With the NHL off-season just rolling along, LA Kings GM Rob Blake has already completed the bulk of his heavy lifting. This opened with a pair of unrestricted free agent signings (more on that in a minute), followed by recent news that several of the team’s Restricted Free Agents had inked new two-year deals. What’s left? Only forward Adrian Kempe.
Keeping the tag team division alive and kicking, here's some additional action…
Updating our previous projection of a likely 2yr deal for Adrian Kempe at around 2.5M per… Don't be surprised if it lands at 3 years. Nothing imminent though. #patience https://t.co/xg1vMiAX9M
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 10, 2019
While everybody remains on Kempe-watch, let’s update the team’s salary cap situation.
Previously, we had pegged winger Alex Iafallo to come in around 2.5M. When all was said and done, he signed a two-year contract with an AAV of 2.425M. So there wasn’t much news there.
Where things really became interesting was with a trip of young players.
Mike Amadio, Daniel Brickley, and Matt Roy all signed for 700k each over the next two years, what looked like a pay cut on paper. However, that’s only when looking at the NHL portion of their contract.
Little more info on Amadio contract…
On first pass, AAV is "pay cut" vs last deal – yet, that's only true if he was in NHL all that time (he wasn't).
New contract is:
700k NHL
150k AHL
But 250k guaranteed
700k NHL (one way)
It's all about guaranteed money.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 15, 2019
In the case of Iafallo, we get it. It’s a real gamble to accept your Qualifying Offer (what would have amounted to a 5% pay increase if he was in the NHL… and only 70k when playing in the AHL). He is certainly expected to be on the Kings NHL roster. However, nothing is certain. Also, when considering he’d likely be on the fourth line, it’s not like he’ll have a monster season worthy of a huge contract next season.
We see things a little differently for Roy. He should be a regular player on the Kings NHL blueline this coming season. Of the three who took these deals, he has the best opportunity to break out with a good year. As such, we would have liked to see him go the Kevin Lebanc route and bet on himself. Lebanc took a one-year deal with the Sharks this summer, well under market value. He’s counting on a solid 2019-20 campaign and then hoping to cash in with a multi-year deal at many multiples higher on the AAV. Given the minutes he’ll likely see in San Jose, we believe that’s a well calculated gamble.
What may have caused Roy to double-clutch when it came to pulling a similar move? On July 1st, the Kings signed defenseman Joakim Ryan (725K). He’s 26 years old, a left shot, and has 106 NHL games played over the past two seasons in San Jose. He was drafted and developed by the Sharks at a time when new Kings coach Todd McLellan was heavily involved in things up in those parts. He knows him well and it should be safe to assume the Kings wouldn’t have signed him unless McLellan thought there was something there to work with. Ryan also requires waivers to be sent to down. If he was to make the big club, he would most likely take the spot occupied by Roy.
Granted Roy is a right-shot, typically something highly coveted by NHL coaches. Yet this is where you have to dig deeper. If they slot Ryan in on the left side of the third pairing — and you assume they don’t want to risk losing Paul LaDue or Kurtis MacDermid on waivers — that leaves one NHL roster spot available on defense (assuming McLellan goes with the traditional 7D). In that scenario, it comes down to a coin flip between Roy and Walker. And if that was in the back of Roy’s mind, it should have made it much more difficult to roll the dice when signing his new deal.
Blake also signed a pair of unrestricted free agent forwards – Mario Kempe (700k AAV) and Martin Frk (700k). Both will be given an opportunity to earn a spot in camp. If either are successful in that regard, it will most likely come at the expense of Matt Luff or Austin Wagner – two guys who can be sent to AHL Ontario without needing to be put on waivers first. Given the similarity in salary, there isn’t much of a difference cap-wise in any of the four forwards.
Given all of the above, here is our latest projection of what the Kings opening night roster could look like on October 12, 2019…
NOTE: You can debate the line combos and D pairings below; that’s not really the most important point.
