LOS ANGELES, CA – MARCH 30: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty (8) celebrates his goal with Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11), Los Angeles Kings right wing Dustin Brown (23) and Los Angeles Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli (73) during the NHL regular season hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, March 30, 2019 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Kings have a busy summer in front of them. After missing the playoffs and finishing last in the Western Conference, the Kings are on the crossroads. General Manager Rob Blake will try to get some help via the free agency. On the other hand, the Kings do have plenty of draft possibilities as well as some pending issues with their veteran players. We take a look at the Los Angeles Kings offseason outlook.

The Kings are far removed from their glory days. They will have to work very hard to get to the level when they made it to the three straight Western Conference Finals and won the Stanley Cup twice between 2012-2014. Some of the core from their Cup teams remains, but the Kings need to shift their focus to the future.

Los Angeles has hired the Head Coach Todd McLellan. McLellan has a very good resume as the NHL coach. After chasing the Stanley Cup with a veteran San Jose Sharks team, he tried to develop the Edmonton Oilers into a contender. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the Oilers over that hump. Now he has received another chance, this time from his former arch-rival in the Kings.

After making the playoffs in 2018, the Kings mistakenly thought that they might be back on the track. That´s why they signed Ilya Kovalchuk to the three-year deal the last summer. This deal has not worked out as planned so far. Kovalchuk had a subpar season and the Kings had a ended up at the bottom of the Western Conference. Kovalchuk was the captain of the Team Russia at the IIHF World Championship, but he was strictly used on the fourth line.

The Veteran Issue

One of the main problems for the Kings is that they are loaded with ageing veteran players, who are past their prime. At 36-year-old, Kovalchuk is the oldest player on the Kings team. The Kings have approximately around $12M in the salary cap space. Despite the cap room, the Kings should avoid big game hunting in free agency. Going after a free agency fix is what landed them  Kovalchuk’s and his significant cap hit at $6,250,000.

Then there have been reports about the Kings looking at their options with veteran defenceman Dion Phaneuf. A Phaneuf trade is the preferred route but may prove difficult. If they cannot find a potential trade partner, the Kings can buy Phaneuf´s contract out. The 34-year-old defenceman´s contract is worth $5,250,000 per season for two more years.

In the case of a buyout, Los Angeles would pay $2,187,500 in the 2019-2020 season, then $4,062,500 in the 2020-2021 season. In the 2021-22 and 2022-2023 season, the Kings would pay $1,062,500 for each year. The Kings would save $3,062,500 next season and $1,187,500 the following season.

Beyond Phaneuf, there are other high priced veterans the Kings would love to move on from. Dustin Brown is due $5,875,000 per year for three more seasons. Jeff Carter has a contract for three more seasons at $5,272,727 per year. Both are 34-year-old. Both have been linked to potential trades over the past few seasons. The Kings would be happy to unload one or both of these players to give them more flexibility with their cap and roster.

Los Angeles Kings Offseason Signings and Focus

The Los Angeles Kings offseason, as already stated above, is not about getting any big fish on the free agents market. The Kings have plenty of their own restricted free agent requiring re-signing. And those players certainly might become really handy for the Kings. Los Angeles has three pending restricted free agent forwards. Alex Iafallo, Brendan Leipsic and Adrian Kempe should get contracts in Los Angeles.

Iafallo had 33 points, Kempe registered 28 points and Leipsic collected 18 points last season. Neither of the three should cost the Kings a ton of the salary cap space. On the defensive list, the Kings need to give a new contract to a restricted free agent Matt Roy, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Kings with six points in 25 games in the past campaign. Talking about all these players, there is one thing rather clear. They are all young.

The Kings then have young forwards like Carl Grundstrom, who should get a bigger look next season. The Kings signed young players like Nikolai Prokhorkin, Blake Lizotte or Johan Sodergran in the past few weeks as well. Either Prokhorkin, Grundstrom or speedy Austin Wagner, will require new contracts in 2020. That´s why the Kings have to think a bit ahead too. Even with this healthy amount of young players, the Kings ranked as the third oldest team in the NHL in the last campaign. With the average age of 30.93. Only the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings topped them on that list.

Los Angeles Kings Draft Options

Heading into the draft, the Kings have several options. The Kings have two first-round picks after the Kings acquired a first-round draft pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Jake Muzzin´s trade.

The Kings need help and depth all over their roster. A centre is probably at the top of their needs but they definitely need help on the left side of the defence. As of now, the Kings have only two left-handed defensemen in Phaneuf and Derek Forbort. With Phaneuf potentially on his way out, the Kings have a significant need there also.

The Kings will select fifth and the 22nd in the first round. Based on our own Ben Kerr’s Draft RankingsAlex Turcotte is the fifth-ranked prospect. The Kings captain Anze Kopitar is a centre, so is Jeff Carter. The Kings recently signed centre Blake Lizotte, an undrafted forward. With Jeff Carter´s future up in the air, the Kings will need a good centre for the future, so Turcotte does make sense for the Kings at five.

From the 22nd spot in the first round, the Kings have some options. Barrie Colts centre Ryan Suzuki is ranked 22nd by Kerr. If the Kings don’t want to take two centres in the first round, Mississauga defenceman Thomas Harley and winger Bobby Brink from Sioux City of the USHL are a couple of players to keep an eye on.

Los Angeles Kings Offseason of Importance

The Los Angeles Kings offseason promises to be interesting. As of now, it doesn’t seem likely that the Kings will win the Stanley Cup anytime soon. If the Kings have any hope of rising back up to contenders, their ageing core will need to turn back the clock and play like their younger selves. Barring any unexpected miracles, Los Angeles has to fully embrace the rebuild.

Being one of the oldest teams in the NHL doesn’t help. Still, the Kings are slowly populating their roster with some of their younger players. That will likely continue to happen in the upcoming season. With the Kings having 10 total draft choices in the 2019 NHL Draft, they will end up getting a ton of young power. With Todd McLellan behind the bench, the Kings will have to move forward developing that young talent.

The Kings veterans might still have something left in the tank. Even if their play continues to slip they may be able to help their team in several ways. With so many prospects and youth cracking the Kings roster, the veterans can mentor the younger players. Most of the Kings veterans were on those two Cup-winning teams and can lay the groundwork for the Kings return to glory.
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