The first parallel I would like draw from are the amount of UFA's Colorado had. One.
Most LGKer's (myself included, guilty as charged) dream of this team contending after next season. Some dreamed at the beginning of the Lombardi era that it would be this season. If Colorado had 1 FA on the '96 team, it's because they had only one hole to fill and the other holes were filled with trades.
How many holes do the Kings have now, going into next season? I count at least 3 maybe 4, plus one roster player already filled by UFA, Handzus (not counting Preissing). Realistically, how many of these holes can be filled by players on the Reserve List? eg. Top 6 LW- no one.
When the Kings can get down to having only one hole to fill, then you can call them contenders. But DL has done a good job of building up the Reserve List, so we can reduce our dependency on UFA's. Which is good because AEG never did support that anyway and they will not magically change their minds about it this summer. Our only options for personnel improvement are through trades and smart drafting. It's the way Colorado did it, and New Jersey and Detroit and that suits AEG just fine. Your post puts into perspective that we've got a long way to go, still.