In the 4th installment of Rich Hammond’s interview series with Kings GM Dean Lombardi, prospects are the focal point.
There are a few juicy tidbits in there, so I suggest you read the whole thing if you already haven’t. You can find it here.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the interview takes place at the very end of the segment and it regards Brayden Schenn’s cap hit number.
Since being eliminated from the playoffs by Vancouver, Kings’ fans have struggled to find topics of discussion to keep a year-round obsession going through the hiatus of a seasonal sport. Most of this comes in the form of experimenting with line-ups for the season ahead. I have already been guilty of such insanity. In said line-ups, many of the online faithful have suggested Brayden Schenn be the team’s fourth line center for the 2010-2011 season.
It is widely regarded that Schenn has little to gain from more time playing junior hockey. His game, unlike that of other Kings’ center prospects Andrei Loktionov and Oscar Moller, will actually translate to a 4th line role. Whereas the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny Ruskie and Swede are offensively players who must play a top 6 role in the NHL to succeed at this stage of their careers (roles they likely are not ready to fill in the first place), Schenn is a big bodied, rough and tumble, defensively responsible hockey player. Those are 4th line center qualities. His offensive game and upside make him a tantalizing prospect as a future 2nd line center. But you are talking crazy if you think he is going to jump into that top 6 role straight out of junior hockey.
But but but wait! So sayeth the other side of the coin.
Schenn’s cap hit is $3.14 MILLION! I have to agree with the dark and scratchy side of this annoying cap-world coin. That would be $17.54 million tied up in your 4 centers. Tack on another million or two if you count Richardson. You just can’t pay that much for 4th line center.
Or can you? Or more appropriately, do you have to?
Lombardi doesn’t think so. From the interview with Hammond:
“Anyway, the other problem with 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.”
Question: His cap number had been listed at around $3 million. That’s actually not what it would cost you to have him around?
LOMBARDI: “Let’s just say, for now, that he has showed it’s important for him to make this team and not have that as a hindrance.”
I’m not sure I get it either. Schenn’s cap hit is $3.14. This is the number the hockey world has known since he signed his contract. Now of course most of that is in bonuses, and there is a cushion for such bonuses if a player does not reach those bonuses.
So what is Lombardi talking about? That is some mighty suggestive language, particularly that last part. “It’s important for him to make the team and not have that as a hindrance.”
Well the contract has already been signed. I believe there is no amending it after the fact. It must come down to the bonuses.
One train of the thought is that the bonuses in Schenn’s contract are unattainable, or perhaps, controllable.
Bonuses such as winning the scoring title, or the league MVP, or my guess, things like games played and ice-time played. I am no expert on rookie bonuses, and I believe that there are limitations to these bonuses, but doesn’t it sound to you like Lombardi has control over these bonuses and whether Schenn reaches them? Perhaps many of the bonuses (which account for $2.265 million of Schenn’s contract), are things Lombardi or Murray can dictate.
Hypothetical and maybe not even plausible example: Schenn makes an extra million if he averages over 20 minutes a game by season’s end.
Or: Schenn makes an extra million if he plays in all 82 games.
These are bonuses Schenn can be acutely aware that he will not make unless Lombardi and Murray want him to make them. Perhaps this is the kind of thing Lombardi means when he says “he adjusted his contract.”
Lombardi says that Schenn could have asked for “X, Y and Z on his cap number.” Which is a different statement than Schenn could have asked for “X, Y or Z cap number.”
The former sounds like bonuses. The latter sounds like cash.
Anyways, that’s how this all reads to me. Perhaps Bobby, or even Quisp, two magnificent parsers of Lombardi speak, can find something between the lines that I can not.
Either way, this was a tantalizing interview, featuring other tidbits like Lombardi admitting that Burrows and Bieksa make him mad, Wayne Simmonds spent the summer two years ago sleeping on someone’s couch, and my personal favorite, since I can relate it to Kovalchuk in my secret heart of desire, that while a defenseman is needed on this team, there are potential high end defensive prospects coming through the pipeline, whereas in Dean’s words, “If I wait for a forward internally, is there one there?”
Well, there is Schenn.
Finally, so as to avoid any confusion, I must reiterate that I know very little about the CBA and how rookie bonuses work. I am merely speculating, and every hypothesis I put forth may not even be feasible.