The Los Angeles Kings are on the hunt for a couple of key players this summer, and finding the right guys for the job won’t be an easy task. With the recent buyout of defenseman Matt Greene and the selection of Brayden McNabb in the NHL Expansion Draft, the Kings will be looking for Alec Martinez’s next defensive partner. Then there’s still that ongoing problem of scoring on the top end to deal with.
The Kings will certainly revamp their roster before October but their options moving forward are few and far in between.
Some of the questions circulating fans of the team include whether or not they’ll keep Jarome Iginla, which is still a question since they need a right winger on the first line. Then there’s Nick Shore and Kevin Gravel, both becoming restricted free agents this offseason. Maybe they’ll follow in the footsteps of Tanner Pearson, Andy Andreoff, and Tyler Toffoli and get re-signed, too?
They’re cheap, so they might.
One potential prospect to start off the 2017-18 season is Adrian Kempe, a left-winger selected in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at No. 29, who played in 25 games in the 2016-17 season. Then there’s Paul LaDue, who played in 22 games last season and registered eight assists. That’s not bad for a defenseman picked during the sixth round in 2013.
— LA Kings (@LAKings) February 15, 2017
Kings Prep for Free Agency
The Kings are hosting their 2017 development camp from June 27-30, 2017, and based on their roster invites, it’s clear they’re looking for a center, a right winger, and a defenseman. However, participants in this camp are better candidates for the upcoming seasons after 2017-18.
Among the camp’s invitees is Keegan Iverson, a right-winger/center who captained the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks last year. He seems to have the most potential at making the roster sooner rather than later compared to the camp’s other invites. Iverson was drafted by the New York Rangers in 2014 during the third round at No. 85, weighs 218 pounds and has a height of 6-foot-2. He’s got the size and probably the character that LA covets, but that still doesn’t mean he’ll make the team by October.
This year’s development camp is likely to be more of an assessment opportunity of what’s required heading into the NHL’s free agency period starting July 1. It’ll shed light on whether they need a veteran right-winger/center for one year or more than that.
Viability of Signing Joe Thornton
The Kings’ biggest challenge is not so much finding a viable suitor who’ll agree to their terms but rather to figure out what their terms are. The LA Kings Insider recently reported the team to have contacted Joe Thornton, a centre from the San Jose Sharks who is also set to become a free agent.
Thornton is nearly 38 years old but still gets an impressive amount of assists each season. Over the last couple of years though, his point production has significantly decreased. Traditionally, he’d be the perfect guy for the Kings, who have a notorious track record for signing seasoned players at the tail end of their prime or right after their prime has already ended. The amount of money they’ve spent on guys who are not projected to produce the points they need is amazing.
Let’s take a quick look.
In April 2013, the Kings acquired Robyn Regehr and gave up two second-round picks to the Buffalo Sabres for him.
In March 2014, the LA Kings acquired Marián Gáborík from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a trade where they gave up a 2014 second-round pick (amongst others).
In June 2015, the LA Kings acquired Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins, giving up a 2015 first-round pick (amongst others), so they could have him for one season.
In February 2016, the Kings acquired Kris Versteeg from the Carolina Hurricanes, trading away Valentin Zykov, a 2013 second-round pick winger.
In March 2017, they acquired Jarome Iginla from the Colorado Avalanche, which only cost them a conditional 2018 fourth-round pick.
In the past, overpaying for Thornton may have been the next logical step. But now, the Kings simply can’t afford to. A possible option is Justin Williams, another soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. He’s slightly younger and likely a lot cheaper too. Although these two players both have extensive playoff experience, Williams’ knack for scoring (in the playoffs) far exceeds that of Thornton’s, and scoring is in the Kings’ biggest interest right now.
Over the last few years, the LA Kings have made a series of trades that aged the team but now that Dean Lombardi is no longer their general manager, a change in strategy may be in order. It wasn’t that long ago when the Kings were on the brink of owning an NHL dynasty, having won two Stanley Cups in only three seasons. They did everything right from hiring Lombardi in 2006, to rebuilding a team over six years, to winning their first Stanley Cup in 2012.
Now they’re embarking on a new journey—one where sustainability becomes front and centre-stage. If they’re serious about getting a different outcome next year, they’re going to start making different moves now.
I’m a Hockey Journalist based out of Barrie, Ontario, a Contributing Writer for The Hockey Writers covering OHL, and NHL prospects with an insatiable thirst for all things LA Kings, and PR gal for Abel Sports Management.