Offseason Analysis: LOS ANGELES KINGS

lucic

LOS ANGELES KINGS: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 40-27-15-95
Home Record: 25-9-7
Away Record: 15-18-8
Shootout Record: 2-8
Playoff Result: Did not make the playoffs
Standings: Pacific Division: 4, Western Conference: 9, League: 18
Goals For: 218 (NHL rank: 18)
Goals Against: 197 (NHL rank: 27)
Power Play Percentage: 19 percent (NHL rank: 11)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80.9 percent (NHL rank: 16)
Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar (16-48-64)
 

2015-2016 Outlook:

The Los Angeles Kings have been and will continue to be considered automatic contenders after winning two Stanley Cups in the past four years, including the franchise’s first in 2012. However, the Kings’ lineup will be missing many familiar faces this season. Since last year, the Kings have lost Justin Williams, Jarrett Stoll, Martin Jones, Robyn Regehr and (most likely) Mike Richards, in addition to deadline-acquisition Andrej Sekera, who signed with Edmonton. The lineup will, however, feature power forward Milan Lucic at left wing, Christian Ehrhoff on defense and Jhonas Enroth as Jonathan Quick’s new backup. The Kings were three points shy of making the playoffs last year after winning the Cup in 2014; this is the first time the Kings have missed the playoffs since the 2008-2009 season. While most of the core group involved in the two Stanley Cups is still in place (Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown), the effects of losing Williams could be felt in May and June. Additionally, losing Stoll and Richards leaves the Kings a little more vulnerable up the middle, which could be problematic in the Western Conference where competitive teams are so solid at center. All in all the Kings are still a very competitive team and can still make a Cup run with Doughty, Quick and Kopitar, but it remains to be seen whether the team will find the same success come playoff time. Losing Stoll’s stellar faceoff ability and having injury-prone players in Marian Gaborik and Christian Ehrhoff could make for a difficult year for LA.
 

Training Camp Information: Los Angeles Kings
 

Offseason Overview

Trades:

  • 2015 1st-round pick (13), G Martin Jones and D Colin Miller to Boston Bruins for F Milan Lucic ($2.75 million salary retained)

 
Re-Signed:

  • F Tyler Toffoli (2-year contract with AAV* of $3.25 million)
  • F Andrew Crescenzi (1-year deal at $605,000)
  • F Nick Shore (2-year contract with AAV* of $600,000)
  • F Jordan Weal (1-year deal at $632,500)
  • F Nic Dowd (1-year deal at $600,000)
  • D Vincent LoVerde (2-year contract with AAV* of $575,000)
  • F Andy Andreoff (2-year contract with AAV* of $587,500)
  • D Erik Cernak (3-year ELC with AAV* of $732,500)
  • F Joel Lowry (2-year ELC with AAV* of $675,000)
  • D Jamie McBain (1-year deal at $600,000)

 
Free Agents Signed:

  • D Kevin Gravel (2-year contract with AAV* of $667,500)
  • G Jhonas Enroth (1-year deal at $1.25 million)
  • D Damir Sharipzyanov (3-year ELC with AAV* of $925,000)
  • D Christian Ehrhoff (1-year deal at $1.5 million)
  • G Peter Budaj (PTO)

 
Draft Recap:

  • Round 2 (43) D Erik Cernak
  • Round 3 (74) F Alexander Dergachyov
  • Round 4 (99) F Austin Wagner
  • Round 5 (134) F Matt Schmalz
  • Round 7 (187) D Chaz Reddekopp
  • Round 7 (194) F Matt Roy

 
Notable Extensions:
None
 
Free Agents Lost:

  • D Andrej Sekera–Edmonton
  • F Jarret Stoll–New York Rangers
  • F Justin Williams–Washington
  • D Robyn Regehr–UFA
  • F George “Bud” Holloway–Montreal
  • F David van der Gulik–UFA
  • D Andrew Bodnarchuk–Columbus
  • F Justin Azevedo–Ak Bars Kazan (KHL)
  • F Mike Richards–Released, Contract Terminated

