Offseason Game Plan: Los Angeles Kings

Overview

Outlook

                For years we’ve been hearing about how the Los Angeles Kings are doing things the right way, and building through the draft.  So far, we haven’t seen much of that translate to the on-ice product.  They finally cracked the playoffs last year, but were quickly ousted by a much better Vancouver team.  This year, things were looking more positive for the Kings rolling into March, but then Anze Kopitar broke his ankle just before the post-season could get underway.  The injury crippled the team as much as it did Kopitar.  Without their top center, the Kings gave a valiant effort, but ultimately lacked the punch necessary to defeat the San Jose Sharks.  Watching that series you got the sense that the Kings through everything they had at the Sharks, and it just wasn’t enough.  Still, the work ethic is a good sign of things to come.  The Kings will look to work talented rookie Brayden Schenn into next year’s roster, and also replace depth players like Alexei Ponikarovsky with better fits for the team.  Many experts suggest the Kings will once again try to be big players in free agency.  You have to wonder though, at what point will people realize that Dean Lombardi just is not going to get land the big fish that way.  He has failed in three consecutive years, and his priority right now is getting Drew Doughty locked up long term.  Regardless, the future looks good for the Kings.

Under Contract

Dustin Penner (4.25) Anze Kopitar (6.8) Justin Williams (3.65)
Ryan Smyth (6.25) Brayden Schenn (3.14) Dustin Brown (3.175)
  Jarret Stoll (3.6)  
Kyle Clifford (0.87)   Scott Parse (0.9)

 

 

Willie Mitchell (3.5)

Jack Johnson (4.3575)

Rob Scuderi (3.4)

Matt Greene (2.95)

 

Davis Drewiske (0.6)

 

 

Jonathan Quick (1.8)

Jonathan Bernier (1.25)

Cap Hit: 50.4925

Cap Space: 11.7075

RFA: Drew Doughty, Wayne Simmonds, Alec Martinez, Brad Richardson, Trevor Lewis
UFA:  Michael Handzus, Alexei Ponikarovsky,  Peter Harrold

The Kings have some key resigns to look after first and foremost.  It is likely they would prefer to get Drew Doughty locked up before July 1st to avoid attracting any enormous offer sheets.  Wayne Simmonds should get a renewal not unlike Drew Stafford (2yrs/1.9 million per) Devin Setoguchi’s (1yr/1.85 million) contract.  Only Handzus is likely to get a look from the unrestricted class, but he will have to take a massive discount from the 4 million dollar contract he was previously on.  Ponikarovsky was a disaster as Frolov’s replacement.

Cap Reality: The Kings feel they are getting closer to being a true contender every year, and their ownership is likely willing to spent to the cap and beyond to bring Los Angeles a lengthy playoff run.

Prospect Growth

The Kings have one of, if not the strongest prospect pool in the league.  They are covered at pretty much every position.  Although Bernier is technically no longer a prospect, he and Quick will solidify the goaltending for years.  Behind Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, the Kings have Thomas Hickey, Slava Voynov and Derek Forbort.  At forward, they have some of the CHL’s top scorers in Brayden Schenn, and Tyler Toffoli.  They also have Andrei Loktionov and Oscar Moller doing solid work at the AHL level.  Some prospects, like Hickey for example, have been slow to develop, but the Kings still have an impressive top five.  Take a look at their progress over the last couple seasons:

Brayden Schenn (C) – 6’0”, 193 pounds, Age 20
2009/10: 59GP, 34G, 65A, 99P, 55PIM, +41 (WHL)
2010/11: 29GP, 22G, 35A, 57P, 25PIM, +19 (WHL)

Tyler Toffoli (RW) – 6’0”, 181 pounds, Age 19
2009/10: 65GP, 37G, 42A, 79P, 54PIM, +25 (OHL)
2010/11: 68GP, 57G, 51A, 108P, 33PIM, +44 (OHL)

