A King's Ransom for Free Agents
The LA Kings are in great shape once the offseason gets going. They currently have half their team signed and with rollbacks are only committed to roughly $15 million for these players:
Forward: Dustin Brown, Craig Conroy, Jeff Cowan, Trent Klatt
Defence: Aaron Miller, Tim Gleason, Mattias Norstrom, Lubomir Vishnovsky, Nathan Dempsey
Goal: Mathieu Garon
Though it appears they will have plenty of money to throw around they will need to sign their key restricted free agents in Mike Cammellari and Eric Belanger. But more importantly they will need to get their best player Alexander Frolov under contract as well. However, they should be in very good shape still to add some talent via free agency.
It remains to be seen whether the Kings decide to bring back any of their unrestricted free agents:
Forward: Jason Allison, Anson Carter, Zigmund Palffy, Luc Robitaille, Martin Straka, Josef Stumpel, Adam Deadmarsh
Defence: Stephane Quintal
Goal: Roman Cechmanek
On the surface we can see, the Kings are set to lose 7 of their top scorers plus their number one goalie. However in reality the Kings are set to lose very little if all of their unrestricted free agents decide to leave. Deadmarsh and Allison are coming off career threatening injuries so it is unknown whether or not they will ever play again. They couldnt really play in the last year with LA so the Kings are use to not having them around. Carter is coming off a terrible season and really has not been the same player since he left Edmonton. Robitaille is one of the leagues oldest players and may be forced into retirement as many if not most teams will look to go younger and cheaper. Stumpel, Straka and Cechmanek are pretty consistent contributors but can never stay in the lineup due to injuries. The Kings would probably choose to go a different direction than bring those players back. The only real loss will be Palffy. his greed got the better of him as the Kings offered him big dollars to stay, only for Palffy to turn them down. Now, any offer he receives will be nowhere near the $6-7 million per year he was offered to stay. In the cap world, no team can afford to make an offer like that.
So now the Kings are going to need to restock their lineup in order to compete in the tough Western Conference. They will have the cap room to be able to add a few solid players.
They did a good job getting Garon to be their goalie of the future. He had a terrific season in the AHL last year and will now get the chance to prove he can be a top guy in the NHL. The Kings would be smart to get a veteran backup to ease the pressure off of Garon. They could very well bring back Cechmanek but he seems destined to returned to Europe. Perhaps they could turn to a player like Mike Dunham, or former King Felix Potvin. The Kings will have options.
Their blueline seems set with 5 of their top guys under contract. Losing Jaroslav Modry was a bit of a blow but there are plenty of solid defencemen out there they could turn to. They could use another offensive minded guy to help out Vishnovsky and Dempsey who are more support scorers. Players like Hamrik, Zhitnik, Numminen, Malakhov are among those the Kings could be interested. But LA could also turn to their prospects. Gleason will play a bigger role this time around, Denis Grebeshkov is a good offensive defenceman prospect. He could make an impact as well. Defensively they are set with two solid shutdown guys in Miller and Norstrom.
The forward ranks are where the Kings are the thinnest. They will build around Frolov and have started that with the signing of Conroy. However beyond that, there is little else in terms of offence. Cammellari and Brown are two youngsters who should be fulltimers in LA. How much they can contribute depends on if they can stay healthy. They could use more size on the wings. Perhaps bring back former King Glen Murray? Anything to get bigger and strong in that area. They have checkers with Belanger, Cowan, Klatt and maybe youngsters like Jeff Tambellini and Yanick Lehoux. But it is imperative for LA to find some players who can score. Because they would have cap room to use maybe they could entice a couple of top players to come to LA. With a variety of skilled players to choose from like Kovalev, Demitra, Naslund among others, it shouldnt be hard for LA to test the free agent market and find themselves a scorer.
How the Kings proceed in the offseason remains to be seen. They are a big market in need of a big name player. Though they have plenty of talented kids ready to step in, star power is what will drive hockey in Hollywood. If they can stay away from the injury bug, and maybe add a couple of skilled players, the Kings should be back in playoff contention.
Prediction: Stumpel/Murray or Kariya/Selanne or Demitra/Palffy, some duo of players will join LA and the Kings are back to the playoffs.