Los Angeles Kings: Confident That Restricted Free Agents Will Be Signed Soon
September 7, 2008 12 Comments
FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Los Angeles Kings Director of Hockey Operations Jeff Solomon discusses the status of contract negotiations with restricted free agent forwards Jarret Stoll, Patrick O’Sullivan and Brad Richardson.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Contrary to reports coming first out of Canada and then picked up by other media outlets, Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll, who is an restricted free agent, has not been signed to a new contract…yet.
But calm down Kings fans. There is no cause for alarm, at least not according to the man doing the negotiating for the Kings. In fact, the Kings are quite confident about reaching contract agreements with all three of their restricted free agents, Stoll, left wing Patrick O’Sullivan and center Brad Richardson.
As for Stoll, the two sides have agreed in principle on a four-year contract that is reportedly worth $14.4 million or an average of $3.6 million per season.
The outstanding question is how much will be paid each season, as the Kings are trying to front-load the contract so that it will pay more earlier in the contract when they have more money in their budget and less in the later years of the contract when they are expected to have less flexibility.
“Part of that is a condition of the other deals we still have to close now, including O’Sullivan and Richardson, and we are actively looking in the market for a [veteran] defenseman,” said Jeff Solomon, Kings Director of Hockey Operations and Legal Affairs. “The nice thing is that we have agreed in principle with Jarret and they have provided us some extra time—given us some flexibility to structure it in a way we think works best for us as we try to absorb some other deals and try to assimilate them into our structure.”
Solomon stated that talks with Stoll’s agent are on hold for a bit, but again, there is no need to worry.
“If we needed to have pen on paper, we could have it tomorrow, so that’s not even an issue,” added Solomon. “But the fact is, his agent is on vacation in Europe. Neither of us felt constrained in this matter.”
Likewise, Solomon is confident that O’Sullivan, his most important restricted free agent, will be signed to a multi-year deal.
“We have discussed everything from initially a one-year deal all the way up to a five-year deal,” Solomon explained. “The one thing that has become a little bit more clear in the process is that our focus now is going to be directed at a three or four-year deal.”
“We think that’s going to be the best combination of security for the player, balance of risk and cost certainty for the club,” Solomon elaborated.
Cost certainty. To be sure, that is an issue for the Kings and all of the twenty-nine other National Hockey League clubs.
“I think it’s important for us to be able to get through the next three or four-year period and he’s agreed to that, so that’s where our focus is at right now,” said Solomon. “Anytime you do a multi-year deal, from our perspective, we’ve got to be able to fit that in today—which with our cap flexibility for this season is not an issue for us, but we’ve got to be able to fit it in the future.”
Solomon and O’Sullivan’s agent must now find that happy medium.
“Not that we’re being any more cautious than we ordinarily would be, but I think what we have to do is find that sweet spot between our comfort and the player’s comfort because he’s giving up his upside or at least it’s perceived that the only thing is there is upside, said Solomon. “In actuality, when you look at it, there is a risk that he could have a staggered development or he could take a step back.”
“We don’t think that’s going to happen, he doesn’t think that’s going to happen, but the reality of it is, when you’re accounting for a long-term deal, there is that equitable balance of risk that we have to find a sweet spot for,” added Solomon.
Indeed, the negotiations are now down to the final stage…hammering out the length of term and the money.
“I think we’ve gotten through the stage where we’re looking at comparable players, we’re looking at theories, we’re looking at the contracts they signed, the bargaining environment they signed in—based on the term they got, were they giving up arbitration years, were they giving up [unrestricted free agent] years—all of that has already been part of the discussions and we’ve gotten that out of the way,” Solomon stressed. “So that part’s good.”
“It’s been a little longer than we both would like, but it’s important that we get that out of the way,” Solomon added. “But at the end of the day, the work that we do up front on this is critical because we’ve got to get this right. As you can see, we’ve got Kopitar, Johnson, Purcell, Boyle, Hickey, Doughty, Teubert—all of these guys are going to follow. If we don’t get this in order now, we’re just going to wind up paying for it in the future. We don’t ever want to be unable to keep a guy because of money.”
Solomon fully expects to have O’Sullivan signed and on the ice for training camp as opposed to being a contract holdout.
“Often times, sides come together at the last minute in deals like this and I don’t think this is unusual at all, so I’m not even thinking about that right now,” said Solomon.
If you thought getting Richardson signed would be a piece of cake compared to Stoll or O’Sullivan, guess again, since Richardson has had an erratic NHL career and is coming off a wrist injury.
“That one should seemingly be a little more straightforward, but because of his track—he’s [had his ups and downs] due to the wrist injury he had, there’s a little more give and take, a little more caution there as we go through some of the issues because we’d like to have this guy for more than one year, too,” said Solomon.
“Any time you lengthen the term, even if you’re going from a one-year deal when we know we’ve got plenty of cap flexibility to the years we anticipate in the future where we’ll be a lot closer to the cap or right up at the cap, we just want to be careful that we’re doing this thing right,” added Solomon.
Solomon also pointed out that Richardson and O’Sullivan are represented by the same agent.
“Same agent, Richardson and O’Sullivan. He’s worried about two contracts. I’m worried about what we’ve got this year and what we’ve got coming two years from now. It gets a little more complicated the farther out you go.”
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