With the approaching 2021 NHL offseason comes speculation. Recent reports suggest that the LA Kings will be looking to add quality forwards, and with the upcoming expansion draft and a flat cap, they should be able to find some great value either through trade or free agency. Here’s a look at which players general manager Rob Blake should target.
What the Kings Need
TSN’s Darren Dreger has recently reported that he expects the team to be big players this offseason — and claims that the team will be looking to add, two top-six forwards this offseason.
In a similar report, LA Kings insider John Hoven reported that the team is more likely to go after a top-six forward, preferably a first-line player, and a top-nine forward. Hoven also added during his latest Kings Of The Podcast episode that the team won’t be “big-game hunting” for a player like Jack Eichel — instead, they’ll look for bridge players to keep the team competitive while their prospects develop. Hoven stated:
Based upon some intel I’ve received this week, it’s really about finding players that are what I’m calling bridge players to get you to Kaliyev, Turcotte, and whatnot. (From “KOTP Season 2 EP 34)
Hoven also mentioned that the team is aware they made a mistake with Gabe Vilardi by thrusting him into the second-line center role too early.
With all this in mind, Blake should target a top-six forward who can fill in on the top line and a top-nine forward who can play on any of the top three lines. More specifically, he should try to acquire a right-winger as the top-line player and a left-winger to complement Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo on the left side or a second-line center. Here are the best options.
Although it’s a long shot, reports suggest that the St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko might be on the market this offseason. The goal-scoring winger has missed significant time over the last two seasons because of injury, and the Blues may consider moving him, according to The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, who recently responded to fan questions about Tarasenko’s availability:
If he hasn’t already, I think Armstrong will gauge the interest around the league. He has to… From a team-dynamic perspective — the desire to suit up a blue-collar, hardworking lineup — the Blues may feel the need to go in a different direction, and Tarasenko may want that, too, (From “Trade Vladimir Tarasenko? Latest thoughts on Kraken protections? Steve Ott’s future? Blues Mailbag,” Jeremy Rutherford, The Athletic)
If Tarasenko is available, the Kings should seriously think about acquiring the highly skilled winger. It would be a risk, given he’s only played a combined 34 games over the last two seasons, but the potential reward is well worth the risk. When healthy, he is almost guaranteed to score goals. From 2014-15 to 2018-19, he never scored fewer than 33 goals and hit a career-high of 40. That level of goalscoring would be invaluable for a team that finished 27th in goals for last season. As the first-line winger, Tarasenko would instantly become the Kings’ most dangerous forward.
With only two years left on his current deal, Tarasenko essentially fits the criteria of a bridge deal player. He may have a hefty $7.5 million cap hit, but the Kings have roughly $20 million in cap space next season with no big names to re-sign within the next two years. The cost might be high to acquire him, but if management can package a B+ prospect, like Rasmus Kupari or Helge Grans, along with a non-first-round draft pick, they should pull the trigger with little hesitation.
The Calgary Flames are reportedly looking to shake up their core, and Sean Monahan may be a casualty of this re-tool. After two down seasons and injury issues, some teams may choose to avoid the 26-year-old center. The Kings shouldn’t be one of those teams. They need a second-line center after realizing they expected too much from Vilardi, and Monahan would fill that role perfectly.
Like Tarasenko, Monahan would add a much-needed scoring threat — with at least 22 goals in his first seven seasons in the league, including three 30-goal seasons. While his play has dipped recently, shifting to a second-line center role behind Anze Kopitar could be beneficial. He would feel less pressure to produce big numbers, and he’d play less against the opposition’s top lines.
Monahan is also only signed to a two-year contract and would be the perfect placeholder while Quinton Byfield continues his development. His value is tough to gauge, but if the Kings can trade a mid-level prospect and a draft pick, it would be a deal worth making.
Another good option for the Kings would be Colorado Avalanche forward Brandon Saad if he hits free agency. Saad has expressed an interest in staying in Colorado; however, stars like Gabriel Landeskog and Cale Makar need new contracts, which makes it likely that Saad hits the market. Adding him would give the Kings another versatile player on the left wing. He is a hard-working, fast winger with an above-average shot. He has scored 20 or more goals on several occasions throughout his 10-year NHL career, and along with Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo, would provide depth down the left side.
Saad would be a good fit, but contract negotiations might be tough. At 28 years old, he might be looking for a long-term deal, something the Kings would be unwilling to give out. If they can negotiate a one or two-year contract, he could be a perfect fit.
Another possible casualty of the flat cap is Nashville Predators forward Mikael Granlund. Reports suggest that the Predators would like to re-sign him, but their cap situation might not allow it. If he hits the market, the Kings should make a run for him. A versatile forward who can play center and on the wing, Granlund would inject some much-needed skill to the roster. Like Monahan, a chance to be a true second-line center behind Kopitar should increase Granlund’s production. While most have him penciled in as the second-line center in Nashville, his 19:28 average ice time puts him nearly three minutes above first-line center Ryan Johansen. Granlund wouldn’t be relied upon so heavily in LA, and that’s a good thing.
Most projections have his next contract at three years and around $5 million per year. Again, they have an abundance of cap space, so the dollar value isn’t a major concern. The three-year length would be the main deterrent in a potential contract.
Perhaps Blake could raise the dollar value and lower the term on a deal because adding Granlund would give the Kings a skilled second-line center to hold them over while they wait for prospects to develop. His versatility to effectively shift to the wing if necessary also adds to his value. If they can reach a good deal, the Kings should sign him.
An Eventful Summer
While we may not know who may be of interest to the Kings this offseason, we know they will be shopping for quality forwards. Fortunately, there will be plenty of opportunities for them to find one. Some added talent upfront could propel the team into the playoffs next season and give their young players some much-needed experience. It would also give the team a chance to be patient with their wealth of prospects. Expect it to be an eventful summer.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.