Kings Switch Focus To Free Agnecy

The NHL Draft concluded a few days ago where the league welcomed 211 new players into the vast NHL family. Auston Matthews, who was selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Filip Helt, who was picked at number 211 of the draft, served as bookends for the 2016 NHL Draft. At various spots between those picks were four players taken by the Los Angeles Kings.

The Kings selected at numbers 51, 112, 142 and 202 overall during this year’s draft. With those picks, Los Angeles selected, Kale Clague, a defenseman from the WHL, Jacob Moverare, a Swedish defenseman, Michael Eyssimont, a center who played college hockey for St. Cloud State and Jacob Friend another defenseman from the OHL.

Along with bringing four new kids into the Kings’ organization, Los Angeles traded Nick Ebert, a seventh-round pick in 2012, to the Dallas Stars for goalie Jack Campbell.

Now as the dust settles on the draft, the Kings and the rest of the NHL shift their attention to the free agency. Before many teams may have gotten a chance to meet and greet the new kids that are now a part of their organizations, NHL front offices will have to focus on contracts for those already in the league.

When it comes to Los Angeles, there are several things we can expect as free agency inches closer and closer.

Milan Lucic
Lucic and the Kings weren’t able to come to terms on a new contract. (Photo By: Andy Martin Jr)

The Kings’ First Domino

Since the Kings’ season ended in the opening round of the postseason, the state of the team has gotten clearer. The first moment of clarity happened when it was announced that Milan Lucic and the Kings were not going to be able to come to terms on a new contract and the winger would hit the open market.

Lucic was the first domino for the L.A.’s offseason plans. The money available, how the Kings would approach the free agency and who they would target all depended whether or not the Kings would be able to get Lucic to sign the dotted line. Now that the Kings know Lucic will not be skating for Los Angele next season, the team moved forward.

As Lucic packs his bags and gets ready to become an unrestricted free-agent the Kings were able to use some of the money that would not be assigned to Lucic to re-sign forward Trevor Lewis to a new four-year deal worth $8 million.

If Lucic had re-signed with the Kings it would have been likely that Lewis’ time in Los Angeles would have been done. As it is, Lewis could have received more money had he looked elsewhere in the league for a new contract. But Lewis took a pay cut to stay in L.A., where he has established himself as one of the Kings most reliable centermen.

Los Angeles’ Needs

As the Kings move deeper into the postseason there are two holes that need to be filled. Los Angeles needs a top-six winger, most likely to skate alongside Anze Kopitar, and a right-handed defenseman for the team’s second pairing.

We’ll take a look at the back-end first. Two possible solutions come to mind for the Kings when it comes to defense and they are Jason Demers and Ben Lovejoy. Demers, who is currently a part oft the Stars, and Lovejoy, who would be leaving the Pittsburgh Penguins, would be good fits to slide in behind Drew Doughty.

Both d-men were heavy contributors for their team’s throughout last season and ate up significant amounts of ice time. Demers averaged just under 21 minutes of play last season while Lovejoy was on the ice for just under 19 minutes. Both defensemen mentioned can be reliable on the ice while getting Doughty off the ice and resting.

When it comes to who the Kings bring in to address their offensive problems things can go a couple different ways.

As you can see from the tweet above there are several players on the Kings’ radar. When it comes to those listed above Andrew Ladd has to be leading the way followed by Loui Eriksson and Kyle Okposo in desire from the Kings.

At last season’s trade deadline, the Kings were active participants in trying to trade for Ladd. But

Andrew Ladd, Chicago Blackhawks, NHL
The Kings came up short when they tried to get Ladd to Los Angeles at the deadline. (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Winnipeg pulled the trigger on a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks instead.

Eriksson on the other hand, put up 30 goals and 63 points last season, which was a good change in pace for Eriksson whose production had been trending down over the last few seasons.

Los Angeles would be wise to go all in on Ladd and let someone else pay for Eriksson’s sudden spike in production. The Kings tried to bring Ladd in at the trade deadline so a push a few months later wouldn’t be crazy.

When it comes to Eriksson, the Kings have already paid the price, both literally and figuratively, by giving someone a new contract after a new-found offensive ability. I’m looking at you, Dustin Brown.

Regardless of how things play in Los Angeles, once the free agency opens on the first day of July, the Kings have obvious needs that have to be addressed. Dean Lombardi and the rest of the Kings’ front office have to do better this summer than some of the signings that were made last season in hopes to fix the same issues.