Rumors Offseason Checklist: Los Angeles Kings

LGKbot

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The offseason has arrived for all but the two teams who are still taking part in the playoffs. For the rest, it’s time to examine what they will need to accomplish over the coming months. Next up is a look at Los Angeles.

After swinging a big trade in the offseason to bring in Pierre-Luc Dubois, expectations were high for the Kings heading into the season. However, they struggled out of the gate, eventually leading to a coaching change. While they were able to make it into the playoffs, they went out quickly in the first round, failing to meet those summer hopes. They checked one item off their to-do list when the interim tag was lifted off head coach Jim Hiller but GM Rob Blake will still have some things to accomplish this summer.

Add A Starting Goalie​


The decision to add Dubois forced the Kings to not try to re-sign Joonas Korpisalo who impressed after being acquired at the 2023 deadline and instead go quite cheap at the goaltending position. Pheonix Copley was in place as a low-cost backup while Cam Talbot came on a one-year deal where he accepted $1MM in bonuses (which will count against their books this season) and they hoped a duo with a combined cap hit of $2.5MM could get the job done.

Talbot fared pretty well in his 50 appearances so that part worked out as well as they could have reasonably hoped. But Copley struggled before being injured with David Rittich coming up in the second half to serve as the backup. Rittich is already back on a low-cost one-year deal but can they afford to run it back with the same tandem? It’s not that Talbot hasn’t earned another contract but after trying to go cheap lately at that position, getting a more proven option on a longer-term agreement seems like it might be the better way to go.

However, the free agent class doesn’t have any true starters available. There are some platoon options with some question marks (including Talbot) and then some pure backups from there. Accordingly, if they’re going to add a true starter, it’ll have to come on the trade front.

The good news is that this looks like a year that could see some veteran netminders moved. Los Angeles is believed to have made a real run at Linus Ullmark before the trade deadline while many expect Jacob Markstrom could be in play again. Others like John Gibson and perhaps Tristan Jarry have been suggested as possible trade candidates as well. Getting a capable veteran who can stabilize things for a few years between the pipes should take away a big question mark that has been around for them in recent years.

Re-Sign Byfield


It took some time but Quinton Byfield took a big step forward this season, becoming an impactful top-six producer with 20 goals and 35 assists. The timing for the jump was certainly ideal as he was in the final year of his entry-level deal in 2023-24, meaning he’ll be a restricted free agent on July 1st. He is by far their most prominent player to re-sign.

The challenge here will be finding the balance between risk on both sides. It’s possible that one side will want a bridge contract to get a better sense of what’s to come. If Blake and the Kings aren’t sold this is repeatable, they may not want to pony up on a long-term agreement right away. On the flip side, if Byfield’s camp feels that the 21-year-old has another gear or two in him, they may prefer the short-term agreement now to potentially set him up for a more lucrative one when he has arbitration rights down the road. In that scenario, something in the $3.75MM range might fit, potentially back-loaded to up the qualifying offer upon expiration.

Now, if both sides are open to a long-term pact that buys out some UFA years, then there’s going to be some shared risk. For it to make sense for Byfield, a long-term agreement likely has to come in somewhere closer to double the bridge amount. For someone who came into this season with eight goals in 93 career NHL games, the Kings would certainly be taking a leap of faith. However, there is some potential upside as if Byfield is on that contract and becomes a legitimate top liner, that price tag would change to a team-friendly one quite quickly.

The other factor to consider here is what else Blake has planned for the summer. If the plan is to add multiple key veterans, they’d be hard-pressed to work out a long-term agreement with Byfield. Accordingly, if they’re big spenders early into free agency, Byfield’s path could be charted to a bridge by default. On the flip side, if they aren’t as active, then it suggests they could be open to the long-term agreement and pivot to fill another hole if they ultimately have to settle on a bridge agreement.

RFA Depth Decisions


Quite a few teams around the league have some decisions to make on the qualifying offer front and the Kings are no exception. They have some depth pieces up front that have filled regular roles in recent years but could be a bit too pricey for what they can afford which makes them potential non-tender candidates.

The first of those is Blake Lizotte. In 2022-23, he had 34 points, a pretty good return on a $1.675MM cap hit. The second and final year of that contract didn’t go so well as he dropped to seven goals and eight assists in 62 games. While he is a serviceable bottom-six forward who can play down the middle or on the wing, he also has arbitration eligibility where his 34-point output will play a factor and likely push his price tag past $2MM. Would they be better off seeing what depth options come available in free agency and put the difference in salary towards filling another opening?

Then there’s Carl Grundstrom. When healthy, he’s a capable fourth liner who plays with an edge and can chip in with a few goals. There’s a role for that type of player but is there a role for one who would earn more than his $1.3MM qualifying offer through salary arbitration? Fourth liners can be had for less on the open market so again, are they better off going with someone cheaper (either a free agent or a younger option like Akil Thomas or Alex Turcotte, both waiver-eligible going into 2024-25) and using the savings elsewhere?

The other RFA with a question mark is Arthur Kaliyev, albeit with a different question than the other two. For him, it shouldn’t be a question of tender or not but rather should they be moving him even though his value is probably the lowest it has been in several years? Kaliyev has reportedly made it known he wouldn’t mind moving on while Los Angeles was believed to be open to moving him at the trade deadline but clearly, a move never materialized. Do they give him one more shot or take what they can get for him? Either way, whoever he’s signing his next contract with, it’s probably going to be a low-cost one-year agreement.

Add Top Six Winger


There was a piece missing from the offense for most of this season with Viktor Arvidsson being limited to just 18 games due to multiple injuries, particularly his back. He did well when he was in the lineup, notching 15 points but it seems likely that he’s going to move on.

This season, the Kings were a team in the middle of the pack offensively and probably could have landed a few spots higher than 16th with a healthy Arvidsson or Dubois not struggling as much as he did. They should be able to try to do something to augment the attack in the coming weeks. While they’re expected to talk about an extension with Matt Roy soon according to The Fourth Period’s Dennis Bernstein (Twitter link), they could opt to instead fill that spot on the back end internally with Brandt Clarke. That in turn should give them enough money to add a top-six winger while adding a goalie and keeping their options open with Byfield in terms of what type of contract they’ll want to offer him.

With the other spots they have to fill, it’s likely that they’ll be priced out of the top free agents next month. However, there are plenty of other options. If they’re looking for a medium-term addition, Jonathan Marchessault could be an intriguing candidate if he doesn’t work out a deal to remain in Vegas. Matt Duchene (who would likely be moved to the wing), Vladimir Tarasenko, and former King Tyler Toffoli all could work. Jake DeBrusk and Teuvo Teravainen will command longer-term agreements but could be in their price range as well. Adding one of those players could push the Kings a few spots higher in next season’s goal totals which could help them avoid having to squeak into the playoffs as they did this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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