After finishing towards the bottom of the NHL standings for the past two seasons, the Los Angeles Kings are in need of improvements. One of the improvements that needs to be made is their left side on defence. A way to improve would be by adding a big name player. For Los Angeles, that big name player could be Mikhail Sergachev of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Los Angeles Kings Could Use Mikhail Sergachev
Earlier in the offseason, Kings general manager Rob Blake made it clear that they needed to add to their left side on the blue-line. Blake acted on this, as he went out and acquired Olli Maatta from the Chicago Blackhawks. While Maatta is a solid player, there could potentially be some better options out there. The Kings are in a unique situation where they could put a very real amount of stress on the Tampa Bay Lightning by extending an offer sheet to Mikhail Sergachev.
Can They Do It
Salary Cap Wise
When talking about offer-sheeting a player, there are a lot of technicalities that go into it. The first question that needs to be asked is if the team can do it. The short answer to this would be yes, the Kings can.
According to Cap Friendly, the Lightning currently have just under $3 million in cap space. With that limited amount of cap space, they still need to re-sign Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak; all of which are free agents. They could get Cernak around the $2.5 million range per year and Cirelli maybe around the $6 million range. Sergachev’s contract, however, will likely depend on the term.
If the contract is long-term, he could sign for anywhere along the $6-8 million per year range. Short-term, he would be closer to the $6 million side of that. Regardless, Tampa does not have nearly the amount of cap space they need to sign these players. The only way they can clear enough cap would be to trade away pieces from their cup-winning team.
On the Kings side, it couldn’t be more different. The Kings have all of their players under contract. Barring any last minute moves, their roster is just about set aside from one or two spots. With no one else in need of signing, LA has about $13.5 million left in cap space according to Cap Friendly. This leaves them with more than enough cap room to go after Sergachev.
When extending an offer sheet to a player, a team has to pay draft pick compensation to the team that holds the players rights should they choose not to match the offer. The draft picks that are required to be given vary based on the amount of money being offered. According to Cap Friendly, the current compensation based on two different cash values are as follows:
$4,363,096 – $6,544,640: One first round pick and one third round pick
$6,544,641 – $8,726,188: One first round pick, one second round pick, and one third round pick
These are the two ranges that are around the appropriate amount to offer Sergachev. In either case, the Kings can afford to pay the compensation. Not only do they own all of these picks, but the Kings have two picks in both the second and third rounds of the 2021 draft. If they were to give up the more expensive compensation, they would still be picking in each of the second and third rounds, despite losing their own picks. Los Angeles owns St. Louis’ second round selection and Toronto’s third round selection.
Should They Do It
Even if a team has everything they need to make an offer sheet, at the end of the day, the player still needs to accept the contract offer. Mikhail Sergachev just won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning. Convincing him to sign with a different team, especially one that finished in 28th place would be tough. In order to get him to accept the offer, the money would have to be a bit of an overpay, and a value much higher than what Tampa could give. Sergachev’s new contract should be in the $6-8 million per year range if it’s a long-term deal. In order for him to actually agree to come to Los Angeles, the Kings would probably need to be in the ballpark of $7-7.5 million dollars per year for seven or eight years.
The one downside of overpaying for Sergachev would be that once you pass the $6.5 million range, the draft pick compensation gets more expensive. The Kings would need to give up their first, second, and third round picks in the 2021 draft. As mentioned earlier though, they would still have a pick in each of the second and third rounds.
Why It’s Worth It
Although giving Sergachev what could be considered an overpay, it might be the only way for the offer sheet to work. Not only could this persuade him to sign with LA, but it would put stress on the Lightning. If they think they can get him around $6 million per year, and then he’s offered seven, it’s just more money that Tampa Bay needs to somehow come up with. Remember, Mikhail Sergachev isn’t their only big name RFA they need to sign. If they want to keep everyone, spending upwards of $6.5 million per year on one player is not how they’re going to do it.
Offering a contract at that price also wouldn’t hurt the Kings cap wise. They have an excess of cap space for the first time in years. They are in a situation where they can use it to not only improve themselves, but put pressure on others.
Now, at first glance, for a rebuilding team to give up their picks in the first three rounds of the draft does not seem ideal. You have to look at what you’re getting though. In Sergachev, the Kings would be getting a dynamic offensive left-handed defenceman. He has all the tools to become a number one, and he is still just 22 years of age. He also doesn’t turn 23 until late June. To understand how valuable of an add this would be, you need to look at what the Kings are losing too. Due to them having two picks in the second and third rounds, losing one of each isn’t too big of a blow. The real lost asset in this move would be the first rounder.
Justifying Losing a First Round Pick
With Sergachev on the team, the Kings first rounder would realistically be in the 12-16 range. The 2021 draft is loaded with defencemen. If the Kings had their first, that is likely what they would take. If they got really lucky, they could get a defenceman at that spot who could maybe have the potential Sergachev has, but that would be a long shot. Then again, that would also just be potential compared to Sergachev’s proven NHL talent. That defenceman would also be 17 or 18 years old, and likely not NHL ready.
While the Kings have one of the top prospect pools in the NHL, a lot of their prospects are very young and not ready to make the jump. This is one of the reasons they traded for Lias Andersson at the draft with the New York Rangers. Andersson is 22 years old, and could come up sooner than an 18-year-old like Will Cuylle, who the Rangers selected with the pick LA traded for him. It’s important to keep a balance of players at different stages in their development in an organization so they can come up at different times.
This is why Sergachev would essentially be substituted for the player the Kings would take in round one. Rather than having a 17 or 18 year old who’s a few years away, they would have a 22 year old who is already a proven talent.
Comparing the Value
If the Kings really did offer sheet Sergachev, another way to look at it is as if it’s a trade. Is Mikhail Sergachev’s trade value worth an upper-middle first, second and third round pick? If Sergachev can be the number one defenceman that the Kings are lacking in their prospect pool; and debatably on their NHL roster, then it’s pretty hard to say no.