With the 2020-21 season coming to an end, teams will need to start planning their offseason soon. The Los Angeles Kings have several decisions to make about how their team will look for opening night next season. Fortunately for Rob Blake, re-signing players is at the bottom of his list of problems. With Alex Iafallo signing his name to a new four-year extension just before the trade deadline, Blake was able to complete the only “big” extension he would have needed to worry about this summer.
The Kings still have a few smaller deals to get done, but with only two pending unrestricted free agents (UFA) in the entire organization — Daniel Brickley and Mark Alt — and six pending restricted free agents (RFA), Blake and his management team likely aren’t too worried heading into the offseason. With cap space not being an issue, Blake will likely want to open up roster spots for next season as the Kings’ plethora of young talent should begin integrating itself next season.
Contract Extension Odds: If you had told me that Andreas Athanasiou would still be a Kings player come the end of the 2020-21 season, I probably would have called you crazy. Therefore, it’s even crazier to me that he is almost certainly going to have his contract extended this summer. That isn’t to say I don’t think it’s a good idea or don’t like him — quite the opposite, in fact. I really like the player, but I thought he was going to be trade bait at this season’s deadline. With 17 points in 34 games so far this season, he has played well enough to earn himself a spot on the team next season in my opinion. According to LA Kings insider John Hoven, Athanasiou is very close to signing a two-year contract extension with the team.
Pros: Athanasiou has proven to be a very versatile player that can fit in on both the second and third line for the Kings. He’s one of the fastest players in the league and when this guy catches fire, he’ll score a lot of goals. As the team continues to bring up more of their young talent, he should be a perfect player to complement the high quality of talent coming up.
He is a perfect player to either play on a second line and hopefully recapture the form that saw him score 30-goals two seasons ago, or as a third-line player that brings speed and scoring depth to a growing Kings roster. Overall, so long as the contract’s average annual value (AAV) is reasonable, I think extending him is a great idea. Given a reasonable contract, he will also be easy to trade if the team can’t find a home for him on the roster.
Cons: The cons to re-signing Athanasiou will be the same as with most players on this list — taking roster spots away from prospects. As I mentioned above, he will certainly be a helpful player in the coming years for this team and can make an impact. But, if some of the team’s prospects begin to develop into full-time NHL players, he might be blocking their pathway onto the team. Granted, having too many good players is always a good problem to have, but it is, nevertheless, still a problem.
Taking his play this season and the likely low AAV to re-sign him, I believe offering an extension to Athanasiou is a good idea. Remembering that, if the Kings need to trade him in the future to free up roster spots, it will likely be easy to find buyers.
Contract Extension Odds: I think Blake Lizotte is essentially a lock to be re-signed by the Kings this offseason. Despite the team having one of the deepest pools of center prospects in the league, I think he will still be with them come opening night of next season. Coach Todd McLellan has shown that he likes the player and especially likes his ability to play up and down the team’s lineup. Considering he’ll likely sign to a very cheap deal, there isn’t much of a reason for the Kings to let him walk.
Pros: Lizotte is a Swiss Army knife. He can play anywhere in the lineup from the second to the fourth line — he kills penalties and can even do the job on the second power-play unit. He’s an excellent skater who can win a lot of battles in the corner despite his lack of size. His 200-foot game and versatility make him a great asset for this Kings team.
Cons: The biggest con to Lizotte is his potential ceiling. He’s a great bottom-six forward, but will never exceed that, he’s a player that will likely only post 30 points in his best season. This isn’t necessarily the worst thing for the Kings, however, because the team needs players like him in the bottom six. But, like Athanasiou, if some of the team’s prospects begin to make a push for the NHL roster, it might be difficult to find a spot for him.
Contract Extension Odds: Another player that will almost certainly be extended is Trevor Moore. The Southern California-native has proven himself to be a very useful player this season, as he has moved up and down the team’s lineup as needed. He has looked especially effective paired with Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Carl Grundstrom.
He has also added more offense to the team this year than most people expected — his 18 points in 42 games is by no means elite, but is still a fantastic return for someone that was expected to be a fourth-line player.
Pros: Like Lizotte, Moore is an extremely versatile player who can be useful up and down the lineup. He has spent time on almost every line and gotten time on both the power play and penalty kill. He won’t be a player that puts up huge point totals, but can certainly help round out the team’s bottom six.
Cons: The only con against Moore is that he will never be a massive point producer for the Kings. Even if he continues improving offensively, he’ll likely cap out at around 25-30 points in his best season. Despite this, I think the Kings will certainly re-sign the 26-year-old forward.
Contract Extension Odds: I think it’s unlikely that the Kings offer Matt Luff an extension this offseason. Despite some very solid seasons with the Ontario Reign, he has never been able to stick on the NHL roster. There were several opportunities to give him an extended run of games this season, but coach McLellan and the team never gave him that. To me, this indicates that the organization doesn’t see a future for him on the NHL roster and will likely let him walk.
Pros: The only pro I can come up with for re-signing Luff is that he’d be a solid guy to bring in if the team runs into an injury crisis and he’ll help the AHL roster. He’s good on the forecheck and has an excellent release, but that alone probably isn’t enough.
Cons: I’ve never been impressed by him at the NHL level. The Kings have a lot of players better than him and really have no reason for the player, outside of bolstering their AHL squad. With so many good prospects in this team’s organization, and more coming to Ontario in the form of Martin Chromiak, there isn’t really a spot for him anymore.
Contract Extension Odds: I think it’s unlikely that the Kings extend Christian Wolanin. He was brought to the team in exchange for Michael Amadio, in a move that was likely designed more to open up a roster spot at forward than anything else. I don’t think the Kings saw a future with Wolanin when trading for him.
Pros: He could be a solid seventh defenseman for the Kings if they lose anyone this offseason. He could also provide some leadership down in Ontario if the Kings decide to extend him.
Cons: He is, simply put, not that good. With prospects like Sean Durzi, Jordan Spence, and Helge Grans likely pushing for minutes soon, I don’t see any reason to re-sign Wolanin.
Contract Extension Odds: There’s a good chance the Kings extend Kale Clague this offseason. He has proven more than capable this season of playing at an NHL level and is still growing. While he might be used in a trade this offseason to bolster the team’s blue line, the Kings could do a lot worse than him for a third-pairing defenseman.
Pros: Clague is a very solid two-way defenseman who has proven that he can compete well at the NHL level. He is very adept at jumping up into the play and has a great breakout pass. He has recently shown in his last couple of games a willingness and ability to throw some big hits as well.
Cons: There are still some cons with extending Clague. One being, you might lose him in the expansion draft anyway — depending on how the Kings’ protection list looks, he might be exposed in the expansion draft and I think the Seattle Kraken might take the player in that case.
The other con is that he takes up a roster spot. As I mentioned when talking about Wolanin, the Kings do have some solid prospects coming through that might need ice time soon and he could be blocking that. I think the Kings should, and likely will, extend him during the offseason.
While Blake and his management team don’t have a massive headache this summer when it comes to pending free agents, there is still work to be done. The team could secure solid depth at both forward and defense with some smart business this summer.