Justin Williams and the Los Angeles Kings are reportedly working on a new deal, but it could be shelved until the off-season. If the Kings can't clear some cap space, it may not matter. Meanwhile, with the injury to Jacob Trouba, the Jets search for defensive help.
ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports the Los Angeles Kings last week opened contract talks with right wing Justin Williams, winner of the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy during the Kings' march to the Stanley Cup last spring.
LeBrun reports the Kings really want to retain the 33-year-old Williams, who loves playing and living in Los Angeles. Williams' agent, however, has informed management his client prefers not to negotiate during the season. If a deal isn't reached soon, talks could be shelved until season's end.
The Kings limited salary cap space next season could be a problem. They currently have over $60.1 million invested in 14 players. In addition to Williams, center Jarret Stoll and defensemen Robyn Regehr and Jamie McBain are also eligible for UFA status in July, while goalie Martin Jones and forwards Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan are restricted free agents.
If the salary cap increases to the projected $73 million, the Kings will have roughly $13 million to re-sign their key players. Williams is currently earning $3.050 million in acutal salary and a annual cap hit of $3.65 million. Unless he's willing to accept a pay cut, the Kings lack sufficient space to re-sign Williams, pay their RFAs their raises and have enough to retain or replace Stoll, Regehr and McBain.
Assuming currently suspended defenseman Slava Voynov ($4.166-million annual cap hit) remains on the payroll next season, the Kings will have to shed salary to free up sufficient room to retain their key players.
The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch wonders if the Kings might move center Mike Richards ($5.75- million cap hit) in a cost-cutting move. Garrioch claims some teams have interest in Kings captain Dustin Brown but he's not available.
WITH TROUBA GROUNDED, JETS SEARCH FOR D
The Winnipeg Jets defense corps suffered another significant blow with the new Jacob Trouba is sidelined until February with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Trouba joins Toby Enstrom and Zach Bogosian, who aren't expected back from lower-body injuries until sometime in January.
Earlier this month there was speculation GM Kevin Cheveldayoff might draw upon his blueline depth to bolster his forward lines. With three top rearguards now on the shelf, the priority shifts to shoring up the defense.
The Winnipeg Free Press' Gary Lawless reports Cheveldayoff is working on acquiring a defenseman, hoping to turn one of his fourth-line forwards into a third-pairing blueliner. Lawless believes if the price is too high Cheveldayoff is better off riding this out instead of risking a bad trade, though it's up to the Jets GM to keep shopping for help.
If Cheveldayoff's planning a move he'll have to make it soon. The NHL's holiday trade freeze kicks in at midnight on December 19 and runs through midnight on December 27.
Several Eastern Conference teams could have what Cheveldayoff's looking for. The Carolina Hurricanes could start taking offers for pending free agents Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason. The Philadelphia Flyers could consider moving out Luke Schenn, Nicklas Grossmann or Michael Del Zotto, while the Buffalo Sabres could shed pending free agents like Andre Benoit, Tyson Strachan or Andrej Meszaros.
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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