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LA Kings should not worry about luring big-time free agents

Jul 6, 2010, 5:00 PM EDT

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for kovaldevils.jpgPerhaps I’m in the minority here, but I think the Los Angeles Kings are better off without Ilya Kovalchuk … at least at the kind of money and years he seems determined to receive. Los Angeles Times writer Helene Elliott seems to think it’s a sign that the team cannot lure in high-end free agents, though.

Chara was a long shot. The Kings were bad and Chara decided to stay in the East with its infinitely easier travel, signing with the Bruins. The Kings salivated over Hossa but he wanted to play for a Cup contender and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.

So the Kings have had to settle for third- and fourth-tier free agents. The exception was defenseman Rob Scuderi, who came here last summer mainly because they gave him more security and money — four years and $13.6 million — than anyone else.

The Kings targeted the smart and steady Martin but he signed with Pittsburgh for $25 million over five years. Mobile Dan Hamhuis was Plan B but he wanted to be close to home and signed with Vancouver.

It’s a chicken-and-egg dilemma for the Kings. They can’t attract elite free agents until they become a Cup contender, but they can’t become a contender until they lure players they haven’t developed — a productive winger, second-line center and fleet defenseman.

I think that July 2009’s summer free agents are pretty much irrelevant considering the fact that the Kings were in the Western Conference basement. Frankly, there aren’t many cellar dwellers who attract big names unless they throw a reckless deal at a player.

Let’s face the facts, too, as much excitement as Martin and Hamhuis generated … are they really worth their contracts? I find it hard to believe that Paul Martin deserves a higher salary cap hit than, say, Shea Weber in Nashville (Weber makes $4.5 million per year, a half-million less than Martin). It’s my opinion that neither Hamhuis ($4.5 million, too) nor Martin are worth as much as they were paid this summer.

I’m not complaining about free agency, either. Instead, I’m just trying to dispute the notion that the Kings should be forlorn that they didn’t pay players more than they should. Why should the Kings regret exercising fiscal responsibility with  Kovalchuk? No one should pay him $10 million per year. Really, even that supposed seven-year, $60 million offer strikes me as a little bit foolish.

If anything, the Kings are simply unlucky that this year’s free agent forward pool is so shallow. Something tells me that the team could land a desirable free agent if he had, you know, realistic goals for a contract that could exist in the NHL according to salary cap restrictions. After all, Los Angeles is a huge market with sexy weather and a solid, up-and-coming team.

The Kovalchuk-Dean Lombardi stand-off isn’t a sign that big-time players are disinterested in Los Angeles. Instead, it’s a sign that the Kings might actually want to spend their money wisely.

  1. Quisp - Jul 6, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Yes, but when Elliot says that, it’s code for “it’s because Lombardi won’t spend, so you have to fire him if you want to be ‘attractive.'”
    The “you” in that sentence is AEG.

  2. kq949 - Jul 6, 2010 at 6:21 PM

    Thank you for stating this on a national blog. Dean is no dummy. He will not sacrafice what he has built, and bail on his young team to sign a 40 goal scorer who played in the word division in the NHL and has not proven he can cut the mustard come play-off time.
    He definitely is not worth more than Crosby or Ovechkin. Some smart, young 30 goal scorer will jump at the chance to play in LA…no doubt.

  3. King for Life - Jul 7, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    I too appreciate the addressing of this Kovalchuk issue as I am a King for life. However, we did have a 30 goal scorer only 2 seasons ago…Michael Cammalleri. He was a sharp, exciting forward who was a top scorer and tried to get his value, but things went to arbitration cause AEG and/or Lombardi didn’t want to give him his worth. So, he was traded to Calgary next year where he scored 39 goals and then to Montreal, where he scored 26 goals, but scored a league leading 13 goals in the postseason. I would have been nice having his scoring touch as the Kings finally made the playoffs this year. I wonder if that arbitration and the reputation that the Kings/AEG are not willing to pay their players is what might have created doubt in high profile players like Kovalchuk. Anyway, $10 million was too much to pay for Kovalchuk…only continued success in the playoffs and willingness to spend the money will attract top players to the LA market.

  4. marty - Jul 7, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Patience is a virtue, a virtue the Kings have never exhibited in their team’s history until now. The franchise has now developed not only a young core of rising star players through the draft, but they have managed to a load their farm system with high end prospects. That depth has allowed those players to develop rather than being rushed to the big club out of desperation. Schenn is going to be a top flight player and so will Bernier in goal to go with Quick. They now enjoy many trade chips that can be packaged for someone like Ryan on the Ducks, a young player who would fit in nicely, both on the ice and in the locker room. As this team continues to win and go deeper into the playoffs, players will suddenly want to play for them because everyone loves a winner. The Kings have been a loser franchise throughout their history, so it will take time for them to shake that stigma, but they will with patience. Remember, this is similar to the what happened to the Edmonton Oilers when they drafted a who’s who of hall of famers. Keep the kids together, keep adding each year, let them mature, and they will win over fans and games. Along the way they will pick up FA pieces that will put them ovver the hump.

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