 
Buyouts:
None
 
Organizational Changes:
None
 
 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

Here are the best and worst offseason moves the Los Angeles Kings have made, and how they will affect this upcoming season:

BEST:

  1. Acquiring Milan Lucic:
  2. lucic

    Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports


    Milan Lucic is one of the toughest and most competitive power forwards in the NHL. Bringing Lucic to LA could pay dividends for the Kings this year, as he will bring energy and grit to the Kings’ lineup. The combined physicality of Lucic and Dustin Brown could be very effective against some of the bigger and tougher teams in the West. If Lucic and Kopitar develop chemistry, and if Gaborik can stay healthy, the Kings could have a real powerhouse of a top line. While Lucic, along with the rest of the Boston Bruins, struggled last season, he has averaged around 55 points over the past five seasons (assuming his 27 points in 46 games in the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season was on pace for around 47 points in an 80-game season), and could put up 60-65 points this year.

  3. Signing Christian Ehrhoff:
  4. ehrhoff

    Gene J. Puskar-AP Photo


    Signing Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year $1.5 million deal was a safe and intelligent move for the Kings. Though Ehrhoff has struggled with injuries throughout his career, aside from missing 33 games last year with the Penguins, Ehrhoff had only missed a handful of games in his previous few seasons with the Canucks and Sabres. He is an effective bottom-four defenseman who will be a nice addition to the Kings’ second power-play unit. Ehrhoff could contribute 30+ points this season, and signing him was a very low-risk, high-reward decision by the Kings.

  5. Signing Jhonas Enroth:
  6. enroth

    Bill Wippert-NHLI


    The Kings traded backup goalie Martin Jones to Boston in the Milan Lucic trade but were able to re-establish a strong goalie tandem by signing Jhonas Enroth to a one-year $1.25 million contract. Enroth has performed admirably over the past few seasons despite playing behind some miserable teams in Buffalo and Dallas. He will be a solid addition to the Kings’ back end and will help share the load with Jonathan Quick this season. His numbers and performance will benefit greatly by having such a responsible defensive team in front of him.

WORST:

  1. Giving up so much for Milan Lucic:
  2. lucic miller

    Fred Kfoury-Icon SMI


    Ironically, the Milan Lucic acquisition is one of the best moves the Kings have made this offseason, and it is also one of the worst moves of the offseason. Acquiring a player of Lucic’s caliber is always an excellent hockey move for any team. Lucic is physical, talented and offers the Kings more depth at left wing. Though the Kings are not lacking in experienced Stanley Cup winners, it doesn’t hurt that Lucic has “been there, done that,” so to speak. The problem with the trade is that there is a major possibility that Lucic will not re-sign with the Kings after this season. In a recent interview with TSN 1410 Radio, Lucic admitted that it would be tempting to sign with his hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks. He hinted that it might be nice to hit free agency next summer, and that Vancouver would certainly be an attractive destination for the 27-year-old winger.

    “I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen moving on,” Lucic said. “I mean, I have one year left on my contract, and there’s a possibility that I can hit the [unrestricted free agent] market.” Lucic went on to say, “It’s obviously something that’s been a dream of mine since I’ve been a kid, is to play in your hometown and play for the Canucks, but right now the main focus is going down to L.A. and trying to make the most of that.”

    Of course, Lucic’s history with Vancouver is complicated after the infamous incident in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. In case you don’t remember, Canucks forward Alexandre Burrows allegedly bit the finger of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in game one of the series; Lucic followed that up by taunting Burrows at the end of an 8-1 Boston blowout in game three of the series by sticking his fingers into Burrows’ mouth and face (see picture below). However, it would be hard to imagine Vancouver not having interest in Lucic next summer if the opportunity were to present itself.

