with many other young players we have yet to see like Tyler Toffoli, Kevin Gravel, Derek Forbort and Tanner Pearson.
Do the Kings plan on going through a mini-youth movement? With contracts of veterans like Mitchell, Williams, Stoll and Scuderi coming up and so much money tied up long-term to core players, it seems likely.
But the question still remains, will the big contracts they have in place hurt them in the long run? I'd like to talk for a second about the Chicago Blackhawks.
During the championship run, everyone knew that next season was going to be salary cap hell for the team. Players like Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were going to get huge raises, but they were still on cheap entry-level deals. The Blackhawks knew it and took advantage of it.
In the end, the Hawks had to dump a huge number of talented players in one fell swoop to accommodate Marian Hossa, Toews, Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Was it lack of foresight on behalf of then-general manager Dale Tallon?
It seems like a reasonable explanation, or maybe he just wanted to win, and win now. Well, the Blackhawks did win then, but not with Dale Tallon as active general manager. He was fired halfway through the Stanley Cup-winning season partly due to the financial cap struggles the team was going to face in the offseason.
Now let's look at the Kings, who in many ways have used an approach opposite to the Blackhawks. They have signed numerous core players to deals that will always be there. There aren't going to be any surprises or entry-level raises the team can't handle.
There are of course going to be players who will be phased out, and others who will step in. However, for the most part, the Kings, if they lock up Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar for similar longer-term deals, will have a core of players to work around.
Do you like the way these contracts look for the long term?
Obviously, the contracts of Richards, Carter and Quick, at the age of 37 will seem horrible, and the law of diminishing returns will always apply. However, the Kings and Dean Lombardi have wisely structured many of these deals to be affordable within the makeup of the organization.
I am not saying the transitions will be seamless, but the Kings, over the course of the next several seasons, will start a cycle of veteran contracts being turned over, younger players turning into veterans and previously "younger" players being replaced by first- and second-year rookies.
And round and round the Kings will go, but with one constant—well, four actually: Jonathan Quick, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty.
In my opinion, long-term deals are only detrimental to an organization if they aren't properly evaluated within the system and development timetables. It makes a world of difference if you do that.
On one side, you get the Detroit Red Wings, a team with many long-term deals, who had several dominant years and are now finally showing age. On the other side, you get the Chicago Blackhawks, who were a built-to-win-now sort of team and immediately felt the pain after they won.
Moving forward, the Kings feel they have a core set of players who will withstand the test of time and a young group of players who will make a great impact at a bargain price.
So will those long contracts hurt them? I don't believe so.
If you want to take the time out of your day, sit and compare the way the Kings are being built and the way the Detroit Red Wings were. The signs are there. Now, hopefully, the success will be there as well.
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