Sports Outside the Beltway

Kings GM Lombardi Plays Cap Games

According to Bob McKenzie at, Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi is ruffling feathers among his fellow GMs after his signing of free-agent defenceman Joe Piskula from the University of Wisconsin.

As part of Piskula’s contract, there are games played bonuses of $25,000 for playing one game, three games and five games. In other words, he gets $75,000 guaranteed for playing just five NHL games with the Kings, which will likely happen by the weekend.

The NHL believes this bonus structure violates the CBA clause on guaranteed monies for entry-level players and, therefore, rejected the contract when the Kings submitted it. But the NHL Players’ Association filed a grievance over that rejection and so Piskula’s contract will stand until such time that an arbitrator rules on it.

And Lombardi’s managerial brethren are fuming at what they think is a blatant attempt to dress up a bogus games played bonus as an extra signing bonus, as signing bonuses are capped at $85,000 per year. They think Lombardi is setting a bad precedent of guaranteeing money to entry-level players without them earning it and that larger-market teams with cash to throw around will have a big advantage in the college free-agent sweepstakes.

Some of them are still angry at Lombardi over Owen Nolan’s lockout protection contract and previous contract controversies involving Kelly Miller and Craig Simpson. Lombardi and the Kings, meanwhile, maintain they are simply playing by the rules, and that Piskula’s total compensation falls within the $850,000 entry level limit.

Some of this strikes as an “I’m mad because I didn’t think of it first” reaction. Of course this isn’t the first time Lombardi has tested the limits of the new CBA. Earlier in the season the Kings were not able to call up the #3 goalie on the depth chart because he would of had to clear waivers and there was a 99.9% chance he would of been claimed. Sitting in 2nd to last place in the NHL at the time, Lombardi brokered a deal with Philadelphia (who holds last place) to trade a low round draft pick to the Kings for the goalie. Phildelphia would then turn around and send him to the minors, requiring him to pass through waivers allowing the Kings to claim him and assign him to the NHL Club because they would of had first rights to anyone on the waiver wire. The NHL also vetoed that deal.

I can’t fault Lombardi for two reasons: (1) I’m a Kings fan and (2) I can’t fault any GM for pushing the limits to make their team better, thats what they are supposed to do. Of course from pervious statements Lombardi made during one of many “Breakfasts with the GM”, he has laid out his severe dislike of of salary caps (so much so he let Ron Hextall take the mic and answer cap related questions to avoid “ripping the league”) covering how the salary cap has ruined the NBA, gives young players too much money too fast, hinders player development, doesn’t allow teams to reward veteran players, and inhibits the ability for teams to fix mistakes or fill holes in the line up.

Only time will tell if this deal holds up, but I give Dean full support to keep pushing the limits. 40 years and 1 Stanley Cup Finals appearance just isn’t cutting it.

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