UFA and RFA Signings Done: Updated LA Kings Projections for 2019-20 Season

With the NHL off-season rolling right along, LA Kings GM Rob Blake has already completed the bulk of his heavy lifting. This opened with a pair of Unrestricted Free Agent signings (more on that in a minute), followed by recent news that several of the team’s Restricted Free Agents had inked new two-year deals. What’s left? Only forward Adrian Kempe.

While everybody remains on Kempe-watch, let’s update the team’s salary cap situation.

Previously, we had pegged winger Alex Iafallo to come in around 2.5M. When all was said and done, he signed a two-year contract with an AAV of 2.425M. So there wasn’t much news there.

Where things really became interesting was with a trio of young players.

Mike Amadio, Daniel Brickley, and Matt Roy all signed for 700k each over the next two years, what looked like a pay cut on paper. However, that’s only when scanning the NHL portion of their contracts.

In the case of Amadio, we get it. It would have been a real gamble to accept his Qualifying Offer (what would have amounted to a 5% pay increase if he was in the NHL… and only 70k when playing in the AHL) and be back in the same spot next summer. He’s certainly expected to be on the Kings NHL roster. However, nothing is guaranteed for a team in such flux. Also, when considering he’ll likely be on the fourth line, it’s not like there is a realistic hope for a monster season worthy of a huge contract in July 2020.

By comparison, Kevin Lebanc bet on himself when signing one-year contract with the Sharks this summer, well under market value. He put up 56 points in 2018-19 and is counting on a solid 2019-20 campaign to then cash in with a multi-year deal at many multiples higher on the AAV. Given the minutes he’ll likely see in San Jose, we believe that’s a well-calculated gamble.

On one hand, we would have liked to see Roy follow the Lebanc route. He should be a regular player on the Kings NHL blueline this coming season. And, of the three who took these 700k deals, Roy has the best opportunity to break out with a good year.

What may have caused Roy to double clutch when it came to pulling a similar move? On July 1st, the Kings signed defenseman Joakim Ryan (725K). He’s 26 years old, a left shot, and has 106 NHL games played over the past two seasons in San Jose. He was drafted and developed by the Sharks at a time when new Kings coach Todd McLellan was heavily involved in things up in those parts. He knows Ryan well and it should be safe to assume the Kings wouldn’t have signed him unless McLellan thought there was something there to work with. Ryan also requires waivers to be sent down. If he was to make the big club, Ryan could be taking the spot occupied by Roy.

Granted, Roy is a right-shot, typically something highly coveted by NHL coaches. Yet this is where you have to dig deeper. If they slot Ryan in on the left side of the third pairing — and you assume they don’t want to risk losing Paul LaDue or Kurtis MacDermid on waivers — that leaves one NHL roster spot available on defense (provided McLellan goes with the traditional 7D). In that scenario, it comes down to a coin flip between Roy and Walker. And if that was in the back of Roy’s mind, it should have made it much more difficult to roll the dice when signing his new deal.

Regardless of how things play out with the roster decisions surrounding these players in October, they will only get more complicated in the months following. Once Walker has played 21 NHL games, he’s no longer waiver exempt. Ditto for Roy after 45 NHL more games. Tricky, tricky, tricky.

Blake also signed a pair of unrestricted free agent forwards – Mario Kempe (700k AAV) and Martin Frk (700k). Both will be given an opportunity to earn a spot in camp. If either are successful in that regard, it will most likely come at the expense of Matt Luff or Austin Wagner – two guys who can be sent to AHL Ontario without needing to be put on waivers first. Given the similarity in salary, there isn’t much of a difference cap-wise in any of the four forwards.

Given all of the above, here is our latest projection of 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.

 

Brown Kopitar Toffoli
$5,875,000 10,000,000 4,600,000
     
Grundstrom Kempe Carter
925,000 2,500,000 5,272,727
     
Iafallo Prokhorkin Kovalchuk
2,425,000 925,000 6,250,000
     
Clifford Lewis Wagner
1,600,000 2,000,000 759,167
     
Luff Amadio  
677,777 700,000  
     
     
Forbort Doughty  
2,525,000 11,000,000  
     
Martinez LaDue  
4,000,000 825,000  
   
Ryan Walker  
725,000 745,000  
     
MacDermid    
675,000    
     
     
Quick Campbell  
5,800,000 675,000  

 

This configuration of a 23-man roster takes up $75.2M of cap space (after including penalties the Kings are paying next season for terminating Mike Richards’ contract and buying out Dion Phaneuf).

