CHICAGO — The leisurely pace of doing business is largely a thing of the past for NHL general managers.
Not only is the Kings’ Dean Lombardi balancing the present – Game 1 of the Western Conference finals is here on Saturday – but he is managing the future. That future includes a lower salary cap for next season, $64.3 million.
Ordinarily, the Kings would not be announcing contract extensions in the heat of the playoffs. But they did so with defenseman Robyn Regehr on Thursday, a two-year extension worth $6 million. He could have become an unrestricted free agent on July 6.
And if Lombardi’s pattern of efficiency continues other agreements could soon follow. Among the pressing concerns, of many, include the expiring deals of defensemen Slava Voynov and Rob Scuderi, scheduled to be a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent, respectively.
“Maybe it’s unconventional,” Lombardi said Friday after an official media briefing. “It’s certainly not the way I’ve operated. But we’re also operating in a very different environment, right? The farther this goes the closer – if it goes to the final - and then the [NHL] Draft is the next day, for crying out loud. Free agency is right around the corner.
“It’s like a lot of things we have to do in this job. We’ve got to adapt to things that weren’t there when we started in this business. Before, I’d have a month and a half or two months to deal with this. I don’t.... It’s incredible. From management’s perspective, it’s a nightmare.”
He is trying to chip away at two or three other deals right now.
Lombardi praised Regehr’s commitment to the organization, considering the defenseman joined the Kings only on April 1 when he was acquired from Buffalo. Regehr was making $4 million this season.
“He could be a free agent here in a short time and it certainly wouldn’t be unreasonable, he doesn’t have the attachment a lot of these other guys [have].
“For him to agree to that -- realize there’s a cap issue and to take a reduction -- a lot of players have a hard time doing that. That said, we pretty much knew this guy’s character, inside and out…. It is significant for a guy who just got here to completely buy in to staying here.”