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. After 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 reasonable. When asked if the current roster is good enough to make the playoffs, the general manager of the Kings, 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 Dougie Hamilton.
The Kings Are Looking to Add a Defenseman
Prior to the trade deadline, Blake stated that he was looking for a “dynamic,” left-handed defenseman who is also 25 years old or younger. They did acquire Christian Wolanin, but I don’t believe he is the player the team was looking for.
The Kings are looking to add a “dynamic” defenseman because of the team’s lack of offense, specifically from the blue line. The team’s little offensive contributions from defensemen come almost exclusively from Drew Doughty; he put up eight goals and 26 assists in 56 games last season.
In the 2020-21 season, the Kings showed a goals for per games played rate (GF/GP) of just 2.54, 27 in the league. Even worse was their 5-on-5 play, earning them a 28th-best goals for per 60 rate (GF/60) of 2.11, and a 26th-best expected goals for per 60 rate (xGF/60) of 2.10.
The Kings are loaded up on forwards, so adding an offensively talented defenseman would do wonders for the team’s overall play and balance the lineup.
Hamilton’s 2020-21 Season
Hamilton was moved to the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2018 along with Michael Ferland and Adam Fox. The Calgary Flames received Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin in return. Hamilton played 55 games with the Hurricanes in the 2020-21 season, tallying 10 goals and 32 assists, totaling 42 points.
Hamilton showed solid possession metrics, posting a 55.96 Corsi for percentage (CF%), which earned him the third-best percentage on the team. He also put up the third-best expected goals for percentage (xGF%), 57.15 percent on the season.
The overall impact Hamilton made on the Hurricanes was impressive, yet again, third-best on the team; he put up a wins above replacement (WAR) of 1.3. His multi-season regularized adjusted plus/minus chart shows just how good he really is in all facets of the game.
Hamilton does not only control the game offensively, but he can contribute defensively as well. Also, he can be a significant addition to any power play, amplifying his incredible value.
Should the Kings Pursue Hamilton?
There is no denying how remarkable a player Hamilton is, making it difficult to say the Kings shouldn’t go after him. He has a massive frame, coming in at 6-foot-6, 229 pounds, adding a physical element to his outstanding offensive ability. He can also run a power play; Drew Doughty is the main defenseman on the power play right now, so it would be nice to add another guy who can play on the man advantage.
Hamilton is currently 28 years old, allowing him to serve in a leadership role as a franchise defenseman for the future Kings’ Cup runs. Even if the team decides to take a defenseman in the first round of the 2021 Draft, it would still be wise to bring in another defenseman the team knows is capable, as Doughty is overall on the decline.
In addition to everything Hamilton can bring over the long term, he would also likely push the Kings over the edge to make the playoffs in the 2021-22 season, which is the team’s goal.
That being said, there are some negatives to bringing in Hamilton, starting with the potential contract. Evolving-Hockey projects a seven-year contract worth $8.476 million per season. This is incredibly reasonable considering the value Hamilton provides compared to Alex Pietrangelo, who recently signed a deal worth $8.8 million per season, and Doughty, who is getting paid a healthy $11 million per season.
Despite the contract being as reasonable as it is, it does provide some issues for the Kings potentially signing the free agent. Doughty’s $11 million per season contract makes it tough to imagine the team splurging on another defenseman getting paid similar money.
Signing Hamilton to a deal where he would be getting paid just under $9 million per season is unjustifiable for two reasons. One, in terms of pure ability, can the Kings really sign him for under $9 million per season when Doughty is right across the locker room getting paid $11 million? Probably not.
The second reason is that LA does not want to run into issues with the salary cap. It might sound unreasonable now considering how much flexibility they have, but, eventually, all of the high-end prospects the team has in the pipeline are going to need contracts, making it tough to have almost $20 million locked up in older defensemen.
It is also important to recognize that Hamilton isn’t quite what Blake is looking for. Though Hamilton is the definition of “dynamic,” he is older than the player Blake is looking for, and he is a right shot.
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Addressing a possible Hamilton signing from the Kings’ point of view is tough; he is a top-tier player, but the timeline doesn’t quite fit with the team’s plan. LA can either forget practicality and go after him or stick to the plan and stay patient.
Unfortunately, I would say it is best to go with the latter. The Kings have been patient throughout the lengthy rebuilding process, and it’s not worth it to change up their methods when it is so close to being over. The best course of action is to wait for the rebuild to settle in before filling any holes. Other opportunities to acquire great players will come around, so there is no reason to sign a long-term deal merely to fulfill the short-term goal of making the playoffs next season.
Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey
Zackary Weiner is a high school student from New York City who covers the Los Angeles Kings here at The Hockey Writers. He is a lifelong hockey fan and player, and his previous experience includes writing articles about the NHL for various online publications. His articles cover a wide variety of topics that concern the Kings and he takes into account a range of viewpoints, making his articles a perfect read for anyone who wants to stay up to date on the team. Zackary is more than happy to get into a conversation with fellow Kings fans, so feel free to leave a comment below any of his articles like this one to let him know your opinion and what you want to see next. You can also listen to him talk about the team on Fantasy Hockey Life and The Hockey Writers Live.