With the 2018-19 NHL salary cap limit set at $81.5M, that leaves Blake just over 6M to play with… assuming the Kempe contract comes in where we estimate.

DOWN ON THE FARM

This week’s big news came from the goal crease.

LA’s No. 1 ranked prospect, goaltender Cal Petersen, inked a new three-year deal, as we had tipped you off to a few days prior.

After a dismal campaign in 2018-19, the Ontario Reign looked to begin the season with a much improved roster – especially on defense. Assuming none of the young blueliners find a way to unseat one of the names penciled into the Kings roster above, coach Mike Stothers should be looking at a group of Kale Clague, Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, Daniel Brickley, and Austin Strand on the back-end. Plus, with Roy or Walker likely starting the season with this group, the Reign could have their most potent defensive core ever.

Up front, they should pick up a pair of the Kings most notable prospects, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Rasmus Kupari. Blake Lizotte will most likely provide additional offense, as he’s expected to start the year in Ontario after signing with Los Angeles as a college free agent late last season. Sheldon Rempal, an AHL All Star in his rookie campaign last year, should also see continued growth in his second professional season.

What about Matt Moulson or some additional veteran help, you’re wondering?

RELATED CONTENT:

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Comments

  1. George Pobedinsky says:

    I thought Austin Wagner looked comfortable and was a good fit at the NHL level with his speed and shot. You really see him on the bubble this season.?? That’s a surprise.

    • Kevin Costello says:

      Same here. I’ll be extremely disappointed if that happens.

    • John Hoven says:

      It’s more than just his play. You have to factor waivers into the situation. If guys like Rempal, Kupari, JAD, etc. have an impressive camp and the coach wants them on the team, whose spot are they taking? It would have to be somebody like Luff or Wagner – guys who can be sent down without needing to pass through waivers first.

      The only other option would be to trade an established roster player to create a spot for one of the three prospects just mentioned. And there doesn’t appear to be any options in the top 9 who are likely to leave before opening night.

      If Wagner/Luff was sent down to start the year, it’s not the end of the world. It just means they’ll have to be patient until some vets are moved out later in the season.

      • Kevin Costello says:

        I hear what you’re saying JH, I just think he would have to really have a poor camp to not make it. His speed is… Nothing short of world class, and I think LA would be foolish to leave that off the roster. I hope he continues developing that scoring touch we saw at the end of the season.

      • Primož Vilfan says:

        Prokhorkin can also be sent down …
        What are the chances Lewis gets sent down/up, and not being claimed?

        • John Hoven says:

          Don’t foresee Prokhorkin going to AHL. Theres a reason he has that European Assignment Clause in his contract. It’s pretty much NHL or bust at this point. He was drafted in 2012.

    • Kenneth Poindexter says:

      You have to remember the expansion draft is on the horizon This being essentially a rebuilding year stashing prospects in Ontario makes a ton of sense

  2. Michael Husband says:

    Thanks Mayor. Always solid stuff. Seems like Luff was generating some interest. Any thoughts on the Kings trading him?

    What about this Quick to Columbus rumor?

    • John Hoven says:

      Don’t see Luff moving. Re: Quick, we’ve covered that story to death over the past six months. See here bit.ly/MayorNHL

  3. As usual Mayor John like my pal Dennis Bernstein, you most often make sense with your deductive comments! My concern is the gap in NHL Roster with few mid aged vets in their prime years(25-30) and it’s all very young or well aged (especially the core!). Acquisitions by Blake continue to follow this pattern of old timers postmortem or fringe types adding to overloaded bottom 6. Works same for Dmen & Fwds. GTing is strength but what else?

    • John Hoven says:

      Team isn’t built to win now. This year is a transition. It’s about finding ice time for the younger players and exiting some of the vet players. Over the next two years would expect acquisitions via trade/UFA to fill key holes. Think back to the run up to 2012 Cup run and how / when roster moves occurred.

  4. Steve Morris says:

    JH, has there been any updates on Villardi and his ongoing back issue? Are the Kings at a point where they might be ready to eat their mistake and move on from him? I know he signed an ELC, how much time is left on that contract? Simply put, is there any realistic chances he is involved with the team at any point before the calander turns to 2020?