Kings Extend a Future Leader in Iafallo

Heading into Monday’s trade deadline, many expected the Los Angeles Kings to be sellers. Alex Iafallo was one of the players rumored to be a target, as he was going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Considering his role on the team, many believed the money it would take to extend him would not be worth it.

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

The deadline came and went, though, and the only player that the Kings dealt was Jeff Carter. Instead of trading Iafallo, they extended him on a four-year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $4 million. Throughout this season, I have always been a proponent of keeping him around, and the Kings did a phenomenal job of signing him to a win-win deal.

Iafallo’s Season so Far

Iafallo has been a very consistent player throughout his career, and the 2020-21 season has been no exception. Throughout his four NHL seasons, he has always been a player focused on the defensive side of things. That does not mean he doesn’t have offensive capabilities, though. In addition to his stellar defense, he is solid on the power play, backed up by his regularized adjusted plus/minus (RAPM) chart.

Alex Iafallo
Alex Iafallo 2020-21 RAPM Chart (Evolving-Hockey)

In terms of point totals this season, Iafallo has put up 11 goals and 15 assists, totaling 26 points in 40 games, tied for second on the team. He has also been on an uptrend his entire career. In his first season, he posted 0.33 points per game (P/GP), followed by 0.4 P/GP in the 2018-19 season, 0.61 last season, and 0.65 so far this season. Though his ceiling is likely not too high, it is reasonable to think that he will continue to see his point totals rise.

Iafallo has also been great when it comes to his advanced stats. He has posted an 11.43 individual expected goals (ixG), second on the team, as well as the team’s best expected goals for percentage (xGF%), despite it being just 50.44 percent. He also sees outstanding possession metrics, posting a 53.46 Corsi for percentage (CF%), best on the team. His well-rounded play earned the praise of head coach Todd McLellan after the signing.

He’s a Swiss Army Knife, I feel good about putting him on the ice in every situation. It’s amazing how many teammates came by me and said ‘we gotta get him signed.’ They really want him to be here and he wants to be here.

Head coach Todd McLellan on Alex Iafallo.

Iafallo’s all-around excellent game shows up in his wins above replacement (WAR) statistic, a stat that refers to how much a specific player has contributed to their team. He has posted a WAR of 0.7 so far this season, second on the team. He sometimes can slide under the rest of the league’s radar, as he is can be described as a “jack of all trades, but a master of none,” but after watching just a few games, anyone can tell how valuable he really is.

A Mutually Beneficial Deal

The biggest concern of fans when it came to extending Iafallo was that the Kings were going to give him a contract featuring first-line money. I think the $4 million AAV is right on par with what he should be making. Though he won’t be a first-line winger long term, the reality is that he is at the moment. Considering that and all he contributes to the team on both sides of the puck, a $4 million AAV is quite reasonable.

The four-year term is also an important aspect of the deal to consider, and I think the length of the contract is a good move by the Kings. It is long enough to the point where they lock down Iafallo to see how he fits in with the team post-rebuild, but it is short enough to the point where LA won’t have long-term money issues if things don’t work out.

Iafallo’s fit post-rebuild is crucial to the context of the deal. It won’t be long before the Kings’ veterans will be on their way out. Even if they don’t leave the team, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown can’t be as good as they are now forever. This is where Iafallo could fit in long term: as a leader.

With one of the best prospect pools in the league, if not the best, the Kings are destined to have a few Cup runs in the near future. By the time the team is consistently making the playoffs, Iafallo, age 27, will be in prime leadership age. With his newly minted contract, he will be able to put those skills to use in Los Angeles.

Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey

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