It’s an exciting time to be a Los Angeles Kings fan, even with the team missing playoffs for the third straight year. With one of the league’s best prospect pools and a clear desire to go out and add players, fans have a lot to look forward to this summer. With the expansion draft only a month away and the flat cap this offseason, the team will have several opportunities to take advantage of this unique summer. Here are four more players I think they should target this summer.
Anytime I look at who the Kings should be targeting I want to keep in mind what the team has identified as their biggest needs. For that, I always trust the Mayor, John Hoven. As he stated in an article earlier this month, the team is looking to add — one top-six forward with serious NHL experience who can play on a top line, a middle-six forward, again with experience, and a left-shot defenseman with offensive upside. They also want these players on bridge deals to avoid blocking their prospects in the future. With this criteria in mind, I’ve put together a few expansion draft and cap casualties the team should target.
James van Riemsdyk
The first player I want to talk about is Philadelphia Flyers forward, James van Riemsdyk. Some fans might not like the idea of trading for the 32-year-old winger, but I’d urge them to hear me out.
NHL Experience: If the Kings want someone with real NHL experience, he fits the bill perfectly. With 797 games and 12 NHL seasons under his belt, he would become the fourth-most experienced player on the teams’ roster.
Top-Six Forward: He would walk right onto the team’s first line. His 43 points last season would have put him behind only Anze Kopitar on the Kings’ scoring charts — with his 17 goals tying Dustin Brown for the team lead. He’s also a proven goal scorer, something the team desperately needs. During his career, he has averaged 27 goals per 82 games, an average better than any player on the team. He also posted well-above-average possession metrics last season. He’s still a capable top-line power-forward who could thrive on the wing of a playmaker like Kopitar. The team has been clear that they want to improve their top-six forward group and van Riemsdyk would do that.
Contract: Another positive to targeting van Riemsdyk is the term on his contract. With only two years left on his current deal, he’d be an ideal “bridge player” while the team waits for their prospects to develop. Some people might point to his $7 million cap hit as a reason to avoid this player — with the Kings looking at around $20 million in cap space next season and with no major unrestricted free agents to sign in the next two years, his price point shouldn’t be a big concern. Also, with the Flyers likely to leave him unprotected in this summer’s expansion draft, they might be willing to retain some of his salary.
While I doubt he would have topped many fans’ desired players list to start this offseason, he’s still a viable option for the Kings to target this summer. He will also likely come at a reduced price, allowing the team to save their high-value assets for future moves.
It would be an absolute coup if the Kings can snag Conor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes. According to Frank Seravalli of The Daily Faceoff, the diminutive winger is likely to leave Arizona this summer and the Kings should be all over him. Does he really fit the team’s needs though?
NHL Experience: He doesn’t quite meet the team’s desired NHL experience quota with 164 games over three seasons. This would be a slight downside to acquiring Garland, but I think it can be overlooked considering his quality.
Top-Six Forward: There’s no doubt that he would be a top-six forward on this team — he would instantly become their best right-winger, and arguably their second-best forward outright. His 39 points in 49 games would’ve placed him second on the team for points and he’d bring a different element to their lineup. The team is lacking a shifty, high-skill forward like him in their top six right now. He could form a fantastic partnership with Kopitar on the top line or be used as an offense driver for the second line. Either way, someone on the team would reap the benefits of this high-level playmaker. I would love to see him on a line featuring Adrian Kempe and Kopitar. I think surrounding him with two big bodies would be beneficial for him and I think this configuration would help Kempe become the dynamic point producer that fans have been hoping for.
Contract: The big issue with Garland becomes his contract. You would have to figure out a contract with him and his agent before pulling the trigger on acquiring his rights. But what kind of contract would he command? According to Evolving-Hockey, his contract would be somewhere around four years with an average annual value of $4.68 million. So, the same term as Alex Iafallo for $680,000 more. If that’s truly the contract he wants, you sign him in a heartbeat. However, things could become complicated with several teams interested in him. Four years wouldn’t fit the “bridge deal” the Kings are looking for, but given his age and production, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Garland would be a fantastic pick up and would instantly improve this team. His NHL experience and expected contract aren’t perfect fits, but an exception should be made for this player.
