Some progress appears to be getting made when it comes to contract talks between the Kings and RFA center Adrian Kempe. GM Rob Blake told reporters last week (including Jon Rosen of LA Kings Insider) that things are getting close while Lisa Dillman of The Athletic adds (Twitter link) that it will wind up being a short-term bridge deal. The 22-year-old saw his output dip last season from 16 goals and 37 points to just 12 and 26 respectively so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Los Angeles isn’t ready to commit a long-term contract to him just yet. While he’s currently unsigned, there will be at least one Kempe in training camp for the Kings after they signed his brother Adrian Kempe early in free agency this summer.
A familiar name is back in the NHL, at least temporarily. Sportsnet’s Rick Dhaliwal reports that veteran forward Lance Bouma has signed a professional tryout offer with the Los Angeles Kings. Bouma missed almost all of last season due to a knee injury, but did suit up for three games with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss NLA. He’s hoping to break back into the NHL via PTO with a team that could use the depth up front.
Bouma, 29, last played in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017-18. It was his first pro season outside of the Calgary Flames organization and it didn’t go as expected. Bouma played in 53 games with the Blackhawks, but also in 20 games with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs, his first minor league action since 2012-13. Bouma recorded just nine points with Chicago, but that actually put him on a full-season pace that was better than all but two of his prior NHL campaigns. Bouma is largely considered a bottom-six defensive forward, as evidence by his career numbers, but served the role well in Calgary. He also teased his offensive ability in 2014-15 with a career-high 34 points in 78 games.
It may be difficult to know exactly what you’re getting in Bouma, especially coming after a missed season. That makes him an ideal PTO candidate and a player that could surprise in L.A. training camp. The Kings can see whether Bouma’s surgically repaired knee is a cause for concern or, alternatively, if the year off has given him some extra zip to his skating. Still on the right side of 30 and an experienced two-way forward who has flashed some offensive ability, Bouma could be an intriguing fit for the Kings if healthy. The team has just nine forwards signed to one-way deals at this point and there is expected to be ample competition in camp. Bouma picked the right place to throw his hat in the ring.
The NHL’s recent decision to decline their early opt-out clause from the current Collective Bargaining Agreement was a step in the right direction to labor talks, but there’s still work to be done, with the NHLPA next up to make a decision. Fortunately, it seems both sides are open to doing whatever it takes to avoid a work stoppage. The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell reports that both sides seem willing to extend the players’ union’s upcoming September 15th opt-out deadline to allow for talks to continue. Campbell writes that negotiations on a CBA extension are well on their way and neither side wants to see progress stalled by a deadline. He believes that the NHLPA could be given a few extra months, perhaps into early 2020, before they would have to make a decision on their opt-out clause. An extension on that deadline could give the talks enough time to lead to an agreement on a CBA extension, pushing the current expiry date from 2022 to 2025. It would also be an act of good faith on the part of the owners, who clearly stand to benefit more from an extension on the current CBA than do the players, who continue to be frustrated by escrow terms. With two weeks to go until that existing deadline, an official announcement on a possible deadline extension should be coming sooner rather than later, if it does in fact happen.
- Rumors emerged yesterday that former NHL forward Nikita Scherbak had not done enough in training camp and the preseason with the KHL’s Avangard Omsk and that his recently-signed contract was in jeopardy of being terminated. However, the KHL regular season began today and Scherbak was in the lineup as Omsk snapped a nine-game losing streak against rival CSKA Moscow. Granted, in a match-up chock full of former NHLers, Scherbak only served as a substitute for Avangard and played little role in the win. He has a ways to go to earn the trust of Bob Hartley, also an NHL vet, but TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that, for now, the team does not plan to buy out his contract. Scherbak signed a three-year, $3.6MM contract with Omsk in June after dropping from 26 NHL games in 2017-18 to just eight last season. A 2014 first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Scherbak failed to produce at the NHL level over four pro seasons, recording eight points in 37 combined games with the Habs and Los Angeles Kings, and took his very first opportunity to return to Europe. Considering how things have gone thus far in the KHL, it seems unlikely that the 23-year-old will ever make his way back across the Atlantic.
- Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane is being honored for his achievements well before the end of his career. Ryan Pyette of The London Free Press reports that Kane will have his number retired by the OHL’s London Knights this season. GM Mark Hunter confirmed that Kane’s No. 88, the same number he wears in the NHL, will be lifted into the rafters in London on January 17th. Kane, now 30, only played one season with the Knights, having graduated from the U.S. National Team Development Program. However, in that illustrious 2006-07 campaign, Kane put up unthinkable numbers, recording 145 points in just 58 games (2.5 points per game), and another 31 points in the postseason. His efforts made him an easy choice for the Blackhawks with the first overall pick in 2007. Kane becomes the ninth player to have his number retired by the storied junior franchise, joining a list of other familiar NHL names like Rob Ramage, Dino Ciccarelli, Darryl Sittler, Brendan Shanahan, Brad Marsh, Rick Nash, Dave Bolland, and Corey Perry.
Former NHL star Andrei Markov expects to play in the NHL next season and right now the question for the 40-year-old Russian is where he might play. However, one thing is quite clear. He has no intention of signing a player tryout (PTO).
Talking to Markov’s North American agent, Allen Walsh, TSN’s Melnick in the Afternoon, the agent made it clear that there are five teams that have expressed interest in the veteran blueliner’s services and he expects to sign a contract somewhere before training camp.
“Andrei and I have never even discussed a PTO and I’m expecting and I’m assuming that he’ll be signed to a contract before the start of training camp,” said Walsh. “We don’t feel any time pressure. I would expect that there will be something done before the start of training camp based on my discussions so far.”
The agent also made it clear that Markov wants to play on a winning team that has a chance to win a Stanley Cup title.
“He’s certainly looking to play on a team where there is a role for him,” said Walsh. “We believe that he can really help any team’s power play and that he can contribute meaningful 5-on-5 minutes. He can serve on as a veteran presence in the room and he’s always been known as a bit of a quiet guy, but he’s also been known as a quiet leader. He’s always been in amazing physical shape his entire career and he’s in great shape right now. He’s been training all summer. He’s looking to play for a team that has the potential to contend. He would love to win and be part of a winning season … He has a lot to offer to a team and he’s made it clear to me from the first minute that he called me that he desperately wants to play in the NHL next year.”
- While many players look at different avenues to improve their game, The Athletic’s Marc Antoine Godin (subscription required) writes that Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin has spent much of his summer in the video room analyzing his game in hopes of breaking his inconsistent play. Drouin reached out to assistant coach Dominique Ducharme and the two have been breaking down his game in hopes of unlocking the next level of his game. While possessed with incredible skills, Drouin has struggled to take his game to the next level like everyone expected him to do back when the Tampa Bay Lightning took him with the third-overall pick in 2013. While he did score 18 goals and tie a career-high of 53 points, many feel that he can do much better, especially if he can show more consistency. Perhaps the most interesting discovery was that Drouin wasn’t attacking through the inside of the slot often enough.
- Former Los Angeles Kings forward Nikita Scherbak might be looking for work once again. The 23-year-old forward signed a three-year deal with Avangard Omsk back in June, but according to a Russian website, omskinform.ru (translation required), Scherbak has been unimpressive in pre-season tournaments and the team may look to trade or even terminate his contract. Scherbak appeared in 37 NHL games, including eight with Los Angeles last season, but has not been able to retain a full-time role and didn’t even dominate in the AHL last season, scoring just 11 points in 23 games. If released, the 23-year-old could be looking for a new team.
Kings GM Rob Blake met with reporters on Friday to discuss quite a few things about the team with their rookie tournament and training camp on the horizon. Here is a listing of some of the things that were discussed (all Twitter links via LA Kings Insider’s Jon Rosen unless otherwise noted).
- 2017 first-round pick Gabriel Vilardi is progressing in his rehab but will not be on the ice at training camp. He played in just four games with AHL Ontario last season before being shut down due to recurring back injuries. Vilardi’s entry-level contract has slid the last two years but will now begin no matter what in 2019-20. Blake allowed for a small amount of optimism, stating that the center is “farther along in rehab than any part in last 12 months”.
- Blake acknowledged that they took a look at UFA defenseman Ben Hutton early on in free agency but downplayed the possibility that they will sign him. Rosen adds that the look wasn’t a particularly extensive one. Hutton remains one of the more intriguing UFAs left as he’s coming off a decent season with Vancouver that saw him collect 20 points in 69 games while averaging over 22 minutes a night. However, salary arbitration concerns resulted in the Canucks non-tendering him back in June.
