(Instead of just writing one big post about the state of the Los Angeles Kings, I am going to write a few posts over the next week or so that focus on what the Kings should do and what they will do to prepare for the next season. First up is the most obvious need for the Kings: a major addition in the off-season.)
The Kings are currently sitting at about $39 million for next season. They still need to resign Jack Johnson, Ted Purcell and Brian Boyle (if they want to), but the off-setting losses of Kyle Calder, Derek Armstrong and Denis Gauthier (combined cost: $6.3 million dollars) should offset the cost of re-signing Johnson et al. So the Kings, as currently constructed, are sitting at the same salary as last year: a $43.4 million dollar cap hit. So, the Kings have some cap space, is what I'm trying to say. I should have just said that, but hey, Earl pays me by the word.
Ask any Kings fan and they'll tell you that the Kings' biggest need is another elite player. (They'll then tell you how they've been a true fan for years and the Kings owe them a championship and blah, blah, blah...) The Kings' have 2 1st-line players, Kopitar and Frolov, and 3 2nd-line players in Jarrett Stoll, Justin WIlliams and Dustin Brown. Guys like Oscar Moller, Ted Purcell, and even Andrei Loktionov could potentially become top-six players if they eat their Wheaties, but you don't want to count on them if you're trying to make the playoffs. (The Kings are trying to make the playoffs, right?)
The consensus is that the Kings need to find a left winger because Dustin Brown said so, but I'm not necessarily buying that. In the Kings' offense, the right winger is usually the forward that ends up carrying the puck into the offensive zone and is therefore the most important offensive forward on the ice. No offense to Dustin Brown, but he's not good enough to carry the puck all the time. I'd much rather sign a talented right winger and play Brown on the left wing. He may not want to, but that's why he wears the "C." Plus, he's right-handed anyway so he might as well play on his traditional side, where he can cut into the middle for a forehand shot. Why does he play right wing again?
Adding another elite player, for the right price, would do amazing things for the Kings' offense and put them on the road to the playoffs. The ideal scenario would be getting an elite player on a contract for 2 years, because that is when Wayne Simmonds, Oscar Moller and DREW DOUGHTY become restricted free agents. Here are a few options the Kings could go for, with some pros and cons for each.
[Note: Some may note that the proposed deals I offer to each free agent are often lower than their current deals. There are two reasons for this: one, I'm anticipating that the market for players is going to be worse this season (because all the teams with cap space are teams struggling to make money) and because I'm looking at the best-case scenario for the Kings.]
|2008 - Marian Gaborik||17||13||10||23||3||2||2||1||2||0||68||19.1|
The most important number with regards to Gaborik is that first one: 17. That's how many games Gaborik played last season. Other important numbers: 77, 48, 65, 65. That's how many games Gaborik has played in the previous 4 seasons. Gaborik is Ziggy Palffy 2.0: an uber-talented Slovakian winger with a history of injury. Of course, Gaborik has an advantage in that he doesn't cost Olli Jokinen to acquire; all he costs is money. Gaborik is probably the best fit for the Kings for a few reasons: he's insanely talented, he doesn't seem to have much desire to return to his old team, there are rumors he wants to play in LA (although the guy who keeps saying this looks like Dean Lombardi holding a comb over his upper lip), and he's coming off an injury-plauged season so he would probably be willing to take a short-term deal to re-establish his value. If the Kings could sign Gaborik for something like 2 years, $6.79 million dollars a year, I would be ecstatic. Which of course means it won't happen.
|2008 - Vincent Lecavalier||77||29||38||67||-9||54||10||1||6||0||291||10.0|
Lecavalier's most important number is this: $7.7 million. That's his cap hit for the next fucking 10 years. There are rumors that the Lightning want to trade Lecavalier because they have no money, which is fine, but I'd rather let God punch my mother in the face than have that contract on my team. The Kings need every dollar of their cap space for when their younger players get older, and I just don't think Lecavalier is good enough to be worth that price tag, not to mention what he would cost in a trade. Besides, the guy is ridiculously good looking and I don't need the competition.
|2008 - Marian Hossa||74||40||31||71||27||63||10||0||8||1||307||13.0|
My brother wants Marian Hossa more than anything in the world. He makes some good points: Hossa's quick-strike style would fit in perfectly with Terry Murray's system and would help Kopitar regain his touch. The problem with Kopitar last year was that he had to stick between his circles to support on defense and then pass to the right winger (usually Dustin Brown), who then had to go in 1-on-3 and try to make a play. Hossa is a player that can actually cause some damage 1-on-3, or at least buy some time with the puck until Kopitar is able to get up the ice. Of course, the rub is that Hossa would probably never consider the Kings since he has this weird thing where he wants to "win" or whatever. Plus, he'll probably be looking for a longer term deal, something like 5 years, $30+ million dollars. If the Kings could get him for less, then I guess I could deal with it.
|2008 - Martin Havlat||81||29||48||77||29||30||5||0||5||1||249||11.6|
Martin Havlat isn't as sexy as the names above, but he probably had the best season of any of them. Consider that Havlat only had 14 power play points, giving him 63 points at even-strength; that's better than everyone not named Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Parise and Datsyuk. Havlat is an amazing playmaker and would likely excel if he wasn't resigned to live in the shadow of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Of course, the problem with Havlat is that, like Gaborik, he's somewhat injury-prone. And I'm not sure if he's awakened from that headshot Kronwall laid on him yet, either. Plus, I don't think he wants to leave Chicago. But maybe the Kings could offer him a deal similar to Gaborik's proposed deal (2 years, $6.5 million a year) to make him come to LA.
