On the eve of Unrestricted Free Agency, it can feel like Christmas morning is just around the corner for legions of hockey fans around North America. Salary caps and long-term planning be damned, throw it all out the window and acquire the biggest, shiniest toy you can acquire to help your team, right?
While that may work with a fantasy team, actual NHL clubs need to approach each summer with a specific plan.
Where are they in the much-talked about ‘championship window’ — are they leaving it, approaching it, or right in the middle of their organization’s prime years?
In Los Angeles, management is hopeful of working their way out of a multi-season ditch with hopes of finding riches once they climb out.
From all indications, the Kings aren’t looking to push all of their chips to the middle of the table this summer. Yes, they want to be better next season. They’ve been a lottery team the past few years and enough is enough. GM Rob Blake has already stated he agrees with star defenseman Drew Doughty and coach Todd McLellan, it’s time to be a more competitive group in 2021-22.
Previously, we put out a Day Dreaming article, where we came up with at least one name from each NHL team the Kings could target. Certainly some of those suggestions were more possible than others, but all those options came with reasons and explanations.
Earlier this week, we looked at what the Kings lineup could look like if they acquired forward Phillip Danault.
Now, let’s turn our attention to some more realistic possibilities.
FIVE PLAYERS THE KINGS COULD TARGET
Blake’s process of getting from Point A to Point B isn’t a simple linear process. In addition to navigating the salary cap (not just for this year, but also looking forward a few years when younger players will coming off their ELCs), he’s had to maneuver around the Seattle Expansion Draft, make decisions on a handful of Restricted Free Agents, etc.
There are a whole host of UFAs out there that have the hockey world all abuzz at the moment – including: Dougie Hamilton, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jaden Schwartz. Given that all are looking for longer term deals, that probably excludes them from being ideal targets for LA.
Brandon Saad is perhaps one of the few UFAs that makes a ton of sense for LA. Unless the market goes nuts and rewards him with a Zach Hyman-like contract, he should be in their wheelhouse. We talked more about Saad and Tyler Bertuzzi on KOTP this week.
Even so, there are quite a few players who have one year remaining on their contracts, and that could play perfectly into what the Kings are trying to accomplish. It would give them some additional NHL experience within their nightly lineup, while also buying them just a little more time for Byfield, Turcotte, Kaliyev, and friends to develop just a smidge longer.
Additionally, the cost to acquire any of these players should be relatively small — i.e. secondary prospects or picks, not roster players.
(all players are listed alphabetically)
Weight: 192 lbs
NHL Experience: 429 Games
2020-21 Season: 54 GP, 9 G, 15 A, 24 Pts
Production has declined since he hit 72 points in 82 games back in the 2018-19 season.
Weight: 202 lbs
Position: Right Wing
NHL Experience: 1,122 Games
Over the past 5 seasons, he has scored 328 points (118 G, 210 A) in 372 games. Good for .88 point per game pace.
Weight: 218 lbs
Position: Right Wing
NHL Experience: 657 Games
2020-21 Season: 56 GP, 20 G, 14 A, 34 Pts
Playoffs: 7 GP, 1 G, 0 A, 1 Pt
Scored 20 goals in 56 games last season. He’s long been talked about for his potential and seems to find success most places he goes, which has included the Islanders, Wild, and Hurricanes.
Weight: 204 lbs
NHL Experience: 491 Games
2020-21 Season: 55 GP, 6 G, 13 A, 19 Pts
He’s been pushed down the depth chart in Ottawa since arriving in the Erik Karlsson trade with San Jose. The Sens left him unprotected in the Expansion Draft and are allegedly shopping him.
Weight: 183 lbs
NHL Experience: 474 Games
2020-21 Season: 47 GP, 17 G, 26 A, 43 Pts
Playoffs: 9 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 3 Pts
UFA after the 2021-22 Season. Cap hit next season is $4.75 million. Along with Niederreiter listed above, these are a pair of Carolina players who likely could be plucked, as the Hurricanes are dealing with an internal budget while trying to sign Andrei Svechnikov and/or figure out what to do with Dougie Hamilton. They also seem to need some help in goal, so perhaps one of the Kings young netminders would add some depth for GM Don Waddell.
Among the guys who just became UFAs after not being qualified on Monday, Nick Ritchie (Boston) and Pius Suter (Chicago) are probably the two most interesting from a Kings perspective.
Less likely, but still closer to probable than to completely out of reach:
Joe Pavelski Dallas), Ondrej Palat, (Tampa Bay) and maybe Filip Forsberg (although he won’t come cheap from Nashville).
On defense, a similar conversation would likely include names like Ben Chiarot (Montreal), Calvin de Haan (Chicago), and Michal Kempny (Washington).
Although the realistic list of names presented here may not line up with the big fish some fans had in mind, any of them would give the Kings additional depth without a long-term commitment. Blake could also flip them at the trade deadline or walk away from them next summer as prospects push for NHL jobs.
All of this fits a specific roadmap; they’re short term solutions who won’t hinder the team’s long term plans, offers them some flexibility to pursue other options next summer, like a Forsberg, for example.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com