- One defenseman that they do intend to sign is defenseman Cole Hults. He was a fifth-round pick (134th overall) of the team back in 2017 and is coming off a strong season at Penn State with 28 points in 39 games. Los Angeles will wait for him to complete his junior year though. They’ve shown a willingness to burn the first year of an entry-level deal quickly on college players in the past and Hults looks like a candidate for that to happen again.
- Winger Tyler Toffoli was in trade speculation at the deadline last season but ultimately stayed put. He’s now entering the final year of his contract which means contract extension talks can begin. Blake indicated (via Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period) that he’s in no rush to discuss a new deal with the 27-year-old, who had just 13 goals in 82 games last season and that he expects that the situation will work itself out later in the year.
Connor Brown may seem like just one of a number of additions the Ottawa Senators have made this off-season, but it turns out that the team had their eye on the veteran forward for some time and have high expectations for him this year. Speaking with Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Senators GM Pierre Dorion states that his interest in Brown began long before the team hired former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant D.J. Smith as their new head coach and belongs in a separate category from familiar additions Nikita Zaitsev, Ron Hainsey, and Tyler Ennis. While that group of veterans was brought in from Toronto to provide leadership and stability in a young locker room under a first-time NHL head coach, Dorion sees a larger role for Brown. “We just feel he was someone on a very skilled team that probably didn’t get the offensive looks he would have gotten on a lot of other teams,” Dorion states, suggesting “We feel he’s going to get back to being the 20-goal scorer he was in his rookie year.” Brown did hit 20 goals, as well as 36 points, in a breakout rookie campaign three years ago, but his goal scoring totals have dropped precipitously since then: 14 goals in 2017-18 and 8 goals in 2018-19. Brown will certainly have the opportunity to improve his numbers on an Ottawa roster that lack many established scorers, but Dorion’s projection of 20+ goals may be lofty for a player who has looked comfortable as a 30-point, two-way forward over the last few years.
- Akil Thomas is on the Los Angeles Kings’ roster for their upcoming rookie tournament and is poised to compete for an NHL roster spot in training camp. However, even though their intention was to honor the young forward, his junior team made it clear that they don’t expect him to break camp with the Kings this year. The OHL’s Niagara Ice Dogs have named Thomas their captain for the 2019-20 season, the team already announced, although Thomas is still weeks away from pushing for a place with the Kings. Thomas more than earned the role with his play last year, recording 102 points in 63 games for a powerhouse team that has since lost the likes of Jason Robertson, Jack Studnicka, and Ben Jones to the pros. Nevertheless, even those dominant numbers don’t guarantee the 2018 second-round pick a role with L.A. this season. The Kings sport an impressive group of prospects competing for few openings. Recent high picks Rasmus Kupari and Jaret Anderson-Dolan probably have an edge on Thomas if the Kings opt to add a rookie forward to the starting lineup, likely leading Niagara to safely assume that their star forward will be back this season.
- After two years on the job, Scott Gomez has decided to leave the New York Islanders coaching staff, Newsday’s Andrew Gross reports. The team has confirmed the move and stressed that Gomez was not fired. Gomez was originally hired by Doug Weight, but served under Barry Trotz last season as well. Gomez is remembered most for his dynamic offensive play early in his pro career with the New Jersey Devils. It could be that his philosophy on offense didn’t mesh with Trotz’ ultra-conservative scheme, prompting him to seek a better fit elsewhere, but there has been no word as to the reasoning behind Gomez’ departure. If Gomez wants to continue coaching, there is undoubtedly a place for him in the pro or junior ranks.
Carolina Hurricanes prospect Stelio Mattheos will not be taking part in the team’s training camp this year, as he instead will be completing treatment for testicular cancer. Mattheos was diagnosed in June and has already undergone surgery and multiple courses of chemotherapy. He is expected to return to full health. The 20-year old forward released a statement through the team:
I’d like to thank everyone who reached out to offer support and well wishes since the diagnosis. I’ve had amazing support from my friends, family, teammates, coaches and all of the hockey organizations I’ve been a part of, including the Hurricanes, Checkers and Brandon Wheat Kings.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my surgeon, Dr. Sabeer Rehsia, and all of the staff at Grace Hospital, as well as Dr. Piotr Czaykowski at Cancer Care Manitoba and all of the nurses on the chemotherapy ward.
