COMMENTARY/ANALYSIS: Winger Alexander Frolov likely has a little over five weeks left with the Los Angeles Kings before heading elsewhere to continue his playing career…this should come as a surprise to no one.
LOS ANGELES — For all of you Alexander Frolov fans out there, I regret to inform you that his days with the Los Angeles Kings are very, very likely over.
I just hope that none of you are surprised.
On May 26, Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi appeared on Neilson and Chase In the Morning on Edmonton Sports Radio Team 1260 in Edmonton, Alberta. When asked about Frolov, Lombardi said that he was not optimistic about being able to re-sign the enigmatic winger.
“When you talk about building today, it’s certainly different from prior to the lockout,” said Lombardi. “You really get tied in with, ‘Do you like the player?’ Yes, but do you like him at ‘X’ price? Because you now have to get the right price, if you’re going to be able to keep your core together. So would we like to keep him? Yes, but if the price is prohibitive and maybe would prevent us from filling other holes and making sure we keep [defensemen Drew] Doughty and [Jack] Johnson and all these kids coming through, then you have to walk away.”
“I’m not too optimistic, given what he’s looking for,” added Lombardi, who went on to say that Frolov’s salary demands exceed his actual value in the National Hockey League, but added that one cannot blame a player for being attracted by the ungodly sums of tax-free money that the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia is throwing at players, and you can bet that the KHL is doing whatever it can to get Frolov to play back home.
One thing that Lombardi’s comments on the Edmonton radio show revealed was that nothing has changed since earlier in the season in terms of his stance on Frolov or in terms of the salary Frolov is seeking from the Kings and, presumably, other NHL teams that might be interested in his services when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
In fact, it appears that Lombardi has not budged one bit from his position held earlier in the season.
“Our problem under this new system [with the salary cap], is OK, I can’t pay you as a forty-goal scorer,” Lombardi said in a January 2010 interview with Frozen Royalty (see “Alexander Frolov Creates Dilemma For Dean Lombardi). “I’m not sure I can pay you as a thirty-goal scorer. I like you, even if you stay the same, I think I can win a [Stanley] Cup for you in this role. But if a player has to get X amount of dollars, he has to fill [the] role [that fits that dollar amount].”
“That’s the quandary as a manager—there was an article today about all the guys making $9 million,” Lombardi elaborated. “If you’re making $9 million you have to be the leader, you have to carry the ball, score—you have to be everything.”
Frolov, who earned $4 million this season, could be seeking a salary in the $5 to $6 million range, perhaps even a bit more. But he will not get that from the Kings.
“Do I like the guy? Yeah, but I don’t like him at $9 million because I’m not getting all those things,” said Lombardi. “Using that philosophy as we move down the line, do I like him at $5 million? Well, I’ve got to have this and this. Do I like him at $3 million? Yeah, because I only need this.”
As of that interview, Frolov had scored eleven goals with nineteen assists in 47 games this season. He ended the year with just nineteen goals and 32 assists for 51 points in 81 games. He also added a goal and three assists for four points in six playoff games.
To be sure, those are not the numbers a player demanding $5-6 million per season needs to have, and after seven seasons in the NHL, Frolov is now a known commodity. Teams all know what they will get from him and that he is not likely to take his game to the next level, even though he has the talent to do so.
No NHL team is likely to give Frolov a raise hoping that he will suddenly see the light, and that includes the Kings.
“I’m not so sure you can go to the bank and say he’s still going [to score forty goals], so let’s pay him like a [forty-goal scorer],” Lombardi said. “I’m not prepared to do that. But I still think he does a lot of good things.”
“We might just have to accept that Frolov is Frolov,” Lombardi added. “Here’s the good things he does. He could be better, but let’s accept him for what he is. Here’s where that fits and here’s what it pays.”
If Lombardi acceded to Frolov’s salary demands, that could jeopardize his ability to retain better players such as Johnson and Norris Trophy candidate Drew Doughty, who the Kings must sign to a new contract this summer, one that will cost them a boatload of cash for the budding superstar.
“If [the salary structure] gets out of whack, it puts you in a tough position because [Frolov is] still a good player,” Lombardi stressed. “If it gets out of whack, it keeps me out of making that next move unless he would decide to do what I think—I don’t know if we can go to that.”
Simply put, he cannot do that.
For Frolov, the problem is that he possesses tremendous skill but does not have the heart to back it up. Indeed, he can dominate when he wants to, but he will also disappear for several games. He may be the Kings most enigmatic player in franchise history in that regard—great skill, but you never know if that player will show up or not and he does not show up often enough. That is a problem for a young team on the rise.
“When you’re building, you ask [yourself], where does he fit on a good team? When he’s young, yeah, he could be a forty-goal scorer,” Lombardi lamented. “But those thirty-goal years, I’m not sure they translate into forty [on a contender]. Actually, the guy who’s a 25-goal scorer on a contender, often times, is a better player than a thirty or 35-goal scorer on a bad team.”
And that is exactly the case with Alexander Frolov, who will be rolling in huge sums of rubles next season unless some NHL general manager develops a severe case of brain lock and decides to offer Frolov a hefty raise.
You can listen to Lombardi’s interview on Neilson and Chase In the Morning here: Lombardi Interview on Team 1260 in Edmonton.
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