Heading into the 2020-21 season, not much was expected of the rebuilding Los Angeles Kings. With that said, the team’s staff and players expected to make the playoffs, despite finishing 28th in the league just a season prior. LA didn’t end up meeting their goal last season, finishing with a record of 21-28-7, totaling 49 points.
The Kings are now looking to next season to re-establish themselves as a playoff team. At the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, LA acknowledged that the goal of making the playoffs in the 2021-22 season might not be realistic with the team they have now. However, they are planning on bringing in players to make that goal more realistic. When asked if the current roster is good enough to make the playoffs, Kings general manager, Rob Blake, had this to say:
It wasn’t this year, obviously, so we need to add to it…We need to add to this roster to get better.Rob Blake on the state of the current Kings roster.
The Kings could address their areas of need through trades, moving some of their prospects, but it is better to hold young players at this point in the rebuild, keeping options open. It is likely better for the future of the team to bring in players through free agency, and one potential addition could be Brandon Saad.
The Kings Need Scoring
The Kings’ biggest hurdle last season was scoring goals. LA finished the season with a goals for per games played rate (GF/GP) of 2.54, 27th in the league. Additionally, the team’s power play was stellar at certain points throughout the season, inflating their goals scored. At 5-on-5, LA had a goals for per 60 rate (GF/60) of 2.11, 28th in the league, and a similarly poor expected goals for per 60 rate (xGF/60) of 2.10, 26th in the league.
Had it not been for the Kings’ power play, their record could have gotten even uglier this season. The team wasn’t able to score at even strength, so when their power play slowed, so did the entire team. If LA is going to have any shot at making the playoffs in 2021-22, they will need to bring in a player who can add to the little scoring the team got last season.
Saad’s 2020-21 Season
The Chicago Blackhawks traded Saad before the start of the 2020-21 season, along with Dennis Gilbert, to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm. Saad went on to put up 15 goals and nine assists in the 44 games he played with the Avs.
The 28-year-old put up 8.61 individual expected goals (ixG) on the season and posted a Corsi for percentage (CF%) and expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 56.66 and 57.14 percent, respectively. He made solid overall contributions to the team, posting a wins above replacement (WAR) of one. Saad’s style of play is all focused on the offensive side of things, visually represented in his multi-season regularized adjusted plus/minus (RAPM) chart.
Saad’s offensive ability is clearly his biggest asset, so he will likely be of interest to any team looking to add goalscoring, including the Kings.
Should the Kings Pursue Saad?
If you couldn’t tell already, I think the Kings should go after Saad. He brings the offense LA needs, and he knows not only what it takes to make the playoffs but what it takes to go all the way, winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015.
It would be a good idea for the Kings to go after anyone they can add up front, but the team especially lacks winger depth. Saad would be a huge add for this reason, and he would fit into a first or second-line role well.
The Kings also have one of the best cap situations in the league, meaning they can afford to sign Saad. Evolving-Hockey projects him to land a four-year deal with a cap hit of $4.944 million. This sounds about right, considering the Kings recently signed Alex Iafallo to a four-year, $4 million average annual value contract; Iafallo provides comparable value, having posted a WAR of 1.2 last season.
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If the Kings can only get Saad for what Evolving-Hockey projects, I think it is reasonable, but an ideal contract would look more like $4 million for three years. By the time a four-year contract is up, it is hard to imagine that Saad would still be contributing the same amount of offense he does now. Also, the future forward core will hopefully be in place three years from now, so keeping Saad around for an additional season to take up a roster spot is not preferable.
Signing Saad, whether it is for three years or four, will be important for the Kings to fulfill their short-term goal of making the playoffs next season. By the time his contract would be up, LA should hopefully be a strong Stanley Cup contender, so I could even see Saad sticking around on a cheaper contract to provide leadership, finishing up his career in Los Angeles with another championship.
Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey