A Look at the LA Kings Quiet Free Agency

The Los Angeles Kings kicked off the 2020 offseason with a bang at the NHL Entry Draft. They selected a top prospect in Quinton Byfield, and they traded for Lias Andersson who has a high ceiling – if he reaches his potential. Following the draft, LA has done very little in free agency, despite having the ability to do so. The Kings have only made a few small signings thus far in free agency.

Mark Alt

LA signed Alt to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K. He is a 29-year- old, right-handed defensemen who has played in the AHL for the majority of his career. He’s played in just 18 career NHL games, where he has zero points, hits, takeaways or giveaways. His plus/minus rating is a minus-2. His last stint in the NHL was in the 2018-19 season with the Colorado Avalanche, where he played in two games.

Alt is a veteran in the AHL, where he has played in 376 games. His role for the Kings will most likely be as a veteran mentor for their AHL prospects, who can fill in for a few games if needed at the NHL level. Overall, this is a good contract, as the Kings aren’t expected to be a playoff team, so why not get a veteran to help out their AHL team?

Troy Grosenick

Similarly to Alt, 31-year-old goaltender, Troy Grosenick was signed to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700K. He likely won’t play in the NHL, as he only has played two career NHL games, both of which came in the 2014-15 season. The Kings already have a goaltending duo for next season in Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen, so unless one of them gets injured, Grosenick won’t be playing.

San Jose Barracuda goalie Troy Grosenick
Troy Grosenick shown with the San Jose Barracuda (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda)

In his two NHL games played, both for the Kings’ rival San Jose Sharks, Grosenick posted a 0.948 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.53 goals-against average (GAA). Although this was during the 2014-15 season, it shows that he could be a capable goalie if the Kings ever need to call him up. His main impact will be in the AHL, as he should be the Ontario Reign’s starting goalie.

He is a former AHL goaltender of the year as he won the Aldege Bastien Memorial Award in 2017. In his two most recent AHL seasons, he has been phenomenal. In 2018-19, he posted a 0.919 SV% in 46 games played, and in 2019-20 he had a 0.920 SV% in 33 games played.

Austin Strand

Strand has played for the Kings AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, for the past two seasons. He is a 23-year-old, right-handed defenseman who stands at 6’4”. In the 2018-19 season, he played in 43 AHL games, where he tallied seven goals, 11 assists, 30 penalty minutes (PIM), and a minus-4 rating. In the 2019-20 AHL season, his stats remained relatively the same, as in 41 games played he had 30 PIM, a minus-5, eight goals, and a total of 15 points (three less than the season before). His eight goals tied for second among team defensemen in goals this season.

Strand’s contract is a one-year deal that carries a cap hit of $735K, which is actually cheaper than his previous contract. This is a good signing, as Strand is a 23-year-old that still has potential, and the contract is cheaper than what he was making last season.

Bokondji Imama

Imama signed an identical contract to Strand, as both are one-year, two-way deals that are worth $735K. Imama is a left winger who has played for the Reign in the three previous seasons. Before reaching the AHL, he was known for his goal-scoring; in the 2016-17 season, he led the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in goals with 41 and posted 14 assists. His goal-scoring hasn’t translated to the AHL, however, his physicality has.

In 122 career AHL games played, Imama has scored seven goals and added 14 assists, for a total of 21 points. In those games, he has racked up 264 PIM, which translates to 2.2 penalties per game. Imama isn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates or play a bruising, physical game; if he can rediscover the goal-scoring prowess he had in the QMJHL, he could develop into a good, NHL fourth-line checking forward in the mold of a Matt Martin type of player.

Quinton Byfield

The most important signing the LA Kings have made this offseason is signing Byfield to his NHL Entry Level Contract (ELC). His contract is for three years and is worth $925K, the maximum an ELC can be worth. He has all of the makings of a franchise center, and he was definitely the best choice for the second overall pick this season.

“Where most skaters seek out space; Byfield carries the puck like a power running back in the NFL. Blessed with a 6-foot-4 frame, explosive skating stride, and extremely gifted hands, this is a player who always wants the puck on his stick. A fantastic transporter of the puck, deploying a wide array of rush patterns to adjust to defensive fronts”

EliteProspects 2020 NHL Draft Guide

Byfield has been compared to many elite NHL centers. Steve Kournianos of the draft analyst compared him to Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, who is a top center in the NHL. Pick 224’s model has Byfield’s closest NHL comparable as this season’s Hart Trophy winner, Leon Draisaitl. TSN’s Craig Button has compared Byfield to the Kings’ own, two-time Selke Trophy winner, Anze Kopitar.

Sudbury Wolves Quinton Byfield
Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves (Photo by Chris Tanouye/CHL)

Byfield’s main NHL comparable has been Pittsburgh Penguins star, Evgeni Malkin. Malkin is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and is a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner. He has also won all of these awards on one occasion: Hart Trophy (2011-12), Ted Lindsay Award (2011-12) and the Calder Memorial Trophy (2006-07). Malkin is a sure-fire, Hockey Hall of Famer when he retires, and for Byfield to be compared to him is extremely impressive. Signing Byfield was expected, however, putting pen to paper on the deal may be the start of a new era for the LA Kings.

What it Means

LA had tons of salary cap space this offseason, and still have nearly $14 million left. Despite this, LA mainly spent money on cheap free agents; the majority of whom were already in the Kings system. This indicates that LA is still going to be a rebuilder next year, however, they should have a more competitive AHL team due to adding the likes of Grosenick and Alt. The only player LA signed who may be an NHL regular next year is Byfield, who would help improve the team. However, they still won’t likely be a playoff team, even if he plays.

LA is committed to rebuilding and has stockpiled many high-end prospects. The 2020 offseason helped the rebuilding process continue, which should be beneficial over time, as LA should be a Cup contender once all their prospects are NHL ready.