Andrei Loktionov (C) – 5’10”, 180 pounds, Age 21
2009/10: 29GP, 9G, 15A, 24P, 12 PIM, +8 (AHL)
2010/11: 34GP, 8G, 23A, 31P, 6, PIM, +16 (AHL)
2010/11: 19GP, 4G, 3A, 7P, 2 PIM, +2 (NHL)

Thomas Hickey (D) – 5’10”. 182 pounds, Age 22
2009/10: 19GP, 1G, 5A, 6P, 12PIM, -4 (AHL)
2010/11: 77GP, 6G, 18A, 24P, 38PIM, +9 (AHL)

Slava Voynov (D) – 5’11”, 193 pounds, Age 21
2009/10: 79GP, 10G, 19A, 29P, 43PIM, 0 (AHL)
2010/11: 76Gp, 15G, 36A, 51P, 36PIM, +21 (AHL)

                The one point one might make against the Kings prospects is that the numbers can sometimes be misleading.  Schenn for example, while propped up by TSN and other major media outlets, was not overly impressive in the WHL this year.  His numbers were solid, but not unlike Dave Bolland’s junior numbers.  His playoff numbers were especially underwhelming.  He put up just 11 points in 10 games.  That sounds pretty impressive when you consider the scoring leaders in the NHL playoffs, but by comparison to a media whipping boy prospect such as Nazem Kadri (27 points in 12 games at the same age), Schenn is way off the mark.   Prospects in western markets that lack exposure tend to get their achievements noticed and their faults glossed over, and that is something Kings fans should be slightly wary of.

Areas of Concern

Second Line Center?

The Kings have a great 1st line center in Anze Kopitar, but are really missing an offensive, play-making style 2nd line center.  They rely a lot on grinding out goals and consistent hard work.  It is possible Brayden Schenn fills this void adequately next year, but the Kings may look around in the off-season to see what else is available, just in case Schenn needs a year in the minors.

Star Power and Pure Skill

It’s no secret Lombardi would love to add more skill to his line-up.  He has tried to land Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik and Ilya Kovalchuk in successive free agent pools.  He was forced to settle on Dustin Penner at the trade deadline.  That acquisition didn’t work out quite as expected.  Penner brought more of the same to a roster rich with big, power-forward types.    Lombardi needs to add someone with a little more dazzle and finesse to compliment the tough players he already has. 

Potential Solutions (Cameron’s Take)

UFA Targets

Brad Richards?

Everyone in the media seems to immediately count the Kings in the mix for landing Brad Richards.  However, as you can see from my table above, adding a 7-8.5 million dollar center will leave them little room to resign Doughty and Simmonds.  Doughty alone could be very costly, and eat up at least half their remaining cap space.  However, if the Kings plan to put Brayden Schenn in the AHL next year, and not make the jump to the NHL, then a Richards signing becomes a little more possible.  A lot will depend on how much faith Lombardi has in his prospects, but so far he has shown himself to be almost unwavering in this regard.  Don’t count on Richard signing a mega deal with the Kings.  Even if the Kings could make it work, would Richards kick Joe Neuwyndyk and the Stars while their down and sign with a divisional rival? 

Scottie Upshall

This could be the player that perfectly replaced Alexander Frolov.  He is a solid two-way winger with a little bit of skill in his game.  He would compliment the very North American group Lombardi has assembled quite nicely.  His hard work and enviable skating should endear him to the Kings coaching staff.  At the very least, he would be an upgrade on Alexei Ponikarovsky.  This is just the kind of under the radar signing Lombardi typically looks for.

 

Trade Targets

Alexander Semin

It would come as no surprise to anyone if the Capitals shipped Alex Semin out of Washington after signing a 1-year extension with the club.  He is heavily criticized for his lacklustre play and is often a source of frustration for his coach.  The Russian National team even refused to invite him to the World Championship due to his poor play in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Still, Semin is highly skilled, and would potentially provide that elite winger for Kopitar that has long evaded Lombardi.  The numbers don’t lie – Semin can put up massive goals and points.  I would suggest the Kings have enough heart (Smyth, Brown, Simmonds, Stoll) to overcome Semin’s sometimes cavalier play and make him a highly effective player once more.

