Management, on O’Sullivan

Back to one of everyone’s favorite subjects, here’s what Jeff Solomon and Dean Lombardi had to say about the Patrick O’Sullivan contract negotiations. Funny thing is, they actually begged for a question for Solomon, since apparently none where asked of him at a similar event last summer. He had to figure this one was coming… In this answer, Solomon goes into some specifics about how negotiations like these can get complicated, and Lombardi gives another impassioned “warning” to rival GMs who might try to poach the Kings’ restricted free agents in the future. After Lombardi finished, Bob Miller, always ready with the straight line, said, “Thank you, Clint.” You’ll understand when you read the end of Lombardi’s answer…

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SOLOMON: I guess the short answer, in regard to Sully, is that discussions are ongoing. So, why is it taking so long? There’s a number of factors that come into play when you’re talking about how long it takes to negotiate a contract. In today’s climate, the biggest factor for us, as a group is… The agent’s job is, he’s negotiating one contract. As we’re negotiating Sully’s contract, we’re doing 20 contracts at the same time, and 20 more that are going to follow next year. The important thing for us is to make sure we do the right deal now, so that it not only fits this year’s cap — in which we have more flexibility than the past — but also in the future.

You’ve got to understand too that when we’re looking at this, we’re looking at how Sully fits in, from a payroll standpoint, to our structure, long term. I’ve been an agent. I was an agent for 20 years before I got here. The notion of thinking about how a player’s contract fits in with the rest of the team, that does not exist. There’s a competing interest there. The agent is worried about one contract; we’re worried about the entire organization, this year and moving forward. That, in and of itself, is the first hurdle, and that’s the one that probably takes the most time. But contrary to what most people think, we’re not here thinking about ways that we can drag this out and make this difficult on Sully. I’d love to be in shorts and flip-flops with you guys, going to the beach with my family too, but instead we’re still having discussions and we’re trying to find a way to get through this. That’s the first hurdle.

The second one is, what we’re talking about here, and what we think is most beneficial for the team, is a long-term contract. We want to have Sully fit in this year, and we want to have him fit in for several years after this. If we were talking about a one-year deal right now, we’d probably have this done. If you look at the flexibility, where our payroll is versus the cap, it would be pretty easy to finish this up on a one-year deal. But for the long-term benefit of this club, it’s important for us to make sure that we get the right deal done on a longer team. We have had, over the last couple months, discussions with Patrick’s representative, on terms of anywhere from two years to five years. The farther you go out, trying to find that balance between what the player is willing to give up and what the club is willing to give up, those involve long, detailed discussions.

That’s the second part. But I will say this. Any time that we put in now, it will be instrumentally beneficial to us down the road. As you mentioned, next year when Kopitar’s contract expires, when Jack Johnson’s contract expires, when Purcell’s and Boyle’s — who hopefully will have good seasons for us — when their contracts expire, it’s going to become critical, as we move forward with these players, that we get O’Sullivan in right now. What we will do is, we will get it right and we’ll get it right on a term deal that we can both feel comfortable with, and move forward comfortably and make sure that he fits in with everyone else. Now the second part of your question, as it relates to Kopitar and Johnson, the timing for that is perfect because we have actually started discussions with their agent and we would hope to continue those discussions shortly and try to get ahead of the curve on that, the same way that we did with Brown.

I think it’s really important to have our young players under contract. We’ve even done it with some of our older players, like Raitis Ivanans, who we signed during the season as well. We’d love to be able to do it on a more comfortable time frame, rather than try to somehow force it at the end, But you know, sometimes at the end of the day, part of an agent’s strategy — and having been there before — is to wait until the last minute, thinking that that presents the best negotiating leverage point for them. We want to try to meet everybody halfway. We want to try to get these things done. But the important thing is, when we do these contracts, we’ve got to have a fit, not just for the player, not just for this year but for the organization moving forward in the future.

LOMBARDI: It’s like a lot of things that hockey people have to do. The amount of time and effort that goes into this… It’s like he says. I’m not doing one contract; I’m doing 20. It’s tremendous. You have no idea how much time he puts into it. The other thing that he kind of hinted on, in terms of Kopitar and Johnson… In terms of the planning, as we’ve seen out there in the marketplace with offer sheets… I’ve said this before. If we’re going to go through this process, we’re going to build this like an Oakland A’s (or Minnesota) Twins. You’re going to do the little things right. You’re going to draft and develop, and then we’re going to keep it together like the Yankees. Because there’s no sense in going through this (otherwise).

I already told some general managers that we’re going to do these contracts and we’re going to do them right. Kopitar and Johnson will eventually be paid fairly. But if you’re thinking about an offer sheet, go ahead and make my day. Because if you’re going to come after us, we’re going to have the space to go right back after you. And that’s the one threat that might work. You’ve got to be careful with offer sheets anyway, in this environment. It’s not to stand up and threaten them publicly. It’s about having the missile to go right back at them. So when you see this cap space there — Solly has a pretty good name for it: `blank-you’ space, he calls it — if you want to hit us, we’re coming right back.

