Before the craziness of the next few days really ramps into high gear, we wanted to get in front of a key deadline coming up Monday. All players who are Restricted Free Agents (RFAs) either need to be tendered qualifying offers by July 26 or they will become Unrestricted Free Agents.
For those unfamiliar with the RFA process – essentially, there are two phases: regular RFAs (players without arbitration rights) and RFAs with arbitration rights (more on that in a minute).
After checking in with a myriad of sources, here’s what we’ve come up with:
PLAYERS NOT RETURNING TO THE KINGS ORGANIZATION
Mark Alt – Signed as a depth player in late 2020, Alt was the former captain of AHL Colorado and provided some experience on Ontario’s blueline this past season. In addition to previously having a few cups of coffee with the Flyers and Avalanche, Alt was able to sneak into a pair of games for the Kings this year. His primary duty came in 29 games for the Reign. While AHL GM Rich Seeley is said to be looking for a new mix of veterans to join Ontario this summer, Alt will be heading to free agency.
Daniel Brickley – Sandwiched between successful college free agent signings in 2017 (Cal Petersen, Alex Iafallo) and 2019 (Blake Lizotte), LA landed Brickley coming out of Minnesota State in 2018. Unfortunately, things never really worked out as well with the 6-foot-3 defenseman. He’s had a series of ups and downs since turning pro, including some personal issues and even being loaned to AHL Manitoba at one point. Things looked to be headed upward earlier this year, yet it’s now best for a change of scenery. He was able to play five NHL games with the Kings, including his debut shortly after signing his Entry Level Contract.
Matt Luff – Perhaps the name that is most disappointing to be on this list. Once upon on time, Luff was a rising prospect within the Kings organization, before the major influx of young forwards in recent years. In a story he told in detail on Kings Of The Podcast, he made his NHL debut in November 2018… and then the very next day, head coach John Stevens was fired. From that point on, Luff never seemed to gain the full confidence of whoever was behind the bench, especially with Todd McLellan this past season. Rather than qualify him or offer him a new contract, Luff is being allowed to explore free agency.
Drake Rymsha – Regardless of how one evaluates his skills on the ice, you have to feel bad for the hand that Rymsha was dealt this past season. Because of protocol requirements, he became a poster child for the NHL’s taxi squad. As a third-year pro, he had toiled between the ECHL and AHL previously, but suited up for just two games in 2021. He was healthy, yet he was needed as an extra player to meet taxi squad requirements. Kudos to the LA organization, though, Rymsha was rewarded for his efforts with his first NHL game in one of the more heartwarming stories of the year:
UPDATES ON OTHER REMAINING KINGS RFAs and GROSENICK
Lias Andersson – The Kings protected him in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, that should tell you all you need to know about how high they are on this player. He doesn’t have arbitration rights, so this should be a fairly cut and dry situation. If they can’t come to an agreement on a longer term bridge deal, he can simply be qualified on Monday and a new deal can be discussed next summer. He’s passed the point of being waiver exempt, so Andersson has already been penciled into the Kings 2020-21 opening night lineup. He can play center, but they see him as more of a winger moving forward. Qualified: Yes
Kale Clague – It seems that Clague’s whole pro career has been about clearing a series of hurdles. This week, he cleared another one, as the Seattle Kraken opted to take Kurtis MacDermid instead. However, he isn’t totally out of the woods just yet. While we don’t anticipate any issues in getting him signed (as the Kings can simply qualify him and he doesn’t have any arbitration rights), the real issue is his waiver status come training camp. LA will either need to include him on their opening night roster or expose him to waivers before sending him back to AHL Ontario. With only 22 games of NHL experience, the body of work simply isn’t there yet to offer a full evaluation on the 23-year-old defender. As an offensive minded player, who is capable of playing the left or right side, there could even be some interest from another team this summer as part of a trade package with LA. Qualified: Yes
