Question: Jack Johnson, another restricted free agent situation…
LOMBARDI: “We’re working on that now.”
Question: Is it going be a Kopitar situation or an O’Sullivan situation, in terms of how difficult negotiations will be?
LOMBARDI: “Well, number one, we don’t have to worry about losing him. We’re not worried about that. His issue, to me, is finding the right number. Here’s the problem, which is what we’re all struggling with now. There’s the economy, and the issue of the cap coming down. I think it’s fairly safe to say that it’s going to come down a bit this year, but what we’re hearing is that the true impact of what’s happening out there, in terms of the sponsorship dollars, is not going to be felt until the year after.
“So that’s the real rub, and it’s hard. That drives me crazy, because this situation probably penalizes a team like us, that is building this way, more than others, because we have to make projections. We have to make projections, and I don’t know what the budget is going to be. That’s based on the cap, so it’s pretty friggin’ hard. That, to me, is going to be as big an issue as the contract. We’ll figure it out, but it’s frustrating.
“Could you imagine running any business and being told, `Well, we don’t know what your budget will be 12 months from now’? That’s ridiculous, but that’s what we’re faced with. But I think it’s safe to say, judging from everything we’re hearing, that there will be a slight (cap) hit this year, and the sponsorship hit will be next year. So now what are we looking at, a $50-million cap? So our cap space is dwindling.”
Question: But you’re already talking with Jack?
LOMBARDI: “Yeah. It’s been hard because remember, we were talking before and then he got hurt, and he also changed his agent.”