by PuckStopsHere on 09/20/08 at 08:05 AM ET
In the NHL today, it is clear that good teams are built by obtaining the rights (via draft or otherwise) to young talent that will mature into stardom and retaining that talent through free agency. It is not possible to build successfully through free agency. As a result of this, it is extremely important to sign up your talented restricted free agents as painlessly as possible to deals that keep them happy with the organization, so they will want to remain there in their unrestricted free agency years. The team that has done the worst job of this over this summer is the Los Angeles Kings. They waited most of the summer to resign restricted free agents Jarret Stoll and Brad Richardson and have not yet signed Patrick O’Sullivan. In fact, O’Sullivan has been asked not to attend Los Angeles Kings training camp until a deal is done.
For a team that finished in last place in the West Conference, Los Angeles should be holding onto their young talent like gold. Those players are the future of the franchise, who will help to bring them out of their current failures. This is clearly not happening. O’Sullivan is coming off of a season where his 53 points made him one of the more valuable members of the Kings young forward unit. He sees comparable players in other franchises (such as Rotislav Olesz in Florida and Jeff Carter in Philadelphia) signing for large sums of money and wonders why he is not offered the same opportunity. This contract negotiation, which has gone on too long is likely souring O’Sullivan on the Kings organization and will make him more likely to leave when he obtains unrestricted free agency rights.
It is not as though Los Angeles does not have the salary cap space to sign O’Sullivan. They have been struggling all summer to reach the $40.7 million salary floor and have not yet done so. I cannot see any good reason why the O’Sullivan contract negotiations have taken this long. There is no upside for the Kings in this tactic. Even if O’Sullivan does re-sign, they will have significantly diminished their chances of keeping him when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
In the NHL today, it is important to retain your young talent in order to build a winning team. Los Angeles has young talent. Los Angeles has salary cap space. Los Angeles is having more trouble signing their restricted free agents then any team in the NHL. That does not seem like a sensible position for them to be in. Protracted contract battles with talented young players are battles teams cannot afford to fight, if they have any desire to retain the player in question for the best years of his career
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