Jeff Carter

If rumors are true that Jeff Carter is going to be the odd man out in Philadelphia, you can expect the Kings to be one of the few teams willing to invest significant assets into acquiring his 11-year contract.  The Kings have the prospects, picks, and maybe even the goalie (Bernier) to get this kind of trade down.  Carter would give the Kings a lethal one-two punch with Kopitar manning the first line.  I am sure Dean Lombardi will be watching the situation in Philadelphia very closely.

Someone on the Kings radar you think I missed?  Let me know.  Leave me a comment.

About these ads

12 Responses to Offseason Game Plan: Los Angeles Kings

  1. Waiting4LSC says:

    The Kings have periods where they look good and then fade. They have potential but never seem to maximise it. The talent may be there, but the results aren’t. My feeling is Lombardi is the weakest link.

  2. tron says:

    Great writeup Cameron. I would agree that Richards and Doughty would put them right against the cap. I agree on Simmonds at about 2. LA reminds me of St. Louis, a ton of young talen but can’t seem to get over that hump.
    Wonder if they will try and use one of their goalies as a trading chip.

  3. Jordan says:

    Good job. I would add in Weiss as possible trade market. Thats honestly my best guess

    • Oh, that’s a good one actually. Didn’t even think of him. Maybe I subconsciously want him to be a Duck, and prefer Anaheim over the Kings though…

  4. Staples says:

    The Kings are pretty much set defensively and in goal. Martinez will be re-signed at a very affordable price, and I suspect Drewiske will be traded for a pittance to make room for Voynov, Hickey or Muzzin (maybe even Andrew Campbell) as the seventh defenseman. Doughty hasn’t given any indication that he wants to sign a long contract, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs a 2-3 year deal at around $4M per year.

    The center position will be tricky problem for the Kings to solve this offseason. Putting Handzus aside for the moment (I don’t favor re-signing him anyway), we still have a logjam up the middle: Kopitar, Stoll, Lewis, Richardson, Schenn and Loktionov. Kopitar is our clear-cut first line center, so that one’s easy. Stoll is at best a makeshift second line center due to his utter lack of playmaking ability, and probably is best suited to third line duties where he can excel defensively. Neither Lewis nor Richardson have shown anything to suggest they will be top-six forwards, which leaves the two rookies, Schenn and Loktionov.
    As between the two, it’s difficult to project which of them will make the team next season. Obviously, Schenn has the more impressive pedigree; he also has the bigger, sturdier body that Terry Murray prefers, and he provides Murray with the flexibility to experiment with using him to center every line except the top line. There’s an argument to be made that he could benefit from some AHL seasoning, and because there’s no bonus cushion this year, he’s very expensive cap-wise if Murray doesn’t utilize him much. By contrast, Loktionov doesn’t have much more to prove at the AHL level and his cap hit is far lower. But the only spot in the lineup that fits him is as a second line center – like Moller, he’s too small for bottom-six duty and we’ve tried him at wing where he was totally invisible.

    Barring an offseason trade, my best guess is that Loktionov gets the first shot at centering the second line, with Schenn sent down to the AHL. It gives us more cap flexibility, and if he struggles, we can scratch him, move Stoll up to second, Lewis to third and Richardson to fourth. Anyhow, this logjam makes it less likely that we’d pursue another center either by trade or UFA signing. However, Brad Richards is the one notable exception in my mind, due to his ability to play left wing effectively. I think there’s a very common misconception about Kopitar around the league: he is NOT an especially accomplished playmaking center. His problem is that there’s not nearly enough shiftiness or deception in his game when he has the puck. He excels in Murray’s simplistic “get the puck in deep” offensive system, but if you force him to be more improvisational, he tends to disappoint more often that the casual Kings observer would expect. For that reason, I think Kopitar is better served not by putting a better sniper on his wing, but rather a better playmaker. And that’s where Brad Richards really fits the bill.

