LOS ANGELES -- It took longer than anyone would have liked, but the NHL lockout is finally over.
Hockey will be back this month, and so will the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
It could be argued that no team benefited more from the players' staying firm to having a larger salary cap than the Kings, who will enter this season with their entire Stanley Cup-winning roster intact and the ability to keep that roster in place for the foreseeable future.
The NHL was hoping to get the salary cap down to $60 million, while the players were holding firm to $65 million. The owners moved up a little and the players moved down a little, and they finally met at a $64.3 million cap number next year, according to ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. For the first year, the salary cap is $60 million, but teams can spend up to $70.2 million in the transition period.
As ESPN.com’s Craig Custance notes, that’s no small win for the players -- and the Kings in particular.
According to CapGeek.com, the Kings’ current cap payroll is a little more than $62 million, with their actual salary payroll at just more than $64 million. Next season they have 13 players signed, with $50 million going to Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown, Colin Fraser, Dwight King, Kevin Westgarth, Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Jonathan Quick.
Under the proposed cap by the owners, it would have been virtually impossible for the Kings to keep their current roster intact after this season. They likely would have had to let go of free agents like Simon Gagne, Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson and Rob Scuderi. Under the cap they eventually agreed to, the Kings have a chance at keeping this roster in place and surrounding their stars with familiar role players -- something that might mean the difference between a championship and a first-round playoff exit.
And Kings fans don’t need to be reminded how instrumental Penner and Scuderi were in getting the Kings back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in nearly two decades and helping them win it for the first time in franchise history.
If the NBA lockout last year is any indication, fans will quickly forget about the lockout, and teams with little turnover on their roster and the coaching staff usually have the most success in these condensed seasons that see a short training camp and few practices between games.
By that measure, it should put the Kings in good shape to be among the top contenders to win the Stanley Cup this season as they attempt to become the first back-to-back champs since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.
There had been a general feeling in Los Angeles that the Kings may have squandered an opportunity to seize a piece of the market here after converting so many fans during their magical Stanley Cup title run. But die-hard fans are always going to be there and the fair-weather fans who came along for the ride during the playoffs may well be there again if the Kings are able to put together a similar run.
If anything, the Kings may be coming back at the perfect time: With Los Angeles sports fans looking for something to hang their hats on after the Dodgers and Angels missed the playoffs, after USC’s disappointing football season and with the Lakers below .500, a Kings championship banner raising and ring ceremony to start the season will give residents another chance to hop on the bandwagon.