Setting the free-agent table

Back from Minneapolis and, as usual, it feels good to be in L.A. For those who haven’t been there, Minneapolis has a nice downtown area. But I found it interesting to note that in the “State of Hockey,” I saw more people wearing Kevin Garnett Boston Celtics jerseys than anything else. They’re confused people these days, those Minnesotans…

The free-agent signing period begins Tuesday, and it’s such a different feel from last year, when the Kings were presumed to be in the hunt for so many of the “big-name” free agents. It certainly doesn’t appear as though that will be the case this week.

At this point, I would expect the Kings to sign two free-agent defensemen and one free-agent forward, probably a winger. Brad Stuart and Rob Blake remain the most-likely defensemen to be signed. The Kings will have a better shot at getting Stuart than was initially expected and are helped by the fact that Stuart’s agent is Pat Brisson, who is L.A.-based, a close friend of Luc Robitaille and also the agent for Blake and Jack Johnson. It might come down to how much Detroit is bluffing and how much Ken Holland is really willing to spend on Stuart. Stuart made $3.5 million last season and Detroit is claiming it only wants to spend around $3 million per season on Stuart. We’ll see.

As for Blake, he will return as long as he has the desire to play and the Kings feel he’s healthy and ready to go. Shouldn’t be much of a question that he will be back.

As for which forward might sign, that’s a completely open book. Go ahead and speculate away. It’s one of those trickle-down effect things. The top free-agent forwards will sign and then teams will start to take a closer look at the second-tier guys. So we’ll have to see how that shakes out. It’s impossible to predict that market right now.

I expect to get Dean Lombardi on the phone tomorrow to get his thoughts going into free agency, and of course on Tuesday I’ll have continuous updates throughout the day.

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Campbell scouting report

Don did a great job of getting a scouting report on Kings third-round selection Andrew Campbell, courtesy of Ben Leeson, a reporter for the Sault Star who covered Campbell’s junior team in Sault Ste. Marie. On a related note, I’ve received several emails since the draft from people in Canada who have seen Campbell play and are excited about him. Lombardi described him as a Wayne Simmonds-type prospect, in terms of being a late bloomer, and there’s growing evidence of that. Here’s Ben Leeson’s scouting report…


“Campbell is a come-from-behind prospect and made some very big strides in 2007-08.

He plays a solid positional game at both ends of the ice, is a solid penalty killer and won himself power-play time down the stretch this past season.

He’s tough for forward to beat because of his big wingspan and willingness to finish checks.

He’s not known as a tough guy, but we’ll drop the gloves and hold his own when need be.

He has a nice wrist shot that he gets off quickly.

He had success playing with slapshot artist Josh Godfrey on the power play last year. With Godfrey covered, Campbell often took a pass and snuck in deep and beat the goaltender.

While he’s deceptively strong, he could probably pack on a few pounds of muscle to handle the big boys in the professional game. And he’s not a bad skater, but getting quicker would help.”


And here’s a video of Campbell (in the dark jersey) in action…

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Salary cap

Sorry for the lack of posts, but the days are taken up by workshops here at this sports editors conference in Minneapolis.

So by now, this is fairly old news, but next season’s salary cap will be $56.7 million and the “floor” will be $40.7 million. Except the Kings to be much closer to the floor than the ceiling.

So the salary cap increases by six million. I saw one of the comments asking about whether this was a positive and a negative. I see it as a real negative, and the discussion around the NHL is trending this way. The sense is that it’s creating the type of class warfare that existed before the lockout, although to a lesser extent. The “haves” will be able to spend $56 million and the “have nots” won’t. You might ask, wasn’t the new collective-bargaining agreement supposed to prevent that? Yes, yes it was. It’s a good question for Gary Bettman and some of the owners…

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List of qualifying offers

Hello from humid Minneapolis. Here’s the news on the qualifying offers. It’s just a list, no context right now of why the other two guys weren’t offered. This is official as of 2 p.m. today…

The Kings have extended qualifying offers to the following players:

Erik Ersberg
Gabe Gauthier
Peter Harrold
Matt Moulson
Patrick O’Sullivan
Joe Piskula
Brad Richardson

The Kings have not extended qualifying offers to the following players:

Petr Kanko
Dany Roussin

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Qualifying offers

From what I understand, today is the day for qualifying offers to restricted free agents. I’m on my way to a sports editors’ convention in Minneapolis for the rest of the week, but I will do my best to post, later today, the news about qualifying offers…

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