    Lucic burrows

    Photo: Harry How-Getty Images

    Lucic’s style could be a great fit for the Kings. Unfortunately, his candid remarks made before he even enters training camp, let alone before he plays a game in a Kings uniform, don’t inspire confidence in his interest in staying in LA long-term. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi most likely didn’t make the move assuming he would sign Lucic to a huge extension, since other players are due for extensions next summer, namely star center Anze Kopitar. However, the Kings gave up a first-round pick, their backup goaltender Martin Jones (who was traded from Boston and will have a shot as a number one goalie in San Jose this season) and another prospect for Lucic. Even though Boston retained a portion of Lucic’s salary for this season, it was still a lot to give up for a player who may walk at the end of the year. Of course, Lucic could love his time in LA and decide to stay there for the rest of his career, but it’s a lot to give up on such a whim.
     

  3. The Mike Richards situation:
  4. richards

    Jim McIsaac-Getty Images


    The Mike Richards story has become a sad, sad narrative in hockey. Richards was originally drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft (24th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers. Richards eventually became the captain of the Flyers, and was a heart-and-soul kind of hockey player. He was successful with the Flyers, playing as the team’s first-line center and being productive in the regular season and clutch in the postseason. One of the most memorable moments of Richards’ time in Philly, which is from the Conference Finals against Montreal in 2010, has been termed “The Shift” by Flyers fans; it is certainly a classic, and an accurate representation of the kind of player Richards used to be.

    Richards is also an impressively accomplished player in hockey, something that is often overlooked. For one thing, Richards is the only player in NHL history to play in two separate series in which his team overcame a 3-0 deficit to win the series (the first as a Flyer in 2010 against the Bruins, the second as a King in 2014 against the San Jose Sharks). He also set the record for most 5-on-3 short-handed goals, and is the only player in NHL history to score three such goals. But most impressively, Richards has won the Memorial Cup in junior, the Calder Cup in the AHL, a gold medal in the World Junior Championships, a gold medal in the Olympics and a Stanley Cup (he has two); he is the ONLY player in NHL history to accomplish this.

    Unfortunately, Richards’ play has declined over the past few years. He found success with the Kings after being dealt by Philadelphia in June of 2011 because of locker room issues and after a disappointing effort against the Bruins in the 2011 playoffs. Richards went on to win two Stanley Cups with the Kings. Though he played a very different role for the Kings than he did for the Flyers, he contributed in the playoffs and helped the Kings win the first Cup in franchise history.

    Last summer, Kings’ general manager Dean Lombardi considered using a compliance buyout on Richards. As part of the recent collective bargaining agreement, teams were awarded two compliance buyouts, which would allow teams to buy out the contracts of players without having any salary cap repercussions. Lombardi sat down with Richards last summer to discuss his play and his role on the team. Lombardi decided to give Richards another chance, even though the window to use the compliance buyout closed before this season. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out for Richards. He had an unproductive season and eventually cleared waivers. This meant that Richards, who has a cap hit of $5.75 million for five more seasons, ended up in the AHL.

    richie

    Bruce Bennett-Getty Images

    The story gets worse when you fast forward to this summer. In June, while attempting to cross the Canadian border, Richards was arrested for drug possession. As a result of the arrest, the Kings “terminated” Richards’ contract, claiming that he had breached the contract; this essentially made Richards an unrestricted free agent and left the Kings with little, if any, cap repercussions. The NHL Players’ Association has since filed a grievance against the Kings on behalf of Richards, questioning the termination of the contract. It has recently been revealed that Richards was in possession of pain killers (oxycodone), not illegal drugs such as cocaine; however, it is unclear whether Richards had a proper prescription for the pills. Some reports suggest he had a few pills in a bottle, raising questions about the circumstances surrounding the arrest, but the official details have not yet been released. Beyond the fact that it is a shame to see such an accomplished and competitive athlete’s career go downhill and take such a turn for the worse, this entire situation makes the Kings look TERRIBLE. Here’s why.