Henrik & Daniel Sedin
|2008 - Daniel Sedin||82||31||51||82||24||36||9||0||7||1||285||10.9|
|2008 - Henrik Sedin||82||22||60||82||22||48||4||0||8||0||143||15.4|
I hate pretty much everything about the Sedins. I hate that their stupid faces, I hate their goatees, I hate that they were drafted 2nd and 3rd overall (and now one wears 22 and the other wears 33 lol), I hate that they're Swedish, I hate the fact that they always look like they're about to cry, and I hate, hate, hate how they both scored 82 points this year. But still, they're fucking good. The idea is that they both want $6.5 million dollars a year, which is probably too much for the Kings to commit to, but all I can think about is this:
D. Sedin-H.Sedin-D. Brown
Is that the most perfectly constructed in hockey? I think so. The Kings would be pinched by money constraints in a few years, but a top-6 with the Sedins, Kopitar and Frolov could deal with a few guys making the minimum in the bottom-6. I imagine the Sedins will re-sign in Vancouver for 6 years, $6.3 million a year, but that line won't get out of my head.
|2008 - Paul Stastny||45||11||25||36||-9||22||7||0||2||2||118||9.3|
Is he available? I doubt it, but I figure since the Avalanche look they're going to need to rebuild and they're going to feel a pinch at the gate next year they might be willing to trade Stastny. Of course, trading Stastny would really destroy Colorado's gate and texacogirl might commit suicide if they trade him, so it's probably not going to happen. Plus, he would probably cost Moller and one of our good young defensemen, so that's not a good idea. But still, just something to think about. Stastny's signed to a Kopitar-like deal, so trading for him would shore up the Kings' center position for the next 5 years.
|2008 - Ryan Smyth||77||26||33||59||-15||62||10||1||3||0||257||10.1|
2008 - Mike Cammalleri
Hey, this guy looks pretty good, why don't we get him?
Cammy will not be signing in Los Angeles because he's primarily a power play guy and we need to improve our even-strength play. He's going to be very interesting this summer because, like I said, I don't think there is going to be much action this summer. I get the feeling that he will have waited his whole career to become an unrestricted free agent only to find that nobody is in a mood to spend money. I ultimately see him going to Toronto to serve as a bridge for their youth movement. I've heard some people mention that Burke won't want him but I think Burke has shown that he doesn't mind slower right wings that are great on the power play.
Jonathan Cheechoo or Ryan Clowe
|2008 - Jonathan Cheechoo||66||12||17||29||-3||59||5||1||4||0||152||7.9|
|2008 - Ryane Clowe||71||22||30||52||8||51||11||0||1||1||161||13.7|
Jonathan Cheechoo isn't very good anymore, no matter what that Chen character is going to tell you, but he does have some value. The Sharks are feeling the salary cap pinch and will probably end up moving one of Cheechoo, Michalek or Clowe to ensure their situation for the next few years. Cheechoo could be had for cheap, but the player I'd want most is Ryan Clowe. I know Lombardi hates signing restricted free agents, but would be able to resist the temptation to sign Clowe and dick over the man who fired him from San Jose? I don't know. It's interesting to think about. I don't want Michalek because I enjoy it too much when Dustin Brown or Jack Johnson lays him out and I don't want to lose that.
Phil Kessel or David Krejci
|2008 - Phil Kessel||70||36||24||60||23||16||8||0||6||1||232||15.5|
|2008 - David Krejci||82||22||51||73||37||26||5||2||6||0||146||15.1|
Both Kessel and Krejci are restricted free agents. The Bruins should be able to sign both of them with a little creative accounting, but if negotiations drag on I could easily see a trade of one of them. The Kings are going to be getting a lot of phone calls from teams in a cap pinch offering them sweetheart deals to take on a little salary, so it's up to Dean on how he wants to play it. He could be a ball-buster and dick over a few teams, or he could do them a favor with the idea that they'll help him in a few years when the Kings are feeling the cap pinch. Knowing Dean, he's going to be a ball buster and get a winger to play alongside Handzus and Simmonds out of it.
|2008 - Jay Bouwmeester||82||15||27||42||-2||68||9||0||2||1||182||8.2|
Hey, I didn't say the Kings couldn't improve their offense by adding a defenseman. The Kings had a great defense last year, but that doesn't mean it couldn't get better. Bouwmeester is like Scott Niedermayer with Chris Pronger's reach and would automatically make the Kings the best defense in the West outside of Detroit and Anaheim. Doughty would have someone to learn from, Johnson could be protected a bit more, and Greene could be used only in high-leverage situations. Plus, Bouwmeester is a fantastic at the first pass and has a great shot. It would destroy the Kings' plan for the next few years and they'd have to find a new home for guys like Hickey, Teubert and Voynov, but shouldn't you always try to get the best players in the league on your team? I would go to war with a core of Bouwmeester, Doughty and Kopitar any day, and damn the consequences.
There are numerous other players I could have added, but these are the guys I wrote about before I got bored. A word of warning: the Kings have cap space galore, but that doesn't mean they necessarily need to use it. Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, and Chris Pronger all become free agents in 2 years so it might be in the Kings' best interest. The point isn't to sign an elite player; the point is to sign an elite player for the right price. There's a big difference between making the playoffs and winning the Cup. I want to win a Cup. So does Dean Lombardi, I think. So does Phil Anschutz, I hope. Signing an elite player will go along way in doing that.