There's a series of tremendous interviews with L.A. Kings GM Dean Lombardi up over at LA Kings Insider that are well worth the read, especially for those of you who are interested in NHL cap and developmental issues.
A few of the money quotes:
“...the other problem with [LA Kings prospect Brayden] Schenn is that we’ve got that junior quandary. It’s the Moller thing, except it’s a higher level. He wouldn’t be able to go to the minors, so now it’s back to junior. I hate that. But now you’re not making the decision based totally on what’s best for him, in terms of where he should be playing. To the kid’s credit though, one thing that bodes well for the kid, in fairness to him, he adjusted his contract. As the fifth pick, he could have demanded X, Y and Z on his cap number, but he recognized that he wanted to play here, so he kept his cap number down to ensure that he’s not left off the team because of his cap number. That’s what happened with Rask. You’re starting to see that more and more with kids, where the cap number is too high for the role. With Rask, if he becomes a No. 1, he’s worth it, but I can’t call him up as a No. 2 at the number, so the kid stays in the minors. So you’re starting to see a little of that. Schenner might be one of the first ones to adjust on his first contract and say, `OK, if I’m going to break in, I might have to start as a No. 4, and I can’t break in as a 4 with a $3-million cap number.”
On Determining Prospect Pay Levels
Question: Looking at things that you might want to do this summer, roster-wise, does Doughty’s contract extension hang over your head? Is there any thought that you need to get that done first, to see what you’re going to be working with, cap-wise?
LOMBARDI: “Well, I don’t think that’s practical, but it does hang over your head. Washington kind of went through this a little with Backstrom. I called George (McPhee, Washington’s GM) before Backstrom was done. Obviously they’re putting together a core there in Washington, and I said, `Take me through the whole thing.’ Because they tried to sign him right away. It’s two things, like he was saying. It’s trying to get the contract done, but it was also knowing what you were going to have to pay, so you could go get other pieces. So, in talking to him about the whole thing — and we talked for a couple hours, because I wanted to know the whole scenario, and, `If you had this to do different, would you have done this different’ — it’s really hard, like he was saying, and obviously it didn’t get done until the end. So when you ask about it hanging over me, it hangs over you in a different sense. Because you’re not going to lose him. The difference between `hang over me’ because he’s a year from free agency is very different from `hang over me’ because, even though he’s a guy we intend to have here a long time, I don’t know what else I can get until I know what his number is. So that’s where it hangs over you.
And finally, I think this last quote is very revealing as the Leafs consider what to do with Kulemin. Obviously, Kulemin isn't in the same stratosphere as Doughty, but the core principle remains the same: how do you fairly and accurately determine player value when the player in question has played so few games?
"...I was at a similar point in San Jose, when I had those three guys up, Marleau, Nabokov and Stuart. They were all good, young players, all on their way up. They held out on me. It was the year I got fired. All three of them held out. It just started us off on the wrong track. But I was arguing about $1.5 million to $2.5 million. I would love to have that argument now. It’s just mind-boggling. Sure, these are great young players, some of them, but that whole trend, to think that the system has gone from arguing about $1.5-$2.5 million to already talking about the numbers we’re talking about, it’s mind-boggling. As good as Drew [Doughty] is, there have been a lot of good, young, top players. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously I think Drew’s potential to be special is pretty good. Still, there used to be the element of experience, the thought that a guy who had put six years in the league, because he was more `predictable,’ had value. Because that’s all you’re doing when you’re paying a guy, unfortunately. You’re predicting what he’s going to be worth...So obviously when a guy has six, seven years under his belt, the `unknown’ factor becomes less. To think that, now, you have to predict, when a guy has two or three years in the league and has played in one playoffs, and we’re already talking about the numbers that we are, it’s just… I think back to the way it used to be, before the lockout, and the way it is now, and there’s no question that this part, before the lockout, made a lot more sense. So when you ask me if it’s difficult with Drew, because of the `uniqueness’ of the player, no. Don’t get me wrong. I think he’s a special player, but it’s more about this other stuff. You could be looking at a $90-million contract for a guy with two years in the league. As good as Ovechkin was, at the time he got (his new contract), he hadn’t played a playoff game. That’s what is difficult for me, sometimes. That’s when I have to slap myself and say, `Stop acting old and deal with it.’ But I find that more challenging than the fact of, `OK, what’s a guy worth who has been nominated for the Norris Trophy?”’A big tip of the hat to the LA Kings organization for posting these interviews...hopefully, the Leafs will get this type of stuff going with Burke and the Leafs' front office soon.