    This is the not the first off-ice incident the Kings have had to deal with. Earlier in the summer, Jarrett Stoll (who has since signed with the New York Rangers) was charged with possession of cocaine. But more seriously, Kings’ defenseman Slava Voynov has been in ongoing legal troubles for allegedly beating his wife. The NHL suspended Voynov this past season when the domestic violence case came out, but the Kings allowed Voynov to continue to practice with the team, despite the suspension. Voynov has since served a light prison sentence in southern California and was recently taken into custody by US Immigration. It is now being speculated that Voynov may have to leave the country, meaning his NHL career could very well be over. The point of all this is that the Kings were quick to jump to terminate Richards’ contract because he was in possession of some pain killers, which is not uncommon in such a physically-demanding sport, yet the Kings have barely taken a stand in the Voynov case. It just doesn’t quite add up that someone who is serving jail time for abusing his wife is favored over someone who was in possession of pain killers, which may or may not have been prescribed. The fact that Immigration is now involved and is considering deportation based on the severity of the case exposes Lombardi and the Kings’ organization as hypocrites. Voynov was initially charged with a felony count of corporal injury to spouse with great bodily harm. Though he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of corporal injury to spouse with great bodily harm and served 90 days in jail, Immigration has the authority under federal law to hold Voynov and consider deportation if it is believed he is a danger to the community. This is the player the Kings tried to sneak into practice last season after Voynov was suspended by the NHL. The Kings were fined $100,000 for that stunt, even after the league helped the Kings get out of Voynov’s $4+ million contract. The fact that the Kings have handled the Richards case and the Voynov case in this way does not reflect well on the class or integrity of the organization. It seems unjust for the Kings to use an obscure loophole in Richards’ contract to terminate it, and it is completely ridiculous that the Kings have still not taken a stand on Voynov and are most likely hoping he can return to the Kings’ lineup this season. It must be the case that talent outweighs integrity and overshadows doing the right thing.
     

  5. Losing Justin Williams:
  6. williams

    via nhl.com


    Justin Williams has been nicknamed “Mr. Game 7,” and for good reason. In his career, Williams is 7-0 in game 7’s and has scored 14 points in those 7 games (7 goals, 7 assists). Williams signed with Washington this offseason, where he will be looked upon to help the Capitals overcome the franchise’s struggle with game 7’s. However, the Kings owe a lot to Williams. One thing the Kings have shown is that you need to roll four lines to win a Cup. However, it hasn’t hurt the Kings that they have had the most clutch game 7 performer in NHL history. When the Kings won their second Stanley Cup in 2014 (Williams’ third–he won with Carolina in 2006), Williams won the Conn Smythe Tropy as the most valuable player of the playoffs; he recorded seven points in the Stanley Cup Final and 25 points (9 goals, 16 assists) in the postseason. The Kings were not interested in re-signing Williams for cap reasons and because Gaborik is the right winger on the first line, Pearson is the second-line right winger and captain Dustin Brown will most likely play right wing on the third line. However, the Kings may end up missing Williams’ magical touch come playoff time.

 

Possible Line Combinations

Since it is unclear at this time how the lines will shape up after training camp and the preseason, here is one possible set of line combinations for the Kings in 2015-2016:
 
Forwards
Lucic-Kopitar-Gaborik
Pearson-Carter-Toffoli
King-Shore-Brown
Clifford-Lewis-Nolan

Defensemen
Muzzin-Doughty
Ehrhoff-Martinez
McNabb-Greene

Goalies
Quick
Enroth

 

Disagree?

Explain in the comments below!
 

Final Thoughts

The Kings are looking to rebound this year and get back to being a true Cup contender. There will be some new faces in the locker room, but the Kings’ roster is still solid, featuring one of the best centers (Kopitar), one of the best defensemen (Doughty) and one of the best goalies (Quick) in the NHL. It would be beneficial for the Kings to be rid of a lot of off-ice distractions from the past year, including the ongoing legal troubles of defenseman Slava Voynov and the termination of Mike Richards’ contract. The depth up the middle in Los Angeles will not be as solid as it has been in past seasons, but adding a player of Lucic’s caliber will help the team’s chances of making the playoffs and making a run for the Cup.
 
 

Stay tuned for offseason overviews of all 30 NHL teams.
 
 
Featured image via nhl.com