With training camp underway and puck drop on the new NHL season right around the corner, PHR continues to look at each team in-depth, with our focus today on the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Last season: 48-28-6 (102 points), 2nd place in the Pacific Division. Lost in first round vs. San Jose Sharks (4-1)
Cap Space Remaining: $513K according to Cap Friendly
Key Newcomers: D Tom Gilbert (free agency, Montreal Canadiens), C Michael Latta (free agency, Washington Capitals), RW Teddy Purcell (free agency, Florida Panthers), D Zach Trotman (free agency, Boston Bruins), G Jeff Zatkoff (free agency, Pittsburgh Penguins)
Key Departures: G Jhonas Enroth (free agency, Toronto Maple Leafs), C Vincent Lecavalier (retirement), LW Milan Lucic (free agency, Edmonton Oilers), D Jamie McBain (free agency, Arizona Coyotes), D Luke Schenn (free agency, Arizona Coyotes), D Jeff Schultz (free agency, Anaheim Ducks), RW Kris Versteeg (PTO, Edmonton Oilers)
Player to Watch: Tanner Pearson – The Kings worked hard to re-sign Milan Lucic, but their cap situation put them in a difficult situation to be a competitive suitor on the open market. Lucic is now gone, as is Kris Versteeg, from a team that has also lost Justin Williams and Mike Richards since their run of two Stanley Cups in three seasons just a few short years ago. Dustin Brown is no longer the offensive force he once was, and has been relegated to a bottom-six role. A once-prolific offense is now very dependent on too few players, namely Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, Tyler Toffoli, and (the injured) Jeff Carter. Someone needs to step up in 2016-17, and the top candidate is the young winger Pearson. Coming up through the system with Toffoli, Pearson has watched his team mate break out, while his own development has been slower. After a solid 36-point campaign in 2015-16, including being one of the few bright spots of the Kings’ disappointing playoff exit, Pearson appears ready to have his own “big leap” season ahead. The Kings will need it, as they will again face a tough challenge in the Pacific against the rival San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks.
Key Storyline: With Jonathan Quick in net and one of the best pairs in the league, Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin, leading the defense, the Kings finished third in the league in goals against in 2015-16. However, their offense was only middle-of-the-pack, and that was with Milan Lucic and his 55 points. No one doubts that L.A. will be a playoff team in 2016-17, but will they be a legitimate contender if their offense is below average? It will be difficult considering their tough divisional competition. The Kings had losing records against both the Sharks and Ducks (2-3 against both) last season, and then San Jose dominated the Kings in the playoffs, limiting them to just 11 goals in a quick five-game exit. The Sharks went all the way to the Stanley Cup final, and then added talent to their forward core through free agency and prospect development, whereas the Kings brought in only Teddy Purcell. If L.A. can’t find some unexpected production on offense this season, third place in the Pacific seems like the ceiling for the Kings.