Kings Could Be in Deep Salary Cap Trouble in a Few Seasons

Heading into this offseason, the Los Angeles Kings had a lot of cap space to work with, and general manager Rob Blake was able to add players with the goal of making the playoffs this coming season. While the move made sense this year, LA has to be careful moving forward when it comes to going out on the market.

Rob Blake
Rob Blake – Los Angeles Kings (Getty Images)

The Kings have one of the brightest futures in the NHL, if not the brightest, but, eventually, all of the future stars the team has in its pipeline will catch up to them financially. Looking ahead, LA will have to sign some big contracts prior to the start of the 2024-25 season, and if they continue to spend money like they are now, they could find themselves up against the cap.

Notable Kings That Will Be Free Agents in 2024

The Kings have more than a few crucial players to sign during the 2024 offseason. The team will have to do this after having already gone through a busy offseason in 2023. Their 2023-24 free agents include Tobias Bjornfot, Samuel Fagemo, Tyler Madden, Akil Thomas, Rasmus Kupari, Aidan Dudas, and Jonathan Quick.

Quinton Byfield

Quinton Byfield will be a restricted free agent (RFA) in 2024 as of now — he is an entry-level contract (ELC) slide candidate, but he is not likely to slide another season. Last season, the Kings’ top prospect played the majority of his games in the American Hockey League (AHL), but he did find his way into six NHL games towards the end of the season, recording one assist.

Quinton Byfield LA Kings
Quinton Byfield, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It’s impossible to give a realistic projection of what Byfield will end up getting paid, simply because we have not seen enough of him to hypothesize. With that said, the last 10 second contracts to be signed by second overall picks range in cap hit from under $1 million to $10 million, averaging out at just over $5.2 million per season. In all likelihood, he will receive a contract at or above average.

Arthur Kaliyev

Another top prospect in need of a new contract before the 2024-25 season is Arthur Kaliyev. The 33rd overall pick from 2019 is turning out to be quite the steal; he is expected to play on the future top line mainly due to his scoring abilities. As of late, though, Kaliyev has also developed into more of a complete player, improving his defensive game last season with the Ontario Reign.

He has only played one game in the NHL, scoring his first goal, so, like Byfield, it is pointless to speculate what his second contract might look like. Nonetheless, if he does live up to his potential, he could see some first-line money coming his way in 2024.

Alex Turcotte

Up until the Kings drafted Byfield, Alex Turcotte was expected to be the team’s future top center. Though he likely slides down to serve as the second-line center, he still could get a significant contract in 2024; his elite offensive instincts and 200-foot game make him a top prospect regardless of who else is in LA’s prospect pool.

Alex Turcotte of the U.S. National Development Program
Alex Turcotte formerly of the U.S. National Development Program (Rena Laverty/USHL)

Though Turcotte struggled at times last season in Ontario, he still managed to record six goals and 15 assists in 32 games. Moving into next season, we can potentially expect to see him enter the Kings’ lineup for the first time as we start to better understand what kind of player he is and what his second contract might look like.

Brandt Clarke

Like Byfield, Brandt Clarke is currently set to be an RFA in 2024, but he is an ELC slide candidate, so we might not see him getting his second NHL contract until 2025. The eighth overall pick from this year’s draft is the Kings’ prized prospect on defense. His high-end offensive skill makes him the team’s projected top defenseman in the future, so his second NHL contract could pay him significant money with a lot of term as well.

Anze Kopitar

Anze Kopitar, the current face of the franchise, will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in 2024. LA’s first-line center put up 13 goals and 37 assists last season in 56 games to lead the team. The 50-point campaign was exactly enough to reach 1,000 in his career.

Anze Kopitar Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Putting aside everything he has brought to the organization on the ice, the Kings are likely to keep Kopitar around because of what he brings off the ice. He serves as the captain and leader of the team, holding everyone together. With that said, he will be 37 when he requires a new contract, and it is hard to imagine that he will still be a nearly point-per-game player. Given this, the deal will most likely not be long-term nor carrying a significant yearly salary.

Viktor Arvidsson

Viktor Arvidsson was one of the players the Kings brought on this summer to help the team make the playoffs this season. LA traded their 2021 second-round pick and 2022 third-round pick to the Nashville Predators in exchange for the winger.

Arvidsson was very good for the Predators last season, recording 10 goals and 15 assists in 50 games. He put up a 53.51 Corsi for percentage (CF%) and a 52.87 expected goals for percentage (xGF%) — second and third on the team for those playing more than 20 games, respectively. He also posted 1.3 wins above replacement (WAR), good for third on the team.

This coming season, Arvidsson could fill a first-line role for the Kings, warranting his $4.25 million salary. If the Kings decide to resign him for the 2024-25 season, though, he should be seeing a cut in pay. He will be 31 years old at the time of his potential new contract, so, like Kopitar, not only will his new deal be for less money than his current one, but he should see less term as well.

Kings Will Have Some Big Contracts on the Books in 2024

Not only do the Kings have to sign all of these players in 2024, but the team will still have some big contracts they will have to navigate to keep everyone around. Last season, LA extended Alex Iafallo through the 2024-25 season, paying him $4 million annually.

Alex Iafallo Los Angeles Kings
Alex Iafallo, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In addition to Arvidsson, the Kings also brought on Phillip Danault this offseason. While the defensive center will make the team better this coming season, his $5.5 million annual salary will last through the 2026-27 season. Another big deal that terminates after the conclusion of the 2026-27 season, arguably the team’s worst contract, belongs to Drew Doughty. The 31-year-old is certainly not the defenseman he used to be, but he is getting paid a whopping $11 million per season.

The Kings’ Future Is Expensive

Over the past few seasons, the bright future of the Kings has been the main topic of discussion among fans, taking away some of the pain that comes with missing the playoffs. While the future is definitely exciting, it is important to remember that it is costly as well.

All of the top prospects the Kings have been accumulating will eventually need second NHL contracts, and considering the caliber of many of these players, they won’t come cheap. Blake will have to be meticulous moving forward to secure the team’s future while keeping around some of the veterans on reasonable deals — if appropriate.

Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey

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