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by Nick Nickson / Los Angeles Kings

The NHL's Salary Cap system has made it difficult for teams that win to keep their group of "champions" together and/or have enough maneuverability to whether injury issues.  It has affected Chicago (Cup winners in 2010 and 2013); Boston (2011); and the Kings (2012 and 2014).  There is no question that it is very difficult to keep a winning roster intact.  By winning it is also inevitable that your players' salaries put you up against the Cap.

After Chicago won in 2010 they were forced two moves -- basically half of their roster -- because of money issues.  Players who were vital cogs in their attack like Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien and their goalie, Antti Niemi, were dealt or could not be signed for the following season.  The Hawks also parted ways with Kris Versteeg, Adam Burish and Brent Sopel. 

The Boston Bruins, who won in 2011, were unable to keep a player like Nathan Horton, who ultimately signed with Columbus in 2013...a 7-year deal worth, on average, 5.3 million per season.   The trade of Tyler Seguin (to Dallas) in the summer of 2013 after his entry level contract was up had future cap implications tied to it.  After last season Jarome Iginla left as a free agent (Colorado) and rugged defenseman Johnny Boychuk, certainly a "top four" defenseman for the Bruins, was dealt prior to the start of this season to the New York Islanders to put the Bruins within the Cap guidelines.



The Kings felt the pinch after winning last season and had to part ways with veteran Willie Mitchell.  Mitchell signed a two-year deal with Florida in the summer, a deal worth 8.5 million over two years.  The acquisition of Braydon McNabb last March by the Kings was done with an eye to the future knowing Mitchell probably could not be retained.  At the start of this season with the Kings almost at the top end of the Cap...they were unable to bring up a player when injuries and Slava Voynov's suspension had them with just 19 players available for a game in Philadelphia in October.

Where the Kings might really feel a big pinch is after this season when (as of this writing) veterans Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll and Robyn Regehr become potential unrestricted free agents.  The Kings also will have to re-up restricted free agents Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, two young forwards who have made significant contributions since being recalled last season.  Since the start of the 2014-15 season the Kings have locked up Alec Martinez for six more years.  He was a potential UFA but given his age (27) he was considered a top priority signing of the group of UFA's. 

IN THE NET

The list of all-time goaltending greats usually begins with career wins.  Few can argue this method.  The top five goalies of all-time on this list include: Martin Brodeur (691); Patrick Roy (551); Ed Belfour (484); Curtis Joseph (454) and Terry Sawchuk (447). 

It is interesting to note that among this group of greats only three of them won at least half of their games.  Brodeur (.547), Roy (.535) and Belfour, barely (.503).  Of the top 30 all-time goalies, by wins, only 11 of them won at least 50 percent of their games.  The leader in this category is still active and he is Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh with 319 wins.  Brodeur ranks second at .547; Chris Osgood is tied for third at .539 with another active netminder, the New York Rangers' Henrik Lundquist. Roy is fifth at .535.  In case you were wondering...the Kings Jonathan Quick was at .524 percent as of the same time frame.  Quick's career win total (206) still leaves him 95 wins from the top 30 all-time leaders.

ICE CHIPS...When Rob Blake (fifth round in 1988) was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame back in November he became the fourth player ever drafted by the Kings to achieve the honor.  The others are goalie Billy Smith (5th round 1970), defenseman Larry Murphy (1st round in 1980) and left wing Luc Robitaille (9th round in 1984).  Joining Blake in this year's class of players to be enshrined were Peter Forsberg, Dominik Hasek and Mike Modano.  Modano goes into the Hall as the highest scoring US-born player in NHL history.  Modano amassed 1,374 points in 1,499 career games.  Interestingly, Modano is the only player ever drafted by the Dallas/Minnesota franchise to be elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame.  The franchise began in 1967 the same year the Kings started play. Dino Ciccarelli is in the Hall of Fame (elected in 2010) and he began his career with the Minnesota North Stars, but he was never drafted...Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury became the third youngest goalie to reach 300 career wins on November 24 when he beat Boston.  The youngest goalies to reach 300 wins are Martin Brodeur and Terry Sawchuk.  Fleury was the first overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft...Jason Spezza was acquired by Dallas in the off season from the Ottawa Senators in a five-player deal.  Spezza, Ottawa's first round pick in 2001, had spent his first 11 NHL seasons with the Senators and shortly after this season started the Stars inked him to a four-year extension worth $28 million.  Entering this season Spezza had been a point-a-game player in his career (687 points in 686 games)...The Blues have been eliminated from the playoffs in each of the last three seasons by the last three Stanley Cup Champions.  Last season they bowed out in the first round to Chicago and in 2013 and 2012 they lost playoff series to the Kings.  In 2013 it was a first round matchup and in 2012 it was in the second round.  To bolster their roster this season they added a couple of centers with hopes that -- come playoff time -- they can match up better against the best in the West.  Paul Stastny was signed as a free agent after eight years in Colorado and Jori Lehtera joined the team after playing three seasons in the KHL in Europe.  Lehtera was the Blues 3rd round pick in 2008...It has been noted that Jonathan Quick's father-in-law, Mike Backman, once played pro hockey in the New York Rangers organization.  In fact Backman was playing for the New Haven Nighthawks in the AHL when I was broadcasting their games prior to joining the Kings in 1981. One of Backman's daughters, Jaclyn, is married to Jonathan Quick while another daughter married Buffalo's Matt MoulsonSean Backman, Mike's son, is currently playing for the Kings AHL affiliate in Manchester.  Sean played four years at Yale before turning pro with the Dallas organization in 2010.  This is his second season with Manchester (he is on an AHL contract) and, like his dad, plays right wing...When Dave Cameron took over as coach in Ottawa in December he was asked what he expects from his players.  His response?   "Effort.  You can't win in the best league in the world if you don't have a work ethic.  Throw out the systems, throw out the x's and o's if you don't have the effort.  It just doesn't work.  That's part of the identity we're trying to forge here."  Cameron's first game as an NHL coach was against the Kings on December 11.  The Kings however spoiled his debut by winning 5-3.  The Senators did win their next game to get Cameron officially on the board.

 

In his 34th season with the club, Nick Nickson calls Kings games on the radio with Daryl Evans on flagship station Talkradio 790 KABC and along the Kings Radio Network.  Following most home games, join Nick and Daryl for “Kings Talk” at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE (live remote takes place in The Mixing Room – fans are encouraged to attend).  To participate by phone, call 800-ABC-KABC (800-222-5222).

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