Mike Richards. (Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Kings finally found enough cap space to sign an extra defenseman, but they're going to need to make a difficult choice about the team's future. In Columbus, the Blue Jackets may make moves if the season continues to spiral.
Since the NHL suspended Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov with pay while he's under investigation for suspicion of domestic violence, the club has found it difficult to fill his spot on the roster.
The Kings possess limited cap space, and with Voynov's $4.166-million annual average salary still counting against their cap, they've struggled to find a replacement. Only this week did sufficient room open up to allow the Kings to sign free agent blueliner Jamie McBain to a one-year, $550K deal.
While the league and the NHLPA discuss options to address this situation, the Kings also have some long-term cap issues to address. TSN's Bob McKenzie observes they've got some young players (notably Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson) who will be restricted free agents at season's end, claiming veteran center Mike Richards could be available for a trade.
McKenzie notes Richards still has five years remaining on a back-diving contract at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. If the 29-year-old should retire before his deal expires, it becomes subject to cap-recapture penalties. CapGeek.com indicates Richards also had a no-movement clause effective July 1, 2012, but it may have been voided in June 2011 following his trade to the Kings by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Richards' complicated contract certainly makes him difficult to move. The Kings could offer to pick up part of his salary to make him more enticing in the trade market. However, his declining production and recent concerns over a stagnant salary cap will complicate trade efforts.
BEATEN UP BLUE JACKETS MIGHT MAKE DEALS
After reaching the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008-09, the Columbus Blue Jackets entered this season hoping to build upon that success. Unfortunately, they've struggled through the opening month of the season, tumbling toward the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
Injuries are behind the Blue Jackets' early-season woes. Seven players are on injured reserve, including goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forwards Nathan Horton, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch recently wondered if Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen should bow to the inevitable and start moving some assets to build toward next season. Garrioch notes winger Nick Foligno is an unrestricted free agent next summer. He suggests if they can't re-sign Foligno he could attract interest from clubs looking to bulk up.
No question the Blue Jackets are in a deep hole early in the season. If they fail to gain ground in the coming weeks their playoff hopes could be all but dashed. Still, the Jackets showed promise last season when icing a healthy roster. Their injury situation for the most part had to do with bad luck than chronically brittle players. Management could opt to wait for most of their injured players to return and try to rally back in the standings.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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