The third-round pick from 2017 got his first taste of professional hockey earlier this year when he joined the Charlotte Checkers for their stretch drive and playoff run that eventually ended in a Calder Cup championship. The former WHL standout was expected to compete for a bigger role with Charlotte this season but will obviously be taking care of his health first.
- Speaking of missing part of training camp, alarm bells went up today when Connor McDavid decided not to take part in the annual BioSteel camp in Toronto. Edmonton Oilers fans can breathe however as McDavid explained to reporters including Mark Masters of TSN that he has not suffered any setbacks in his recovery from a knee injury suffered late in the season. The Oilers star has been on the ice for the last couple of months and is working towards his goal of being on the ice at the beginning of training camp next month.
- Mikko Rantanen doesn’t have a contract yet and will likely not be attending Colorado Avalanche training camp without one, but that doesn’t mean he’s not on the ice. The Storhamar Dragons in Norway tweeted today that Rantanen has been skating with them. Unsigned restricted free agents often find a place to skate and train while their contracts are negotiated, like we saw with William Nylander throughout the first part of last season. Mitch Marner recently was connected to the Zurich Lions, and many of the other names on the RFA list will likely follow suit if their deals aren’t completed soon.
Despite missing the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, the Vancouver Canucks decided to extend GM Jim Benning today. The reasons for that are complicated—and obviously do not hinge entirely on his postseason record—just as they were when the Minnesota Wild made the decision to fire Paul Fenton just 14 months into his tenure with the team. The inner workings of an NHL front office are almost never made public (unless there is an intrepid reporter like Michael Russo of The Athletic who gets the incredible story), and it is hard to see why some decisions are made.
Still, even the most casual fan can see the seat of specific executives and coaches heating up. When the Edmonton Oilers decided to move on from Peter Chiarelli during another disappointing season, it didn’t come as much of a surprise. On the other hand, it was easy to see why the Carolina Hurricanes recently locked up Don Waddell after he interviewed for another job.
Looking around the league, who is next? Which GM will be let go, either this year or next summer?
It might be easy to look at the teams that have struggled recently, but many of them have replaced their top hockey operations executive over the last few seasons. The Oilers brought in Ken Holland to change the culture in Edmonton, while Steve Yzerman returned to the Detroit Red Wings to bring a new voice to a stagnant team. Florida has gone through quite a bit of turmoil in the front office since their ownership changed but Dale Tallon now seems to be entrenched as a veteran leader.
There are others though that may not be so lucky. The Ottawa Senators are heading in a new direction after shedding their previous core, but if the young talent doesn’t develop as hoped Pierre Dorion could be held responsible. John Chayka was the youngest GM in history when he took over the Arizona Coyotes in 2016, but they still haven’t made the playoffs under his watch and now have new ownership of their own. Jason Botterill was expected to have success in Buffalo after finding so much of it in Pittsburgh, but the Sabres haven’t been able to build a full roster around Jack Eichel despite some outstanding individual players.
Nothing is certain when it comes to front offices however. Cast your vote below and explain just why you think they’ll be the first to go!
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*We’ve used Kelly McCrimmon as the Vegas GM, though he won’t officially take that title from George McPhee until September
Reporters including Michael Chambers of the Denver Post caught up with Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic today at his celebrity golf tournament, and asked him about the ongoing contract negotiations with Mikko Rantanen. There were recently reports that things had barely started between the two sides, but Sakic confirmed he had personally agreed with Rantanen that a long-term deal is the way to go.
With both sides on the same page regarding term, there is one less thing to worry about in negotiations. Obviously salary is now the biggest question and you have to wonder if Rantanen’s side (and maybe the Avalanche too) want to wait and see where some of the other high-priced restricted free agents come in. At the very least, the fact that Rantanen wants to sign long-term in Colorado is a positive sign and one that should excite Avalanche fans.
- Former NHL defenseman Denis Grebeshkov will join his old coach behind the bench in the KHL this season. He has been hired as an assistant to Craig MacTavish, who was the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers when the Russian experienced the most NHL success. Originally selected 18th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2002, the left-handed defenseman played several seasons for Edmonton and recorded 39 points in 2008-09. MacTavish left the Oilers this offseason to pursue an opportunity coaching Yaroslavl in the KHL.
