Kings Could Really Use Free Agent Defenseman Jamie Oleksiak

The most famous member of the Oleksiak family is four-time Olympic medalist Penny Oleksiak, who won four medals as a swimmer in 2016. However, the Oleksiak that the Los Angeles Kings should be interested in pursuing is her older brother, Jamie Oleksiak, who becomes a free agent this summer.

Oleksiak Knows What it Takes to Make a Deep Playoff Run

Heading into the 2020-21 season, LA Kings general manager Rob Blake laid out his vision for the team and said he expected them to make the playoffs. However, this dream didn’t come to fruition. Clinching a playoff berth appears to be the Kings’ desired outcome for next season, as TSN’s Darren Dreger is reporting that LA could be a big player this summer.

The Kings are poised to have an infusion of young talent on the roster next season. Prospects such as Rasmus Kupari, Arthur Kaliyev, and the Kings’ golden goose, Quinton Byfield, all made their NHL debuts in 2020-21. Only four players from LA’s 2014 Stanley Cup championship roster remain on the team. Having an abundance of talented young players is a great sign for the future, but veterans are needed to help a team. This is where Oleksiak comes into the fray.

Jamie Oleksiak Dallas Stars
Jamie Oleksiak, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Only a short time ago, Oleksiak played a pivotal role in the Dallas Stars‘ Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2020. He was one of four Stars skaters to average over 20 minutes of playing time in that playoff run and led the team in plus/minus at plus-11. He provided the team with nine points, which ranked third among Dallas’ blueliners behind offensive dynamos Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg. Adding Oleksiak to the Kings’ roster would be a smart move, as he’s a veteran presence who knows what it takes to make a deep playoff run, and at 28, he has years left in the tank.

Instant Impact

Oleksiak would make an instant impact for the Kings. The former 14th-overall pick is a very skilled left-handed defenceman, which fits one of LA’s very specific needs. In a previous article, I discussed why LA shouldn’t be in the market for Seth Jones due to them already being solidified on the right side, however, filling out the left side is a priority for the team. Left-handed defenders who played for the Kings last season include Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Kale Clague, Kurtis MacDermid, Olli Maatta and Christian Wolanin. The Kings’ situation on the right side was much less convoluted, as they only utilized four right-handed defencemen throughout the season, which includes Mark Alt’s two-game stint with the team.

Jamie Oleksiak Dallas Stars
Jamie Oleksiak, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Although Anderson, Bjornfot and Clague are all young, promising players, the addition of Oleksiak would improve LA’s left side. For example, instead of rostering MacDermid to intimidate players and skate for less than 14 minutes a night, he Kings could roster the giant, 6-foot-7 Oleksiak who can intimidate while playing over 20 minutes a night. Furthermore, they could nab an asset if they traded MacDermid to a team in need of a tough guy.

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Wolanin, 26, could revert back to the role he had in Ottawa, which was primarily skating in the AHL, but could be relied upon to fill in an NHL role when necessary. Maatta was brought into LA with the intention of being Doughty’s partner in crime. To put it lightly, this never materialized, and perhaps a change of scenery would help Maatta revitalize his career.

In 2020-21, LA gave up the ninth-most even-strength goals and the 11th-most goals overall. Oleksiak would definitely help in this regard.

Oleksiak RAPM chart
Jamie Oleksiak’s RAPM Chart for the 2020-21 season (credit: evolving-hockey)

As seen on Oleksiak’s 2020-21 RAPM chart, he provides lots of value in regards to supressing Corsi against (CA/60) and expected goals against (xGA/60). Corsi refers to any shot attempt (goals, shots on net, misses and blocks) outside of the shootout, while expected goals against breaks down each particular shot and examines its quality (i.e. a breakaway shot is assigned a better quality than a shot from the neutral zone). Overall, this means Oleksiak is great at limiting shots against and eliminating dangerous opportunities. He does this through a combination of blocking shots and hitting. In 2020-21, he blocked 88 shots (1.57 per game) and dished out 148 hits (2.6 per game). Throughout his career, he has averaged similar totals of 1.2 blocks per game and 2.3 hits per game.

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The red in Oleksiak’s RAPM chart is for his even-strength offence and on the power play. In LA, the power play wouldn’t be an issue for him, as Doughty quarterbacks the team’s power play, leaving little time for other blueliners to play. Although Oleksiak doesn’t drive offence at 5-on-5, he does capitalize, as all 14 of his points were gathered at even-strength in 2020-21.

Oleksiak as a King Makes Sense

Blake has been looking for a “dynamic left-handed” blueliner for a while now. Although Oleksiak doesn’t fit this criteria, as he is more of a defensive defenceman, he would benefit the Kings. Adding him on a short-term deal (one to three years) would also put less pressure on the Kings’ young left-handed blueliners, such as Anderson (21 years old) and Bjornfot (19 years old) who skated in 54 and 33 games respectively last year. This would allow them to develop while ensuring they have a veteran who can be relied upon as well.

Oleksiak should be a cheaper option to sign, and LA has tons of cap space to make moves with. His physical presence could work wonders on a pairing with one of the Kings’ offensive-minded, right-handed blueliners such as Doughty or Sean Walker. Due to Oleksiak still being a young player with veteran experience, being an affordable option, and being able to fill in a positional need for the Kings while taking pressure off younger players, LA should definitely pursue him in free agency.

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