Why the Kings have to play a man short

Hockey Central at Noon debate whether the league should step in to help alleviate the Kings salary cap situation, as they’re forced to play shorthanded due to the Voynov indefinite suspension and the Kopitar injury.

Help is on the way for the Los Angeles Kings. It just won’t arrive before tonight’s game in Philadelphia.

Salary cap issues are forcing the Kings to play with one fewer skater than normal at Wells Fargo Center — they’ll dress 19 instead of 20 — but thanks to a change in the collective bargaining agreement it should only be a one-time thing.

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That’s because Los Angeles will be deemed to be in a “roster emergency” after playing one game with a short-handed lineup and the CBA includes an exception that allows it to recall a player earning $650,000 or less once that happens.

Previously, that wasn’t allowed under NHL rules. A couple years ago Calgary and New Jersey both had to play multiple games with diminished rosters.

The problems started for Los Angeles when defenceman Slava Voynov was arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse last week and the NHL suspended him indefinitely. Since he is continuing to be paid, his $4.167-million annual cap hit remains on the team’s books.

That left them with no room to maneuver under the salary cap, and when Anze Kopitar suffered an upper-body injury over the weekend the Kings had just 19 healthy players remaining on the roster.

General manager Dean Lombardi had hoped to recall Jordan Weal from the American Hockey League to plug the hole up front. He has been supportive of the NHL’s decision to suspend Voynov, but is less understanding when it comes to the wider implications.

“It’s one thing for the player to have to pay the penalty,” Lombardi told Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday. “It’s another thing for 19 other guys to have to go out there short-handed tonight.”

At least it will only happen once. Should Kopitar or Trevor Lewis be unable to return from injury for Thursday’s game in Pittsburgh, the Kings will almost certainly invoke the roster emergency exception.

As for Voynov’s suspension itself, there is currently no end in sight. The NHL has yet to even speak directly with the player for its investigation because he has been focused on the criminal process, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet.

The district attorney in Los Angeles is still reviewing Voynov’s case and hasn’t decided whether to file charges against the 24-year-old.

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