The Los Angeles Kings are in a sticky situation. For the first time since 2009, the Kings found themselves on the outside looking in on the playoff picture at the end of the regular season. The Kings are moving into the offseason with plenty of work to do with player contracts and little money to use. On top of that, the Kings have literally been handcuffed due to law trouble with players like Slava Voynov and Jarret Stoll. Needless to say, there’s a lot to get done.
At the moment, one bright spot on the Kings’ calendar has to be the 2015 NHL Draft. By not qualifying for the postseason this year, the Kings were able to keep their first-round pick in 2015. This year’s draft is supposed to be very deep in talent, so with the 13th pick in the draft, the Kings have a very good chance at grabbing some top-of-the-line talent.
Now to Mike Richards. The former Flyers captain has nose-dived from relevancy within the Kings’ organization. As the 2014-2015 season moved along, Richards quickly fell from a team-leading veteran with top-six minutes, to a bottom-six role player. Soon enough, Richards found himself with the Manchester Monarchs in the AHL.
Richards is mixed throughout the Kings’ problems in several different ways. Richards’ production has dropped off drastically, which contributes to the Kings’ on-ice product being down, and his $5.75 million cap hit is locking up a pretty chunk of change without the productivity that warrants that amount of cash.
Richards’ current production has dropped his trade value to an all-time low, and with a cap hit that large, general managers across the league probably won’t even pick up the phone when Dean Lombardi gives them a ring. But, what if Richards was packaged with a first-round pick in this year’s draft?
The deal that gets Richards out of Los Angeles and frees up almost $6 million in cap space has to be sweetened up a considerable amount. What better way to sweeten up the pot than with a pick in the top 15 in this year’s draft? Shipping away this year’s first-round pick might seem a little less crazy when you realize the pipeline the Kings already have in place.
Los Angeles’ current pool of young talent is already deep. Their affiliates in both the AHL and ECHL have enjoyed postseason success this year. The ECHL’s Ontario Reign were eliminated by the Allen Americans in the ECHL’s Western Conference Final, while the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs are on their way to the 2015 AHL championship. On paper, the success in those developmental leagues makes it look like the future of the Kings organization is already in good hands.
Looking a little deeper, the Kings have players like Jordan Weal and Brian O’Neill knocking on the door and will likely get a chance at the big club next season. Both Weal and O’Neill were vital players in the Monarchs’ regular season success and have carried their team through the postseason, and most recently, their sweep of the Hartford Wolf Pack.
If the Kings were to keep their pick, it is going to be a couple of years before the kid can crack the lineup. Not because of talent, but because of space within the organization. The Kings’ roster is set and, like mentioned before, with Weal and O’Neill, people are already lining up to take the spots that open up.
Effects of drafting this year will not be seen until years down the line, if the player is still in the Kings’ organization when he actually makes the jump to the NHL. Not drafting in the first round may not be a bad idea.
The pick already has tremendous value because of the talent that can be brought in with it. But, the value can also lessen the blow of bringing in a veteran like Richards who may not be worth his contract. For the Kings, the latter scenario should be the one pursued.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.