Kings front office has tough choices to make

With just under $12 million of salary cap space available, the Los Angeles Kings have a total of 11 players from this past season’s roster who are free agents.

Eight of those players are restricted free agents and the Kings have the right to match any potential offer that another team would present. Other free agents like Rob Scuderi, Dustin Penner and Brad Richardson are unrestricted free agents and have the right to put their services out on the open market.

The 34-year-old Scuderi, who was earning $3.4 million each of the past four seasons, will likely draw a great deal of attention on the open market without having to take a pay cut that he may have been faced with in Los Angeles.

With defenseman Slava Voynov in line for a hefty pay raise and the Kings already locking up defenseman Robyn Regehr to a two-year, $6 million deal, Scuderi could be suiting up for another NHL team when the 2013-14 season rolls around.

“I understand the team has other priorities bigger than just myself, and that’s the way it goes,” said Scuderi. “I’m not offended, I don’t get disrespected by anything. It’s unfortunate that maybe it couldn’t be taken care of but it’s not like I harbor any ill will against the Kings with the way they’ve done things.”

Still Kings GM Dean Lombardi would not close the door on keeping the veteran defenseman, suggesting that quality of life and a great work place could keep Scuderi in Los Angeles even if it means taking less money.

“There’s no question that this is a very tight group,” Lombardi said.”There’s no question that we’ve solved the issue that this is a great, one of the best places in the country to live.  And now, we have the most important part, we have a good team with a good bunch of guys. Now that environment takes over ten-fold. I think we’re there now, where the most important thing is players want to be here because it’s a good team and they can win.

“Now we take advantage of the fact that this is one of the best places in the world to live.  I think we’ve kind of got that, so I’m confident that these guys want to stay together without, you know, obviously depriving their families of being taking care of. We’ll see, but clearly we’ve got to get working on that right now.”

If the Kings don’t re-sign Scuder, he will leave some pretty big skates to fill. He logged the second-most minutes of ice time per game during the playoffs and his plus-nine rating was a team best that he shared with Slava Voynov.

As important a roll that he plays on the ice, his loss inside the lockeroom will be just as significant.

Scuderi is a player that young defensemen like Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez could turn to for advice as well as someone who never ducked the media when the team would struggle.

With Nashville’s signing earlier in the week of Roman Josi to a seven-year, $28 million  contract, it sets a new bar for where the Voynov negotiations are to go. Look for the Voynov camp to be seeking a deal that would average somewhere between $4.5 and 5 million per season.

With that being the case, the Kings may be better served to use any money that would have been targeted to re-up with Scuderi to bolster an offense that struggled during the playoffs.