Several reports have suggested that Colorado Avalanche forward Joonas Donskoi will be exposed in the upcoming expansion draft. If this is the case, the Kings should look to pounce on the Finnish winger. The Athletic’s Peter Baugh stated:
Donskoi had a strong year with Colorado, scoring a career-high 17 goals despite the shortened season. But with the Avalanche needing cap space, losing a player with a $3.9 million salary would serve a purpose, even if the team would miss him.(From, “Colorado Avalanche protected list: Who’s staying and who could be picked in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft?” The Athletic)
NHL Experience: He would satisfy the team’s desired NHL experience with his 399 games across six seasons. You wouldn’t consider him an NHL veteran by any means, but he would still add some much-needed experience to the team.
Middle-Six Forward: He would fill the middle-six role the team is looking for very well. They want someone who can fill in on the second line as they wait for a player like Arthur Kaliyev to develop, while also having the ability to slide down onto the third line when the time comes. He would be able to do this perfectly, adding speed and a goal-scoring touch to the team’s second line. Having spent most of his time in the NHL on the third line, we know he’s a capable player in that role should the need arrive. The Kings wouldn’t be signing him as a long-term solution at right wing, but he can certainly improve the team for next season.
Contract: Another positive to signing Donskoi is his contract. He is signed through 2022-23 — with two years left on his current deal, he would be a perfect “bridge” player. In an ideal world, he spends 2021-22 on the second line and 2022-23 on the third line. At that point, the Kings can let him walk to free agency happy with the value he brought to the organization. Considering they won’t be protecting him in the expansion draft, the Avalanche might be willing to trade him for cheap. With two picks in both the second and third round of the upcoming draft, I’m sure the two teams could work out a deal.
He might not bring in the excitement that other big names would, but signing Donskoi would provide solid depth and security for the Kings while they wait on their world-class prospect pool to develop.
When the Boston Bruins acquired Mike Reilly just before the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline, it seemed a clear rental — however, after some stellar play down the stretch, there seems to be some desire in Boston to bring him back. If no deal can be done, he would be a fantastic player for the Kings to sign while they wait for their ideal left-shot defenseman to become available.
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Offensive Upside: The Kings simply did not get enough production from their defense last season, especially from the left side. Rookie defenseman Mikey Anderson led the team’s left defensemen in points with a measly 11. Reilly would be able to come in and help with this issue. His 27 points would have placed him second behind Drew Doughty in points for Kings’ defensemen and his 23 even-strength points would have placed him first amongst the same group. He could also quarterback the second power-play unit, which was abysmal last season and desperately needs help. A nice partner for Matt Roy on the second pairing, he could provide some much-needed offense from the back end.
Contract: As a pending unrestricted free agent this summer, there will be plenty of competition for him, which might make this signing difficult. Evolving-Hockey has his contract projected to be somewhere around three years with an average annual value of $3.75 million. Like Garland, if this is the contract on the table, the Kings should be all over it. That’s a cheap contract for a team looking at around $20 million in cap space and he would be easy to move when they eventually find the elite, left-shot defenseman they’re looking for. Unfortunately, there would be several teams looking to sign him at that price point. But, I’m sure if the desire is there, the team will be able to work out a deal with him.
He won’t be the final piece to the team’s puzzle on defense, but he can hold the team over until they find that piece. If the team is truly interested in improving their blue line this summer, Reilly should be a target.
An Eventful Offseason
There’s no question that the Kings will be looking to bring in quality throughout their lineup this summer. However, they have outlined very specific criteria for the players they want to bring in. With that in mind, I think the four players mentioned would be fantastic additions to this team. If nothing else, it will be a ton of fun to see what this roster looks like come opening night.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.