Forward Blake Lizotte will be back in L.A. for another year. The Kings have announced that they have signed the impending restricted free agent to a one-year extension. It is a one-way, $800K deal for Lizotte, a decrease from the value of his entry-level contract but with more security. A 10.2(c) RFA, Lizotte had not accrued enough professional experience to even have the right to sign an offer sheet this summer, so Los Angeles held all of the leverage in negotiations, as displayed by the short-term, low-money “show me” contract.
Lizotte, 23, does have more to prove, though. An undrafted free agent out of St. Cloud State University, Lizotte was a star in the NCAA and left after just two years. However, his small stature may have worked at the college level but it has held him back in the pros. At 5’7″ and 175 pounds, Lizotte’s size is a concern, especially at the center position. He looked to be on his way to NHL success in 2019-20, his first full professional season, as he recorded 23 points in 65 games. He did miss five games due to injury, but that was not an abnormal total. This season however Lizotte took a major step backwards. He recorded just ten points in 41 games, well off of his rookie scoring rate and only on pace for 20 points in a full season. His ice time was slashed, his power play role was reduced, and he settled into a one-dimensional bottom-six spot. It didn’t help that he also missed 15 games due to injury or sickness, including the Kings’ final nine contests.
Heading into year three, Lizotte needs to show that he can be more consistent and won’t be pushed around by bigger opposition. L.A. is giving him a one-year deal to see if he can bounce back and show the promise of his rookie season, or if his size and lack of dynamic skill means that he is not a player who can be an NHL regular. Proving himself may be even harder next year; while Lizotte walked out of college and into a starting role on a depleted Kings roster, the team has vowed to add more talent this off-season and Lizotte may have to fight for starts, nevertheless ice time and power play opportunity.
While this move wasn’t necessary for the Kings ahead of the Expansion Draft, it does give them more flexibility. L.A. now has eight forwards who meet the exposure requirements, allowing them more protection choices if they elect to protect seven forwards and three defensemen. Lizotte himself could be protected, but if not his extension allows for someone like Brendan Lemieux or Austin Wagner to be protected when previously both needed to be exposed to meet the quota.