Andreas Athanasiou – Nothing new to report here, other than the fact the Kings are still interested in signing him to a new deal if they can agree on something. LA would like to do a two-year deal. Money is also a concern, as the Kings most likely have him pegged in a certain range, while AA’s camp is said to be looking for a little more security with either the term or money. One thing is fairly certain, as we understand things, GM Rob Blake is not very interested in qualifying him and then going to arbitration. So, Athanasiou will either need to sign a deal before Monday’s deadline or he’s heading to free agency. Qualified: No
Mikey Eyssimont – One of the more curious puzzles to solve in the coming days. Eyssimont has proven to be an effective AHL player. In a normal year, he likely would have been given a few NHL games this past season for the purpose of further evaluation. Now, at 24 years old and with three years of pro experience under his belt, he’s somewhat trapped in the Bermuda Triangle. He’s established who he is, which includes some sandpaper and jam, yet he’s been leapfrogged on the depth chart by a number of guys in the organization. To say he’s fighting for a chance in LA would be an understatement. Although he’s arbitration eligible, do you really want to qualify a guy and go through that process if he realizes he probably isn’t going to get a real shot at making the NHL with your team? Coach John Wroblewski really likes him and has hinted at even giving him a letter next season. If Eyssimont is serious about his NHL aspirations, he could be pushing to have the Kings not qualify him; hoping instead to bet on himself through free agency. It’s dicey either way and a compelling argument could be made for either side of the discussion. Qualified: 50/50
Troy Grosenick – Currently, he’s the only UFA among this group. In the weeks ahead, LA is looking to add an experienced third goalie to their mix. It’s a guy who will be parked in Ontario and on-call should the Kings needs him at the NHL level. None of the Kings young goalie prospects meet the requirement, but Grosenick could. Allegedly, Blake is open to bringing him back, as he showed well in 2021. If they can’t reach a deal, look for them to pick up a different 3G in the coming weeks.
Boko Imama – Things really became more interesting here over the past 24 hours. Although he was on a two-way contract last season, there really wasn’t much room for Imama in LA. Even as of earlier this week, there wasn’t much room for Imama in LA. However, with the departure of MacDermid, there could be an opening for some more toughness in the Kings lineup. Having arbitration rights shouldn’t scare the Kings off, as he hasn’t even made his NHL debut yet. His run to secure a roster spot in LA come training camp will be an uphill battle, but it could be a fun story to keep an eye on. Qualified: 50/50
Trevor Moore – Mums the word at the moment. Obviously, his stock has increased over the past six months and the Kings have really taken a liking to the Southern California native. The fork in the road here is that he’s arbitration eligible this summer and a year away from unrestricted free agency. From a Kings perspective, they’d certainly like to add some term to his deal, while keeping the cost rather low (or better said, at least in line with their other contracts for bottom-six players). If you’re Moore, you want to be compensated for buying out a few of his UFA years. The real issue here is what’s the comp? Moore is coming off his productive season, posting 10 goals in 56 games. However, in his previous 67 NHL games played over parts of three seasons, he recorded 8 goals. Something needs to give before Monday. Qualified: Yes
Jacob Moverare – Probably the name people are the least familiar with in this article, yet he’s equally important to anybody listed. Moverare was drafted as a 17-year-old by LA and finally came over to North America earlier this season. How’d did he do? He was named the Best Defensemen in AHL Ontario. And, just this week, his teammate JF Berube was on Kings Of The Podcast talking him up as one of the best blueliners on the squad. Here’s where it gets tricky – from what we understand, he has big money offers on the table to go back to Europe. It appears he wants to stay in North America and give it another go. We get the sense it’s about 70/30 that they’ll get a deal done. Qualified: Yes
Austin Strand – The situation here is virtually identical to Clague. We don’t anticipate any issues. He’ll be signed and then will eventually be in the mix with LA or will possibly be included in a potential trade this summer. If he can’t make the Kings roster out of camp, he would need to pass through waivers before he’s assigned to AHL Ontario. Qualified: Yes
Extended Look at LA Kings Options For Their Bottom Six Forwards
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Hey John, off topic to this article but when do you see Faber and Grans coming over to play for Ontario?