The Los Angeles Kings travel to Philadelphia tonight on a 6 game winning streak after sweeping their latest home stand. They enter the game in 2nd place in the Pacific Division, one point and one less game played than the Anaheim Ducks. Jonathan Quick has been on fire lately and “That’s 70’s Line” consisting of Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter, and Tyler Toffoli has been on a scoring rampage. Everything seems to be going extremely well for the Kings right now looking exclusively at the schedule and statistics.
The only issue GM Dean Lombardi is facing is his current salary cap situation which could quickly turn into a nightmare. Salva Voynov was suspended from all team activities about a week ago following his arrest for a domestic abuse case. Though Voynov is suspended under Section 18.5-A of the CBA, he still receives a paycheck from the team. They had to recall defenseman Brayden McNabb to replace him on the roster. Voynov’s $4.16M salary cap hit is dead weight now as he’s not playing yet still counts against the cap. On top of that, Anze Kopitar left Sunday evening’s win over Columbus with an upper-body injury after awkwardly getting hit by Blue Jacket’s defenseman Tim Erixon and has been ruled out for tonight’s game.
With forwards Marian Gaborik (day-to-day) and Trevor Lewis (on Injured Reserve (IR)) already out with upper-body injuries, the Kings are left with 11 healthy forwards. Under the current CBA, a team can put a player on the IR and replace him on the 23 man roster, but the injured player’s salary still counts against the cap. Putting Kopitar on the IR and recalling a forward from their AHL affiliate in Manchester would be a plausible and easy option for the Kings except that would force Kopitar to miss at least a full week and they currently have just $516k in salary space today. Kopitar is considered day-to-day and likely will return and make an impact on the King’s lineup before the Sunday. Also, the Kings need at least $550k in cap space (this year’s minimum salary salary hit which is raising under the new CBA) in order to recall another player. The league wouldn’t accept a transaction that would put the Kings over the salary cap so this scenario couldn’t work out.
Another scenario to get the Kings 20 healthy players is to send a current roster player making more money down to the AHL by either having a two-way contract or being waiver exempt and recalling two players making minimum salary. The only players on the Kings’ roster that this would apply to would be star fowards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson and backup goaltender Martin Jones. All are very important to the team’s current success and it wouldn’t be logical to remove them from the roster.
With recalling a player or placing any of the current players on the LTIR not applicable options, the Kings are forced to play tonight with 19 players. With upcoming games back-to-back on Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh and Detroit respectively then playing every other night for the following 8 days, this may be an extended situation if Kopitar, Gaborik, or Lewis are unable to play. Another small injury (yet possibly very significant for the Kings in this situation) in the next few games could put them in an even tougher situation.