With just a few hours remaining until NHL teams must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents — which only guarantess they continue to hold rights on those players, it doesn’t actually get them signed to a contract — the LA Kings still have two decisions to make. As we approach the 2pm PST deadline, our sources are indicating decisions have still not been made on Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Zack MacEwen.
In the case of both players, it is said to largely hinge on the fact they both have arbitration rights. Quite simply, the Kings are out of salary cap space, as projected in this article here:
The team entered this off-season with a myriad of RFAs, including Gabe Vilardi and Rasums Kupari, who were recenlty traded to Winnipeg. Goaltending prospect David Hrenak also opted to sign a contract overseas, while forward Lias Andersson is believed to be signing in Sweden soon. Those moves helped thin the herd a bit, plus we were previously able to confirm they do plan on qualifying defenseman Toby Bjornfot, along with forwards Sammy Fagemo, Tyler Madden, and Akil Thomas. Meanwhile, goaltender Jacob Ingham will not be qualified, yet is likely returning via a different contract in the days ahead.
Also noted in our previous article was news that the Kings do not plan to qualify goaltender Matt Villalta or forward Aidan Dudas.
Which brings things down to just two players: Anderson-Dolan and MacEwen.
Notes on each player from our previous RFA article:
Jaret Anderson-Dolan – He’s in a very similar situation to Bjornfot. He’s bided his time in the AHL and now it’s time to grab an NHL job. Last season, he was essentially the 13th forward for McLellan, suiting up in 46 NHL games. His seven goals over that stretch proves he’s more than capable, even if those numbers aren’t quite as efficient as he was a few years ago when JAD put up the same seven goals in just 34 GP. He plays a safe two-way game and has natural leadership qualities. While we expect him back next season, there are two things working against him: (a) the Kings have one too many forwards right now when projecting their opening night lineup and (b) he is arbitration eligible.
Anderson-Dolan Qualifying Offer: $787,500
Zack MacEwen – Sure, the Kings lack sandpaper. Did MacEwen show enough after being acquired at the Trade Deadline in March? Probably not. He’s questionable, at best, for a qualifying offer. His fate will most likely be determined by what Blake is able to accomplish via trade while in Nashville for the Draft next week. If he’s qualified, there’s still no guarantee he makes the opening night roster.
MacEwen Qualifying Offer: $971,250
Again, the issue at hand is arbitration. Even if the Kings qualify them, either player could refuse their qualifying offer and opt for arbitration. In that situation, a third-party decides their 2023-24 salary after hearing arguments from both sides. Beyond the fact this usually leaves hard feelings on both sides, if an arbitrator was to award either player more than their qualifying offer (which is likely), the Kings would most likely be in an even worse cap situation. Essentially, they would know the player most likely couldn’t be added to the opening night roster and be tucked under the salary cap for next season. Thus, the player would end up on waivers (for the purposes of sending them to the AHL) and potentially being taken by another team. So what’s the point in all of that?
If they can agree on contract terms, one of the players could still be retained. The challenge with JAD is his qualifying offer is so low to begin with, if he doesn’t accept it, there would likely be little hope he’d re-sign in LA as a UFA. At that point, he’d likely be looking for a fresh start with another team vs. being LA’s 13th forward again next season.
Instead of his qualifying offer, MacEwen could become a more viable option for the Kings if he’s willing to re-sign closer to the league minimum of $775k.
Given their current cap situation, the Kings are planning to carry only one extra forward entering next season. With the top 12 already set (including a fourth line of Grundstrom-Lizotte-Fagemo), that realistically only leaves room for either JAD or MacEwen come opening night, not both.
UPDATE — LA Kings will not qualify Jaret Anderson-Dolan or Zack MacEwen, both will become unrestricted free agents. The team will potentially sign JAD to a new deal in the days ahead.
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