Free agency is a month away and teams are looking ahead to when it opens. There will be several impact players set to hit the open market in July while many teams have key restricted free agents to re-sign as well. We continue our look around the NHL with an overview of the free agent situation for the Los Angeles Kings.
Key Restricted Free Agents
F Gabriel Vilardi – Spending much of his 2021-22 season split between the Kings and their minor league affiliate, the Ontario Reign, this season became a pivotal year for the former 11th overall selection. With added pressure entering this season, Vilardi came through in a big way for Los Angeles.
Although losing some games to injury, Vilardi posted 23 goals and 18 assists in 63 games, finishing tied for fourth on the team in terms of goal-scoring. Defensively, Vilardi also held a positive advantage with the Kings, garnering 23 takeaways while only succumbing to 16 takeaways.
Aside from the topical numbers, Vilardi also aided Los Angeles with a 59.5 Corsi For %, showing that his deeper possession numbers progressed as well. Given the Kings’ salary cap situation, Vilardi may have to take a bridge deal, but he appears to be a player that Los Angeles may want to keep around for some time.
F Rasmus Kupari – Another first-round selection for the Kings (taken a year after Vilardi), Kupari has failed to break out in a large way. In 66 games for Kupari this season, he scored three goals and 12 assists, averaging about 10 minutes of ice time per game. Kupari has become a more physical player in Los Angeles, but he will need to raise his offensive prowess to be considered for a bigger role.
Other RFAs: F Jaret Anderson-Dolan, F Zack MacEwen, F Lias Andersson, F Aidan Dudas, F Samuel Fagemo, F Tyler Madden, F Nathan Schnarr, F Akil Thomas, F Taylor Ward, D Tobias Bjornfot, D Tobie Paquette-Bisson, G David Hrenak, G Jacob Ingham, G Matt Villalta
Key Unrestricted Free Agents
D Vladislav Gavrikov – Acquired in a trade deadline deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Gavrikov was exactly what Los Angeles needed heading into the playoffs. In 20 regular season games, he managed to score three goals and six assists but also managed a rating of +12 in an approximate average of 21 minutes a game.
In mid-May, it was reported that the Kings and Gavrikov were closing in on a contract extension, but little has been released after the fact. If Los Angeles and Gavrikov are able to come to an extension agreement, they will have added a formidable shutdown defenseman to their back end for the foreseeable future.
G Joonas Korpisalo – Also acquired in the Gavrikov trade at the deadline, Korpisalo finished the regular season with a 7-3-1 record, earning a .921 SV% and a 2.13 GAA after the trade. Korpisalo immediately became the starting goaltender the Kings desperately needed throughout the year but ultimately failed to help Los Angeles move past the first round of the 2023 playoffs.
In six playoff games, Korpisalo held a 2-4-0 record, only mustering a .892 SV% and a 3.77 GAA. As the playoffs conclude, and the Kings are determining their starting goaltender for next season, Korpisalo’s playoff performance may have scared Los Angeles away from making any future investment.
D Alexander Edler – If Edler does enter this year’s free agent market, he will likely have to settle for a league minimum salary. The longtime NHL veteran did the same last summer, signing a 1-year, $750K extension in Los Angeles, with another $750K available in performance bonuses.
Edler scored two goals and nine assists for the Kings this season and received just under 15 minutes of ice time per game, the lowest since his rookie season in the 2006-07 season. If Edler does continue his career, it will likely be with the Kings.
Other UFAs: None
Projected Cap Space
Heading into the offseason, the Kings are expected to have around $7.5MM available in cap space. If they do extend Vilardi and Gavrikov, those two contracts should eat into most of that remaining figure.
If Los Angeles is looking to make an addition, they will have to move out salary in some manner. With a loaded prospect system, if the Kings do move out a player in an effort to create salary relief, they are one of a few playoff teams to be able to fill that hole rather cheaply. As their young players continue to grow, there is a real possibility of Los Angeles returning a very similar team to the ice in 2023-24.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract information courtesy of CapFriendly.