In most NHL cities, July 1st is equivalent to Christmas morning. Fans across North America get to wake up and hear all about the players headed to their town, ready to put on the sweater of their local team, and bringing hope for the next season.
In Los Angeles, it’s a bit of a waiting game right now. As mentioned repeatedly since last December, the Kings organization is on a path to recreate the roster. That said, the process is a slow burn and has left many on social media asking, ‘Why didn’t the Kings sign this player?’ or ‘Should they go after this guy?’
Simply put, the Kings have too many players right now. That’s why they aren’t chasing down all the big names (or even the medium names) fans keep asking about.
We wrote about the problem at forward a few months ago. And it should be mandatory reading for Kings fans – especially those irked that the team didn’t re-sign Brandon Leipsic.
The problems on defense aren’t much better.
Even after Phaneuf buyout, Kings have Doughty, Forbort, Martinez on D.
Leaving 8 guys fighting for final 4 spots – Walker, Brickley, Roy, Clague, LaDue, MacDermid, Anderson, Phillips.
Assuming Anderson and Phillips start the season in AHL (which is likely IMO), still too many.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 15, 2019
For the sake of continuing the conversation, let’s project out what the Kings opening night roster could look like on October 12, 2019…
NOTE: You can debate the line combos and D pairings below; that’s not really the most important point.
This configuration of a 23-man roster takes up $76.5M of cap space (after including penalties the Kings are paying next season for terminating Mike Richards’ contract and buying out Dion Phaneuf).
Salary Cap of $81.5 M (0.5% Growth Factor)
· Adjusted Midpoint of $70.9M
· Salary Floor of $60.2M
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 22, 2019
With the 2018-19 NHL salary cap limit set at $81.5M, that leaves GM Rob Blake about 5M to play with… assuming the Kempe, Iafallo, and Amadio contracts come in where we estimated above.
– What about the trades for Quick and Carter? It takes two to tango and the Kings simply haven’t found a good match. We discussed the situation here.
– What’s the goaltending situation in Ontario? Until something happens with the NHL roster, Cal Petersen is going to be starting in the AHL. Prospect Matt Villalta could back him up. However, they may slide a veteran goalie in there and let Villalta start the season with their TBD ECHL club.
– Waivers, waivers, and more waivers. Get used to hearing about waivers a lot during training camp and over the first half of the season. Players who don’t require waivers (i.e. Jaret Anderson-Dolan) can be shuttled back and forth between the NHL and AHL at will. Players who are out of waiver options (i.e. Kurtis MacDermid) are more likely to start the year with the big club, for fear of losing them to another team without any compensation in return. There are also training camp trades as an option – especially if somebody on another team suffers an injury, thus creating a need for that club.
– Top defensive prospect Kale Clague was set to get an NHL call-up late last season, but was injured before it happened. He’ll make a push in camp. However, he’s more likely to start the season in Ontario – again, more because he doesn’t need waivers to go down.
– Sean Walker and Matt Roy are also exempt from waivers, thus you can swap out either of those two players with Clague ($766,666 cap hit) or Daniel Brickley (expected to be signed for about $1M soon) and essentially accomplish the same thing from a cap construction standpoint.
– More on Walker and Roy. They start out the season in OK waiver shape. Things will get tricky soon after. Once Walker has played 21 NHL games, he’s no longer waiver exempt. Ditto for Roy after 45 more NHL games.
– Among the top defensive prospects, first-year pros Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, and Marcus Phillips are all highly regarded, yet ticketed for the AHL. One of them would really have to jump up and grab — i.e. leapfrog the guys mentioned in the paragraph above — to see action with the Kings earlier than January.
– At forward, guys like Rasmus Kupari and Jaret Anderson-Dolan are both on inexpensive Entry Level Contracts that also don’t require waivers. Like with the blueline trip above, expect the next wave of Kings forwards to get some AHL seasoning before skating in real NHL games. If either of them made the big club out of camp, that would most likely come at the expense of Carl Grundstrom, Matt Luff, or Austin Wagner. They are the only three forwards we have penciled into the lineup who can be sent down to Ontario without waivers. Therefore the Kings, can swap out any of these players without risking another team getting a crack at them on the waiver wire.
– If you’re looking for one wild card in all of this, keep an eye on Blake Lizotte. Signed as a UFA out of college a few months ago, he was said to be one of the real bright spots in Development Camp last month. We have him targeted for Ontario. However, once again, he could be interchanged with one of those three forwards who don’t need waivers if coach Todd McLellan takes a liking to him in camp and wants his speed in the lineup.
Your LA Kings update for 7/1…
As noted previously, team is in the market for bottom pairing left D. Preferably on an inexpensive, short-term deal.
They’re also searching for some offensive depth in AHL Ontario. Zack Mitchell is not scheduled to return. Matt Moulson still TBD.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 1, 2019
– The two signings today (defenseman Joakim Ryan and forward Martin Frk) were depth moves and don’t really change the overall direction described throughout this article.
– If it’s cap space you’re concerned about, it’s coming. The Kings have several players who will be UFA one year from now. These guys would become prime candidates to be moved at the Trade Deadline and/or to not return to LA at season’s end. At forward, that includes Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, and Kyle Clifford. On the blueline, Derek Forbort and Paul LaDue fall into this grouping. Of all the pending UFAs listed here, we feel the most confident in saying Clifford is not likely to be dealt (see here).
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