As we approach the midpoint of this season’s 56-game schedule, work has already begun on the LA Kings future. More specifically, we’re now into the part of the calendar where contracts can be signed for next season (and beyond).
We’ve been checking in with our various sources over the past few weeks and here’s a brief recap of what we’ve been able to dig up thus far…
1. Regular season college hockey is already over. Conference tournaments are underway and the NCAA playoffs are right around the corner. That also means you’ll be hearing a lot about college free agents being pursued by various NHL teams. This is an area the Kings have done very well in over the past few years, securing the services of Alex Iafallo, Blake Lizotte, and Sean Walker. Just like drafting a player, it’s still a gamble. Things didn’t work out so well with Sheldon Rempal, as one recent example (they parted ways with him last summer). As far as 2021 goes, the Kings are pursuing a few different players at the moment and have reserved one contract spot for a potential college UFA this season (as they’re approaching the league limit on contracts). Unlike in past years, where one of the their selling points was potential NHL jobs that could be available, any agent/player paying attention these days will see that LA has a truckload of prospects coming soon – which will make somebody sneaking through and jumping the line more difficult than ever. It’s not impossible, the challenge is just greater than in year’s past.
2. Sticking with college players, the Kings only have one of their own prospects to make a decision on. Goaltender David Hrenak is a senior at St. Cloud State, so things are winding down on his amateur career. Originally selected by the Kings at the 2018 NHL Draft, he’ll need to be signed or he will become a free agent in a few months. Although he was an absolute star on Kings Of The Podcast a few months ago (people continue to rave about his comedic performance), it doesn’t appear he’s done enough to earn an NHL contract and LA will most likely let him walk. His best bet at this point would be to somehow put the Huskies on his back and carry them into the Frozen Four. Perhaps then, he could swing the odds more in his favor.
3. From the 2019 Draft class, the Kings have already made all decisions needed before this June’s deadline (teams only have two years to sign CHL junior-aged players, while college and European players have a longer window). LA has already inked Alex Turcotte, Tobias Bjornfot, Arthur Kaliyev, Sammy Fagemo, and Jordan Spence to Entry Level Contracts. The organization’s top goaltending prospect, Lukas Parik, doesn’t have to be signed until 2023. Ditto for defenseman Kim Nousiainen and forward Andre Lee. Meanwhile, LA will retain the rights to defenseman Braden Doyle (who is headed to Boston University in the fall) until 2024. We’ll have more on Nousiainen in our upcoming LA Kings Prospect Rankings series in a few weeks. Stay tuned.
4. Andres Athanasiou was signed to a one year contract just a few days before the Kings opened training camp this season. With 11 points in 17 games played this season, and currently skating on the second line with Gabe Vilardi and Jeff Carter, many have wondered if he’s in line for a contract extension. Possibly, it just won’t be anytime soon. Athanasiou is actually one of those rare players who was signed as a UFA, but will be an RFA when his current contract ends (and he’s arbitration eligible). Thus, the Kings are in no hurry to get a deal done. Instead, they’ll most likely wait until the off-season to reassess what they have with all of their other pieces – to not only get a good idea of where he might best fit into next year’s lineup (LW3?) and what their overall contract situation is. He’s certainly one to watch, especially if his defensive game continues to improve, as coach Todd McLellan was just speaking about earlier this week. Could Athanasiou even be dealt at the upcoming Trade Deadline to a team looking for some extra offensive punch? It’s possible. Not very likely at the moment, though.
5. Left wing Alex Iafallo is presently the Kings top UFA. Coming off of his ELC in the summer of 2019, he received a nice raise, inking a two-year deal at 2.45M per season. Now 27 years old, he’s just a smidge ahead of his .61 points-per-game pace from last season. From everything we’ve gathered, the Kings expect to retain his services and see him staying with the club. To date, no serious contract talks have taken place and nothing is imminent. Most signs are pointing to a deal being announced later down the road, something we recently discussed in detail on Kings Of The Podcast. For what it’s worth — and this is based on our own internal speculation, not based on any intel we’ve gathered — we’ll assume the new Iafallo contract is around three years with a likely AAV of around 3-3.5M.
6. Trevor Moore, Michael Amadio, Matt Luff, and Matt Roy will be among the other RFAs this offseason with arbitration rights. As noted previously, we don’t expect Amadio to make it that far. Roy will be getting a new contract and the Kings will be protecting him in the Expansion Draft. Moore has become a favorite of coach Todd McLellan and we’ll assume he sticks around. Luff has to be considered the wild card in all of this, and any decision on the 23-year-old winger will only come after the season is over. Will he get enough playing time to prove he belongs? That’s the biggest unknown.
7. Kale Clague and Austin Strand will become two of the organization’s other key RFAs. One of the challenges with both players is they aren’t waiver exempt after this season. Thus, if they’re signed and can’t make the NHL team out of training camp, the Kings would have to expose them to waivers before sending them down to AHL Ontario. Both players would have to be considered X-factors in everything right now and their play this season should have a big impact on what eventually happens this summer.
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