    Still, I’m not expecting Lombardi to sign Richards. The price in terms of the cap hit and the number of years will probably be prohibitive, but that’s what it costs to sign a top-flight UFA forward, particularly one who is also a bona fide first line centerman. There surely will be another team willing to overpay for his services. Perhaps Lombardi might opt for a blockbuster trade instead. What disappoints me is we’re loaded with goaltender and defensemen depth at a time when the market value of goaltenders is at or near an historic low, and good forward prospects are significantly more valuable than good defensemen prospects. On paper, it made good sense several years ago to rebuild this team from the net out, but now it’s substantially harder to parlay our surplus prospects for top-six help. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lombardi stands pat.

    • Great reply Staples. Glad I was pretty much in line with the thinking of a hardcore Kings fan. I think you’re being a tad generous on Doughty’s next contract. I can’t see him taking less than Dustin Byfuglien, Mike Green and other players who are arguably worse than he is (and in some cases, also on their 2nd contract).

      • Staples says:

        About Doughty, he’s been the subject of a raging debate among Kings fans lately. He clearly did not improve this past season. At best, you might argue he stayed at about the same overall level, but I think he regressed a bit. Based on his play, does he deserve to make more than $4M per season? Sure he does, even with all the glaring mistakes. But he’s a RFA about to enter his second contract. If Doughty wants a shorter term deal to preserve the option of negotiating a more lucrative third contract sooner rather than later, he won’t be offered nearly as much money this offseason. The reason Kopitar and Johnson carry fairly significant cap hits is because both agreed to concede quite a few UFA years. This could end up being the most contentious RFA negotiation we’ve had since Cammalleri.

        • Yea, I’m surprized Lombadi is choosing to wage this battle with Doughty if what you say is true and negotiations are going to be contentious. Of all the people to be difficult with, Doughty wouldn’t be my first choice. Lots of teams are going to be interested if he makes it to RFA. Think the Kings would match a 5 year deal at 7.8 million per? I think Doughty is worth the 2 1sts and a 2nd.

  5. Staples says:

    Credit to both sides for not negotiating in public, which leaves us fans mostly in the dark. What seems clear is that Lombardi is willing to discuss a shorter term contract or a longer term contract, largely at the player’s option. With the CBA expiration approaching, he’s willing to do shorter deals as well, to mitigate the risk of overcommitting in a long contract. Drew hasn’t said much. When asked about Johnson’s surprisingly lengthy extension, his response was something along the lines of “wow, that’s a really long time” — which some Kings fans have read to mean he doesn’t foresee being locked up for that many years. As for the possibility of contentious negotiations, that’s still a bit of conjecture on my part and other fans. Doughty is a demonstrably emotional and passionate player, but there are also signs of petulance from time to time. It’s said he doesn’t take criticism well, and that he was upset by what was said to him during his most recent exit interview and stormed out afterwards. So we’ll see. At any rate, I very much doubt Lombardi would expose Doughty to RFA offers (same with NJ and Parise, TB and Stamkos, etc.). He’d opt for arbitration instead and hope that terms are settled before the scheduled arbitration takes place.

  6. Yea, there is no issue with Tampa and LA taking Stamkos and Doughty to arbitration to settle their issues, but it gets a little murkier with Zach Parise and even Shea Weber. Both of them can become UFA’s after one more year of NHL service, so arbitration essentially sets them up to test the market next summer (when the cap will presumably take a considerable rise thanks to the NHL’s deal with NBC coming into effect). Both those clubs could then be easily outbid for their stars. However, it would give both of them a chance to move them at the deadline for the best return they can get. So the question becomes whether the compensation of an offer sheet is going to be better or worse than the deadline return. The deadline return is riskier, but potentially much better. Very interesting situations.

  7. Buchek8 says:

    Great article again, thanks.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.