You saw a taste of that with St. Louis, when they got that offer sheet. So when you see that space there, nothing will steer them more. If you’re thinking of breathing down Kopitar, we’re not only matching, we’re coming right back at you. We will get you. It may not be immediately, but you will pay for that. So if you feel lucky, punk, go ahead and make my day.

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  • Irish Pat

    Rich,

    I hope you have enough coffee and Red Bull to keep your mind active and energized. Thank you so much for the amount of time you put into this site. I wish the season could start today.

  • mark crawford and todd bertuzzi

    watch you words Dean!

  • BallPointHammer

    Settle down Dean, it will all be OK.

    One thing to think about is the possibility of teams ganging up on one another. A team with too many big RFA contracts in one year could invite even more outlandish offer sheets than usual. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see owners accused of collusion by other owners rather than the players. DL’s pre-emptive verbal strikes might just illicit enough paranoia from other teams to actually cause them to show some restraint.

  • Brian

    O’Sullivan will be signed within the next 3 weeks. It will be for 3 or more years. We will all be happy.

  • nykingfan

    Way to go DL

    I’d rather hear my GM talking like that, then letting another team come in and poach are RFA’s without a care in the world like Kevin Lowe.

  • metalmaster

    Talk is cheap. Maybe if DL got all these guys signed
    he would not have to worry about other GMs poaching
    his players. For a team that does not want to spend
    $ it is hard to believe DL will come back after their
    players.

  • nykingfan

    remember it takes 2 to make a contract. I’m sure the agents are asking for more than their clients are worth and DL is probably trying to lowball a little. Its called negotiating….eventually you reach a middle ground and you sign the player to what his actual value is.
    I’m sure DL can give Sully the same contract that Crosby got and Sully would accept it in a heartbeat…is that what we want to do as an organization..overpay our players? We’re dealing in a salary cap era…its about slotting players into the proper salary bracket.
    I’m sure the deal will get done before the season begins….Not being on the ice not only hurts the Kings, it also hurts Sully.

    Do you really think that the only RFA’s are Kings?

  • Quisp

    I can’t believe this just occurred to me, and maybe it’s been posted before, and maybe it occurred to me and I forgot:

    Why would POS’s agent rush to sign when he knows that DL needs to sign POS in order to get to the cap floor? POS’s agent knows DL will sign before the season starts, so he’s going to wait as long as possible. Period. And DL will blink before the season opener because he has to, in order to reach the floor. The situation with M Schneider could change things a little, but not much, I wouldn’t think, as they will still have some salary to get on the books.

    DL’s assertion that the Kings don’t have to sign some new UFAs or trade for some salary in order to reach the floor included the rationale that POS hadn’t signed yet but when he did that would add x to the salary cap hit. This is a significant bargaining position for POS.

    Anyway, that’s typical negotiation stuff, and I would be shocked if POS wants it to interupt his training camp. But it does suddenly make total sense to me why it’s taken so long. The agent is doing his job and squeezing, perhaps, an extra one or two hundred thousand dollars out of the Kings. Good. That’s the agent’s job.

  • andre norway

    Quisp: DL does not need to sign sully to get to the cap floor. He is not interesting in giving him a one year deal so if they not reach an agreement sully must sit the whole season in worst case. its hurts him more than it hurts the kings because the kings can just bring in another youngster. But I think they will get him signed for 3-5 years paying him 4 or 5 mill this season counting against the cap and 2,5-3 mill the rest of the contract.

  • Moondoggie

    nykingsfan….Always enjoy your commentary and you’re dead on, same for andre norway. DL isn’t playing around with these contracts, he’s totally looking at the Kings not for just the next season but for years to come, which is why he’s taking his time in these negotiations. It’s a three step process folks; first getting the young players into the organization, second – getting them developed (some will pan out, some won’t) then getting those who do make it to the NHL signed long term. It’s not a crapshoot and you have other GM’s (see Kevin Lowe) who are circling like vultures, attempting to find vulnerabilities in teams that have limited cap room and can’t afford to sign premium players.

    Again, I love what DL has done here. Yep, he made a few mistakes but I think those mistakes (Clouts, McCauley) were driven because LA had practically nothing in reserve. Look at where he’s taken this team in just one year. The Kings had what was probably the best draft in the history of the team this past June. He’s done in one year what none of the former GM’s were able to do in the past 40 years with this team, stock the blue line and net with young, homegrown defensemen and goalies. Look at some of the kids now in the system. The kids are actually going to actually have to fight for jobs this season, in Manchester of all places. We have some truly good goalies that may have to play with Ontario this season, hard to believe. The future is bright, probably one season away. Give DL credit where credit is due. We all knew this process was going to be painful but look at how far we’ve come in a relatively short time. Hang in there, Sully will be signed, it will be long term and DL will still have enough money left over to sign Kopi, JMFJ, et all and keep enough space left over to keep the other GM’s away from the young talent he’s assembled. GO DL!

    One other thing, Brownie wears the “C” this year, welcome to the young Kings of LA!

  • nykingfan

    Thanks Moondoggie
    You’re 100% correct. I think by next year we’ll be one of the better teams in the league and will continue to get better and better each year. Obviously health will be a huge key.
    I also agree…Brownie should wear the C

  • King James

    Build from within….quit lying to us and stringing us along and SIGN THE DAMN KID!