Brown Kopitar Toffoli
$5,875,000 10,000,000 4,600,000
Grundstrom Kempe Carter
925,000 2,500,000 5,272,727
Iafallo Prokhorkin Kovalchuk
2,425,000 925,000 6,250,000
Clifford Lewis Wagner
1,600,000 2,000,000 759,167
Luff Amadio
677,777 700,000
Forbort Doughty
2,525,000 11,000,000
Martinez LaDue
4,000,000 825,000
Ryan Walker
725,000 745,000
Quick Campbell
5,800,000 675,000

This configuration of a 23-man roster takes up $75.2M of cap space (after including penalties the Kings are paying next season for terminating Mike Richards? contract and buying out Dion Phaneuf).
NHLPA approved..
Salary Cap of $81.5 M (0.5% Growth Factor)
? Adjusted Midpoint of $70.9M
? Salary Floor of $60.2M
? John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) June 22, 2019
With the 2018-19 NHL salary cap limit set at $81.5M, that leaves Blake just over 6M to play with… assuming the Kempe contract comes in where we estimate.
– What about the trades for Quick and Carter? It takes two to tango and the Kings simply haven’t found a good match. We discussed the situation here.
– What’s the goaltending situation in Ontario? Until something happens with the NHL roster, Cal Petersen is going to be starting in the AHL. Prospect Matt Villalta could back him up. However, they may slide a veteran goalie in there and let Villalta start the season with their TBD ECHL club.
– More on Walker and Roy. They start out the season in OK waiver shape. Things will get tricky soon after. Once Walker has played 21 NHL games, he’s no longer waiver exempt. Ditto for Roy after 45 NHL more games.
– Among the top defensive prospects, first-year pros Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, and Marcus Phillips are all highly regarded, yet ticketed for the AHL. One of them would really have to jump up and grab — i.e. leapfrog the guys mentioned in the paragraph above — to see action with the Kings earlier than January.
– At forward, guys like Rasmus Kupari and Jaret Anderson-Dolan are both on inexpensive Entry Level Contracts that also don’t require waivers. Like with the blueline trip above, expect the next wave of Kings forwards to get some AHL seasoning before skating in real NHL games. If either of them made the big club out of camp, that would most likely come at the expense of Carl Grundstrom, Matt Luff, or Austin Wagner. They are the only three forwards we have penciled into the lineup who can be sent down to Ontario without waivers. Therefore the Kings, can swap out any of these players without risking another team getting a crack at them on the waiver wire.
This week’s big news came from the goal crease.
LA Kings sign goalie Cal Petersen to 3yr deal (AAV of $858,333).
Two-way contract in the first year. The final two years are one-way. https://t.co/NPLqMchQ6a
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 16, 2019
LA’s No. 1 ranked prospect, goaltender Cal Petersen, inked a new three-year deal, as we had tipped you off to a few days prior.
After a dismal campaign in 2018-19, the Ontario Reign looked to begin the season with a much improved roster – especially on defense. Assuming none of the young blueliners find a way to unseat one of the names penciled into the Kings roster above, coach Mike Stothers should be looking at a group of Kale Clague, Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, Daniel Brickley, and Austin Strand on the back-end. Plus, with Roy or Walker likely starting the season with this group; the Reign could have their most potent defensive core ever.
Up front, the Reign should pick up a pair of the Kings most notable prospects, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Rasmus Kupari. College free agent Blake Lizotte should provide additional offense, as he’s expected to start the year in the AHL after debuting with the Kings late last season. Sheldon Rempal, an AHL All Star in his rookie season last year, should also see continued growth in his second professional season.
What about Matt Moulson or some additional veteran help, you’re wondering?
Few Ontario Reign nuggets…
– Nothing new to report on Matt Moulson at this time. Appears preference is to play out east. However, if he's still on the market in Sept, two sides may reconnect.
– Not expecting many (if any) AHL only deals to come. May look for another fwd.
— John Hoven | The Mayor (@mayorNHL) July 16, 2019
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