- The Kings have confirmed to Jon Rosen that prospect Johan Sodergran will play in North America for the 2019-20 season, coming over from the SHL. Sodergran signed his entry-level contract in June after the Kings selected him in the sixth round in 2018 and comes with a fair amount of buzz after a successful season with Linkoping HC. Though he finished the year with just 13 points in 42 games, competing at all in that league at such a young age is an impressive feat. Sodergran also suited up for Sweden at the World Juniors last year and is expected to play for the Ontario Reign of the AHL despite not turning 20 until November.
Navigating the salary cap is one of the more important tasks for any GM. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2019-20 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Los Angeles Kings
Current Cap Hit: $72,759,394 (under the $81.5MM Upper Limit)
F Nikolai Prokhorkin (one year, $925K)
F Blake Lizotte (two years, $925K)
F Carl Grundstrom (one year, $925K)
F Rasmus Kupari (three years, $894K)
F Gabriel Vilardi (three years, $894K)
D Kale Clague (two years, $762K)
F Austin Wagner (one year, $759K)
D Sean Walker (one year, $745K)
With the Kings rebuild in full swing, Los Angeles will be giving plenty of opportunities to their younger players to break out. The team finally was able to convince Prokhorkin to come over from the KHL this offseason. The fourth round pick from 2012 has scored 16 or more goals in four of the past six seasons, including career highs in goals (20) and points (41). The question is whether the 25-year-old can contribute at the NHL level, although the Kings will give him every chance to prove himself. Los Angeles also has high hopes for the 5-foot-9 Lizotte, who the team signed as an undrafted free agent in April out of St. Cloud State where he was one of college’s most offensively skilled players scoring 42 points in 37 games last season. The Kings also have high hopes for Grunstrom, who the team acquired from Toronto in the Jake Muzzin deal. In a brief audition of 15 games with the Kings, the 21-year-old tallied five goals and could prove to be a valuable addition.
The team might also get some help from some of their most recent top picks as Kupari, the team’s 2018 first-round pick, is expected to attend training camp in hopes of earning a spot on the Kings’ opening night roster. The 19-year-old had a breakout season in the Liiga last year, posting 12 goals and 33 points in 43 games. The team still has high hopes for Vilardi, the team’s top pick in 2017, who has missed most of two season with a back injury. With no updates on his status, there are many concerns whether he will ever be healthy enough to be a star in the league. However, if he can prove himself healthy, he could immediately vault himself into a top-six role.
With few veteran options on defense, the team has openings for a couple of their young prospects, including Clague, who spent last season in the AHL and could challenge for a spot this year. Walker had some limited success in 39 games last year, but will have to hold off a number of defensemen to retain his spot.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Tyler Toffoli ($4.6MM, UFA)
D Derek Forbort ($2.53MM, UFA)
F Trevor Lewis ($2MM, UFA)
F Kyle Clifford ($1.6MM, UFA)
F Sheldon Rempal ($874K, RFA)
D Paul Ladue ($825K, UFA)
D Joakim Ryan ($725K, UFA)
F Mario Kempe ($700K, UFA)
G Jack Campbell ($675K, UFA)
D Kurtis MacDermid ($675K, RFA)
Toffoli looked to be on a course to have a big career after a 31-goal season back in 2015-16. However, he hasn’t come that close to equaling that mark since then. He followed that season up with 16 goals, followed by 24 in 2017-18 and then plummeted to just 13 goals last season, his lowest total since his rookie campaign. With one year remaining, the team may be looking to trade off the 27-year-old at the trade deadline as he might be better off with a change of scenery. However, the Kings hope to get him off on the right foot in 2019-20 to increase his trade value. Lewis could also be a trade candidate. The 32-year-old dealt with injuries and appeared in just 44 games last season, but if the veteran could bounce back, he could be a solid trade candidate for depth.
While not an offensive defenseman, Forbort has suddenly become a veteran on a young blueline. The 27-year-old has averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time in three straight seasons and is considered to be an important part of the team’s top four. However, the team will have to decide whether he is worthy of a long-term deal as he will be hitting unrestricted free agency for the first time next summer. Perhaps the bargain of the group is goaltender Jack Campbell, who had a breakout season last year when he had to fill in because of injuries. Campbell, who was once the 11th-overall pick back in 2010, looks to have finally figured things out in net, finishing the season with a 2.30 GAA and a .928 save percentage in 31 appearances and could be interesting to watch as the trade deadline nears.
