Photo by Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports
Los Angeles Kings’ defenseman, Slava Voynov was suspended on Oct. 20 of this year following allegations of domestic abuse and his subsequent arrest. He was immediately suspended for the duration of the investigation, which still has yet to be resolved. Although the Russian native is not currently involved in any team activities, he continues to be on the Kings’ payroll, taking up $4.166 million of LA’s salary cap space.
This is the fifth week of Voynov’s suspension. The choice to suspend a player with pay is a fairly uncommon one and so far, it has worked against the Kings. The cap crunch has caused the Kings’ to have a player shortage. In order to accommodate the cap, the Kings have been forced at times to play one defenseman short. Naturally, they are not too happy with their current situation. Unfortunately for the Kings, league commissioner, Gary Bettman is sticking to his guns.
Bettman has remained unsympathetic towards the Kings’ struggles with the salary cap is not willing to make any exceptions for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. He has made it clear that every team has a salary cap and is responsible for cap management, and the Kings, despite their situation with Voynov, is no different. According to an article published by Sports Illustrated, Bettman stated during a conference that the “Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expressly provides for what we’re doing,” as in the CBA directly addresses this kind of suspension.
General Manager of the LA Kings, Dean Lombardi, is especially frustrated by the situation and Bettman’s unwillingness to throw his team a bone. While Lombardi has made statements since Voynov’s suspension that he agrees with the suspension of the 24-year old blue-liner, he also feels as if the league’s refusal to provide the Kings’ with cap relief is unfair and unreasonable.
In an interview with the Orange County Register’s Rich Hammond on Nov. 17th, Lombardi commented on the fact that other teams have been allowed cap relief for issues such as injuries, and that relief allows for “a cushion,” he said. Lombardi believes that the Kings’ should have that cushion. Voynov is still suspended and his actions are very clearly not being ignored, and yet LA has not been given any wiggle room.
He further stated to Hammond that:
”We must build in a cushion in case one of our players is a bank robber, kleptomaniac, etc. The seemingly better alternative is, we have to do a better job of educating our players and, in particular, monitoring our players away from the rink. While monitoring them away from the rink may have the Orwellian connotation of `Big Brother’ oversight, that is the nature of the sports business in the cap era.”
Lombardi went on to reference the case of Maple Leaf’s right-winger, Carter Ashton, who has been serving a 20-game suspension which went into effect early November for the use of performance enhancing drugs that violated the terms laid out by the NHL/NHLPA’s Performance Enhancing Substances Program. Following Ashton’s suspension, Toronto was allowed cap space. While Ashton and Voynov’s respective cases are certainly not the same, Lombardi was trying to make a point about who gets cap space and who does not and how this distinction points to how, as he told the Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times, “the system is dysfunctional.”
Looking ahead, Voynov’s court date is set for December 1st and with the way things are going it looks like the Kings will have to do what they can with the current salary cap in place.