It’s going to be a tricky summer for Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake, he has to find a way to improve this team with limited cap space and big free agents to re-sign.
Step one is making a decision on those free agents and fitting them all into $7.85 million of cap space.
AFP Analytics recently released their contract projections publicly and with a history of accurate projections, I wanted to use them as a launching point to see how Blake can fit everyone in. And if the projected contracts provide fair value.
AFP Analytics projects Vladislav Gavrikov’s next contract at 5 years, $4.878 million. Just a shade under the 5X5 number a lot of people have guessed.
After a strong end of the season in Los Angeles, I have no doubt Gavrikov can command at least that one the open market.
He led Kings defensemen in most analytical categories in both the regular season — granted, the smaller sample size helped him there — and led the way in the playoffs too.
He proved that, so long as he’s used in the correct role, on a second pairing, he is a highly effective blue liner. Sure, he’s limited a bit because he struggles when moved up onto the top pair, but as a second-pair defenseman, he’s fantastic.
In isolation, the Kings should snap Gavrikov up at that contract. The contract would run through Gavrikov’s prime years, expiring when he’s still just 33 years old, and while it isn’t a steal for the Kings, just under $5 million for what he brings is fair value.
When you factor in that the league’s cap hit should increase over the next two years, that contract becomes even more reasonable.
The stumbling block here becomes the Kings’ available cap space. A $4.878 million contract eats up the majority of their cap and leaves them with around $2.7 million to re-sign the remaining free agents.
This really just confirms what we already know, the Kings have to clear some cap via the trade market this summer if they want to bring their big names back.
Clearing out Sean Walker’s $2.65 million would go a long way, but they’d also have to look at clearing at least one more player out. Clearing out the two Seans, Walker and Durzi free up a combined $4.25 million, the majority of Gavrikov’s contract.
With Jordan Spence and Brandt Clarke waiting on the right side, moving the two Seans seems like a very sensible option for Blake.
Projecting restricted free agents is always difficult. Especially if you aren’t familiar with a team’s current situation and I think that shows up in Gabe Vilardi’s projection.
AFP has Vilardi’s next contract coming in at 3 years, $3.75 million. In isolation, a fair contract for Vilardi. He proved he is an impactful NHL player last season and is deserving of that term and money.
However, I do think the Kings look for a one-two-year deal at a lower AAV on this contract for Vilardi. In the next two seasons, the Kings clear out a lot of cap space and could lock Vilardi up long-term.
I don’t think they’ll want to take Vilardi to 26 years old with this contract. Especially given his history of missing games.
I initially didn’t see it happening, but a one-year deal for this season and contract extension mid-season — similar to the Mikey Anderson situation last summer — makes a lot of sense for both parties.
The Kings shed Anze Kopitar’s $10 million cap hit next summer, and while I expect Kopitar to eat up a chunk of that with his next contract, it will give them the freedom to sign Vilardi.
If he has another strong year, I could see Vilardi earning a similar contract to Trevor Moore, or even Adrian Kempe depending on how good he is.
Vilardi’s clearly a big part of the Kings’ future and they need to find a way to lock him up long-term soon.
Joonas Korpisalo’s projection was pretty surprising. AFP projects his contract at two years, $2.582 million. If that’s all he wants, bite his hand off.
It’s a perfect deal for the Kings. A low cap hit they can afford and a two-year term that should allow Erik Portillo to step in as the number one, or at least step into a tandem, at the end of the contract.
At 29 years old Korpisalo won’t have many big contracts after this one and will want to cash in while he can. I imagine he starts negotiations much higher than this projection.
A shaky end in the playoffs aside, he was excellent this season and proved he can be a solid number-one goalie. And number one goalies make more than $2.6 million.
Now, the other side of that coin is that a prove-it deal makes sense for teams. Korpisalo’s one good season comes off a few terrible seasons marred by injury.
Fixing his hip issues played a big part in his uptick in performance and teams might be worried about him falling back down to earth or re-injuring his hip.
He’ll want a big contract. but teams might be wary. Factor in the postseason struggles — to be clear I don’t think Korpisalo was bad but teams will use his subpar numbers against him in negotiations — an injury history and no real track record of success. And I can just about see it.
If this is the deal Korpisalo signs, it gives the Kings a ton of flexibility. They’ll be paying their tandem of Korpisalo and Pheonix Copley just $4.1 million and can swallow Cal Petersen’s $5 million cap hit a little easier.
Remaining Free Agents:
The Kings still have a handful of remaining free agents after those three. But most of them are either young players who’re expected to sign for under $1 million, think Rasmus Kupari and Tobias Bjornfot. Or aren’t expected back next season, Alex Edler and Zack MacEwen. So, those players won’t get an individual section.
Nothing too interesting came from these players’ projections. If Edler doesn’t retire he’s projected to make just over $1 million and everyone else is projected under that.
Blake Needs to Get Creative:
If Gavrikov, Vilardi and Korpisalo all sign and the above projections, the Kings will be well over the $7.85 million in cap space they have available right now.
If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly is now, Blake needs to clear cap space. He has to accept that the Kings are going to lose a good player or two this summer they likely don’t want to lose.
That’s the reality of a hard cap world though.