Two Years Remaining
The team was the highest bidder on Kovalchuk during last year’s offseason as they offered the veteran scorer a three-year deal. Unfortunatley, that deal doesn’t look to have worked out as the veteran struggled early and then dealt with injuries. He finished the season with 16 goals and 32 points, but that was way below the production that the Kings had hoped for when they opted to give him a $6.25MM per year deal. The veteran clashed with coaches and often found himself on the bottom-six. Kovalchuk is hoping to rebound as the Kings failed to find a taker this offseason and can only hope that the 36-year-old still has some gas left in the tank.
The team has one of the most reliable defensemen in Martinez, who could be a prime trade candidate and was often brought up in trade talks a year ago until the team moved out Muzzin. While his offense has slipped, he has been a solid top-four defenseman with the Kings for years, finishing with just a minus-two rating, despite the team’s dismal year.
Three Years Remaining
The team still has a pair of difficult contracts that it is still paying for. Brown, who signed an eight-year, $47MM contract back in 2013, looked like a bust early on in the deal as the veteran struggled to score for a number of years, four of which where he tallied 15 goals or less. However, the 34-year-old found some of those offensive skills again with a 28-goal campaign in 2017-18 and then 22 more last season. If he can keep that up, the team might not complain as much that they are paying a 34-year-old close to $6MM per season.
After dealing with injuries for most of 2017-18, the Kings were hoping to see Carter, one of the team’s leaders, return to form. However, that wasn’t the case as the 34-year-old, who signed an 11-year, $58MM contract back in 2010, posted just 13 goals and 33 points. The team needs the veteran to find his game as his contract has become challenging to move. There were rumors that the Kings were working on a deal to send Carter to Arizona during the offseason, but those talks ended after the Coyotes acquired Phil Kessel instead.
Four Or More Years Remaining
One contract that received quite a bit of criticism was the deal that the Kings handed to Doughty in 2018. However, that deal just kicked in now and after a disappointing campaign last season, that deal is already looking even worse. Despite averaging 26:36 of ice time, the No. 1 defender saw his offensive numbers drop and saw his defensive numbers plummet as he finished in the minus for just the third time in his career at a whopping minus-34. Now 29, the Kings will be forced to pay him until he’s 37 years old, and if the veteran can’t rebound this season, could be a long eight years to be paying a player who makes $11MM per year.
While it was a disastrous year throughout the lineup, Kopitar’s numbers were also a disappointment after he posted a 35-goal season in 2017-18 and was among the NHL leaders in points with 92. He saw those numbers drop to just 22 goals and 60 points and the team will need to see their leader bounce back as they still have five more years of their star under contract. Quick was another player who saw his numbers drop off. The veteran, who has been the fixture to the team’s defense, struggled with injuries, but even when on the ice, the 33-year-old put up a 3.38 GAA and a .888 save percentage in 46 games and didn’t look anything like the superstar goaltender of the past. The team might consider moving him with some quality goalies in the system, but with those numbers the team isn’t likely to give him away at the moment.
D Dion Phaneuf ($2.19MM in 2019-20; $4.06MM in 2020-21; $1.06MM in 2021-22 & 2022-23)
F Mike Richards ($1.32MM in 2019-20)
Still To Sign
The team must sign Kempe, who has showed flashes of potential as a top-six player, but still finished with just 12 goals, down from the 16 he scored in 2017-18. The team brought in his brother, Mario, in hopes of adding a family element, which they hope will help impact his game on a positive level, but the team believes that Kempe could break out at some point, preferably sooner than later. With no arbitration, however, the two sides are still looking for a suitable contract between the two sides.
Best Value: Martinez
Worst Value: Doughty
This is an important year in the team’s rebuilding project, but more than almost any team in the league, the Kings are just hoping to see multiple players rebound and bounce back. A good performance by any player could make it easier for the team to trade off assets at the trade deadline and move that rebuilding stage forward even quicker. However, another season of poor play could send the rebuild back a bit. The especially need to see their core players return to form as players like Kopitar and Doughty must prove that their expensive deals aren’t going to be nightmares this quickly.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.