Los Angeles Kings' Biggest Takeaways from the Start of Free Agency
With the first official step of the offseason out of the way with the passing of the 2013 NHL entry draft, the wild weeks of free agency are now upon us.
As many teams scramble to fill in gaps in their roster, rebuild and retool while trying to squeeze under an impending salary cap, the Los Angeles Kings have stayed above the headlines for the most part.
With a few minor moves like the departure of Jonathan Bernier by way of trade and Rob Scuderi by signing with Pittsburgh, the Kings have barely made noise in what has already been a compelling and hectic start to free agency for many teams.
What can we gather from the beginning of this free-agency period for the 2012 Stanley Cup champs?
The 2013 Kings Are Not Going to Look Much Different from 2012
Only a few minor moves have come thus far from the team, and a tight cap situation is playing heavily into Dean Lombardi's strategy of standing firm.
According to CapGeek.com, the Kings currently have roughly $5.2 million in cap space and at least five contracts to hand out to qualified restricted free agents Kyle Clifford, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Jordan Nolan and Trevor Lewis.
So when all is said and done, money is going to be incredibly tight moving forward.
With that in mind, there likely won't be many new faces with the organization this year outside of Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens and Jeff Schultz. The 2013-14 Kings will look almost identical to the 2012-13 Kings.
In all honesty, why would you want to make any gigantic moves with the success the roster has put together in the past two years?
A Youth Movement Is Coming
With the NHL salary cap lowering from $70.2 million to $64.3 million many teams are going to be turning toward their youth systems to get cheap players up onto their NHL rosters.
That is one of two major elements in expecting a youth movement for the LA Kings—the other is the great development of several of the organization's key young players.
Last season, fans got a little taste of Tyler Toffoli, who showed us all what a skilled and capable forward he is with a hardworking and successful postseason performance. Let's also not forget about Tanner Pearson, who did appear in his first-ever NHL game. Even though his presence was of little to no consequence, it showed fans just how close the organization thinks he is to cracking the big time.
Further down the depth chart is Linden Vey who was the Monarchs' leading scorer, Brandon Kozun who has slowly bided his time in the minors for several years and defenseman Derek Forbort who will be making the jump from the NCAA to the AHL this coming season.
Heading into camp, it seems like the entire fourth line is up for grabs. Colin Fraser and Jordan Nolan had postseasons to forget, and Brad Richardson has made his way to greener pastures (in his mind) in Vancouver.
The Kings Are Built Very Well
When you look around the league and see teams utilizing compliance buyouts on huge contracts and overpaying for players on the free market it makes you realize just how well built the Kings are.
Sure they have some holes that need filling—most notably a scoring left winger and a bottom pairing defenseman—but what team doesn't? Perhaps the most important thing to take away from it all is that the Kings have not handcuffed themselves to long and detrimental contracts.
The front office handled a lowering cap with ease and tossed in a re-signing of a top-tier defenseman in Slava Voynov as well.
The NHL salary cap will again be lowering by another $3 million in the 2014-15 season, and aside from re-signing Dustin Brown, the Kings look like they will be able to avoid any major shakeups next year as well.
The Kings seem to have youth capable of stepping up just at the right time (Martinez, Muzzin, Voynov) to replace expensive pieces on the way out. This has helped tremendously in keeping the organization from fighting its way through the muck and mire of the free-agent market.
Dean Lombardi has been careful with contracts on almost every occasion, and it's starting to show why that was such a solid strategy.