Did the L.A. Kings Just Sign Slava Voynov’s Replacement?

According to a recent report by The Fourth Period, Kings defenseman Slava Voynov has been released after serving 45 days of his 90 day sentence for felony corporal injury to spouse. With the NHL completing its investigation and the defenseman recovering from Achilles tendon surgery, Voynov’s uncertain status may soon be cleared up. Meanwhile, training camp opens in less than 30 days.

Voynov will eventually see his suspension lifted and, assuming he’s not deported, be cleared to play. Will he resume his former role with the Los Angeles Kings?

Voynov’s days with the Kings may be over

Nothing is certain, but there is a significant chance Voynov will not return to Los Angeles. Although the exact circumstances that led to Mike Richards’ contract termination have yet to be made public, it’s quite possible Dean Lombardi will evoke the same “material breach” clause he exercised with respect to Richards. Another option would be to trade him away for future assets and salary cap relief.

Yes, the Players Association has filed a grievance on behalf of Richards — and, in theory, could do so with Voynov were the Kings to terminate his contract — but the possibility remains. One way or the other, Slava Voynov may have played his last game with the Los Angeles Kings.

Enter Christian Ehrhoff

This late in the summer, finding an impact player to man the blue line from the free agent pool isn’t easy. The Kings managed to do so by nabbing Christian Ehrhoff, a puck-moving former Penguin who, although 33 years old and coming off a season in which he played just 49 games, has been a solid top-four defenseman most of his career. Ehrhoff signed a one year, $1.5 million contract to play for the Kings this year.

Bailey, the Kings’ mascot, approved of the signing:

In 2010-11 while playing for the Canucks, he managed career highs in both goals (14) and points (50) and was in the discussion for the Norris Trophy. That earned him a hefty 10 year, $40 million free agent deal with the Buffalo Sabres, a contract he could not possibly live up to. The caliber of the team around him all but cinched his eventual departure, as his deal was too long and for too much money to make sense in Buffalo.

As a result, Ehrhoff received a compliance buyout after the 2013-14 season.

Ehrhoff can play

Ehrhoff should fit in nicely in Los Angeles. He’s got good size (6’2″, 205 pounds), a heavy shot, is a strong skater and consistently puts up solid advanced stats. In 2013-14, his iCorsi was the highest among Sabres defensemen, and it wasn’t even close. Last season, despite playing just 49 games, he was second to Kris Letang in both iCorsi and iFenwick.

A very nice sequence for Ehrhoff, in which he saved a goal and then scored one seconds later, can be seen here:

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Ehrhoff is known more for his offensive skills than his defense, but so was Voynov. Darryl Sutter’s defense should be perfect for him to play within.

Where does he fit in?

Assuming he’s fully recovered from the concussion he suffered last year, Ehrhoff fits in as a projected number four defenseman in L.A. With Drew Doughty joined at the hip with Jake Muzzin, Ehrhoff projects to be paired with Alec Martinez. Both players can play either side, and if the chemistry pans out, would make a very strong second unit.

Training camp and the preseason, of course, will settle everything out.

How did the Twittersphere react to the signing?

How do you feel about the Kings signing of Christian Ehrhoff? Does it signal the end of the Slava Voynov era? Leave your thoughts below, or message me @McLaughlinWalt.

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