Cap projection dip could affect free agency

Willie Mitchell's future with the Kings could depend on a fluctuating salary cap. AP Photo/Reed Saxon

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Following the trade deadline, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi was chatting with the local media and mentioned that the slumping Canadian dollar might shift next year’s salary cap to $68 million, down from earlier estimates.

That would be a pretty dramatic drop from the $71.1 million that the NHL originally projected at the NHL’s board of governors meeting in December, but when that projection came out, the Canadian dollar was at $0.94. Today it’s at $0.90.

With so much of the league’s revenue driven by Canadian teams like the Maple Leafs, that calculation made sense.

Still, it might be a little extreme.

On Tuesday, following the GM meetings, Lombardi agreed to sit for a chat to explore this projection for a few minutes.

Lombardi is one of the NHL’s most fascinating minds, a general manager constantly calculating and planning for the next step in building his Kings dynasty. I was curious as to how he arrived at that $68 million projection, anticipating a formula that only he understood; maybe I'd even learn a new word in the process.

“Quite frankly, the only reason it came up was an odd situation where we were negotiating [a contract],” Lombardi said Tuesday afternoon. “We were operating under what the league had told us [$71.1 million]. Over the course of the negotiation, the agent mentioned $68 or $69 [million]. ... I’m like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Timeout. What did you say?’”

Like any good negotiator, Lombardi was more than willing to embrace that new projection. Anything to get a sliver of leverage and find a reason to squeeze another dollar or two in the club’s direction during contract talks.

“We called the league. They said, 'Yeah, could be,'” Lombardi said.

Could be, but unlikely.