The Los Angeles Kings’ 2020-21 season is over, meaning it’s time for the team to start planning its strategy for the offseason. Many fans, and even some players, are expecting some big moves from Rob Blake and his team. While there is logic in the team going out and making some big moves, it’s important that they show extreme caution in trying to make that move. With one of the best prospect pools in the league and another top-10 pick in this year’s draft, the Kings should not derail the rebuild they’ve put together right before it finishes.
There’s no denying that one of the Kings’ biggest needs is a dynamic, left-shot defenseman who can add offense to their blue line. After Drew Doughty, there’s very little offensive contribution from the teams’ defense — Sean Walker finished second for scoring amongst Kings defenseman with 18 points, which is simply not good enough. While going out and acquiring a high-end defenseman via free agency or trade is viable, I’d argue looking at this year’s draft is a better option. The top of this year’s draft is filled with dynamic, left-shot defensemen for them to add. Even with the Canucks jumping the Kings in the standing, LA is still in an excellent spot to add a serious impact defenseman through the draft.
While top prospect Owen Powers is likely out of the team’s reach, there are still two standout players for them to pick up. First being Michigan Wolverine Luke Hughes, the younger brother of Jack and Quinn Hughes, would be the perfect addition to the Kings’ blue line. The biggest of his three brothers, the 6-foot-2, 176-pound defenseman skates like the wind and is a fantastic passer. His ability to move the puck up ice with both his skating and passing is exactly the kind of dynamism the Kings need on the left side of their defense.
Another left-shot defenseman with a similar profile is Swedish defenseman Simon Edvinsson. Standing at 6-foot-5 and 203 pounds, he brings an offensive spark from the back end that can help change a franchise. Like Hughes, he’s an excellent skater with a great pass on him. Both players would bring exactly what the Kings need and the team would have to expend zero extra assets to acquire them. They would also both be a perfect partner for “Steady Eddie” on the second pairing, Matt Roy. Certainly, adding an immediate impact to their blue line would help the team massively next season, but I think for this team’s long-term future, it makes more sense to add quality through the draft once again.
Top Line Winger
Another area where the Kings need to make a big improvement is on their top line, specifically a goal-scoring right-winger. Last season, 36-year-old Dustin Brown led the team in scoring with 17 goals. This was a fantastic bounce-back season for Brown, but it does point to a big overall problem for the Kings’ offense. It’s clear that they need a lot of help putting the puck in the net. With a clear issue, there’s a clear solution right? Go out and pick up a big name this offseason. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple.
The Kings shouldn’t risk the long-term development of some prospects for short-term gains on the top line. If they go out and make a splash on a big name with a multi-year contract, it could be harmful to these prospects. I’m specifically worried about blocking a path to the first line for Arthur Kaliyev, who is the exact profile of player that the Kings need.
He’s also on the cusp of being an NHL-ready player. He’ll likely need, at most, another season of development before he’s ready to take on big minutes for the Kings. The team should only look to make a move if they can snap up an impact player on a one- or two-year deal, so they can make space for young players like Kaliyev at the end of the deal. I think in an ideal world for the Kings, Mike Hoffman hits free agency and is willing to sign a similar deal to the one he signed this last season with the St. Louis Blues. Even if it’s not Hoffman that the Kings get, that deal should be the model they try and follow for adding a top-line winger this offseason.
The Kings Aren’t Ready to Win
The biggest reason I want the Kings to be patient this offseason is the simple reality that they are not ready to win right now. Even if they added both, a left-shot defenseman and a goal-scoring right-winger they still wouldn’t be ready to compete for a Stanley Cup. Even with those additions, the team’s timeline for competing wouldn’t change much. The Kings would still have to wait for players like Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield, and Alex Turcotte to develop, assuming they weren’t traded, before the team would ready to truly compete.
Which makes my question, “why trade assets to make minor gains in the regular season?” I’d rather the team stick with their process and see this rebuild all the way through before making big deals. Wait until your rebuild is over to start trading away prospects and draft picks like they did in 2012. The team has done a fantastic job building up one of the best prospect pools in the league, and it would be a shame to see them start trading away what they’ve built for a first-round exit in next year’s playoffs.
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It wouldn’t make sense to me. If they can get a perfect deal done — great, make the deal – but the Kings can’t go out and make a big-time deal just for the sake of it. The Kings need to go into the offseason with more than just next season in mind. They need to be thinking about the future as well, and specifically, how making some big-time acquisitions will affect that future.
The Future Is Close
Kings fans, I know how tough it was watching your team miss the playoffs yet again this season. I also know, the thought of missing out again next season is awful, but now is not the time to jump into massive moves. It’s clear in Blake’s comments today that the team will look to add players this offseason, and that is great. He responded to a question from Kings Insider John Hoven regarding adding players, stating:
Now, we are going to continue to see young guys filter into the lineup and we’re going to see them develop, that’s not going to change. But we will take necessary steps to get better.John Hoven, Mayors Manor
Comments like this from Blake should leave fans very hopeful for the immediate future. He clearly sees the value in adding players now, while also letting their young players develop. With a cool head at the helm this offseason, the Kings look primed to make the right decisions for the future.