Complete Guide to the Los Angeles Kings' 2014 Offseason
General manager Dean Lombardi doesn't have much time to revel in the accomplishment, though. The busiest part of his preparations for the 2014-15 season will begin nearly immediately, and for most of the next month, he'll be busy tweaking his roster and working to improve the NHL's best team.
What lies ahead? Read on for our offseason primer.
There is a long list of players here. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are the twin engines that drive the team up front and on the back end. Kopitar is supported by a stellar cast too long to list here, while Jake Muzzin's emergence was a major factor on defence.
Mike Richards' two-way game has been slipping for a while, and the pricey centre found himself on the fourth line as the playoffs developed. Dustin Brown managed just 27 points in the regular season. Robyn Regehr was supplanted as Doughty's regular partner, and Matt Greene struggled to hold down a top-six job.
The Kings won the Stanley Cup. That's a nice way to finish the season.
Biggest Storylines to Follow
What happens to Mike Richards?
A rumoured buyout candidate, per The Globe and Mail's Richards is likely on his way out of L.A. one way or the other this summer. The question is whether that exit comes via buyout or trade.
Does Dean Lombardi remake the defence?
To the extent that the Kings had a playoff weakness, it was their defensive depth, which at times was exposed by other teams (in particular the Chicago Blackhawks). Lombardi has the option of maintaining the status quo or working aggressively to shore up his second and third pairing.
Where does the Cup go?
The organization now gets a summer of touring with the Stanley Cup, and its travels will doubtless be a big part of the offseason story for L.A.
Notable Players Hitting Free Agency
Gaborik was an instant hit in Hollywood, scoring 14 goals to lead the league in the postseason. The top-line forward can play either left or right wing and added the dynamic scoring touch that Los Angeles hadn't often had at its disposal.
The veteran defender is slowing down but was still good enough to play the No. 4 role on a championship blue line. At 37 years of age, a lesser role may be in the cards next season.
D Andrew Campbell, F Colin Fraser, D Matt Greene, D Jeff Schultz
Top Free-Agent Targets
If not him, the Kings need a player exactly like him. Gaborik fit in seamlessly, so why mess with success? The 32-year-old appears content in Los Angeles and said via NHL.com's Dan Rosen, "The locker room was great. You cannot win without a good locker room, and these guys are unbelievable. I'm very happy to be a part of it." Keeping him happy and in Southern California will be a priority for the Kings this offseason.
If for whatever reason it proves impossible to re-sign Gaborik, the Montreal Canadiens' Vanek would bring to the roster a similar skill set and finishing ability.
With Matt Greene heading for free agency, the Kings have an opening for a right-shooting defender on their third pairing. Carolina's Bellemore replaces the size and physical game of Greene and is in the prime of his career rather than slipping out of it.
Best Options in the NHL Draft
As the Stanley Cup champions, the Kings are blessed with a terrible draft pick. Normally it would be 30th overall, but the NHL's punishment of the New Jersey Devils for the Ilya Kovalchuk fiasco bumps it up to 29th.
Projected to go 29th overall on the midseason list from TSN's Bob McKenzie, Ho-Sang produced major offensive totals in the Ontario Hockey League this year and fills a positional need (centre) on the Kings' prospect depth chart. He lacks size, but L.A. hasn't been afraid in years past to draft smaller players.
Much like Ho-Sang, Fabbri is a smallish pivot putting up crazy numbers in the OHL. Ranked 30th on McKenzie's list, his production over the last half of the season may mean he's gone when the Kings pick.
Players Who Should Be Put on the Trading Block
Assuming he isn't bought out, the Kings would be well-advised to move the struggling forward whose contract has six years left on it at an annual cap hit of $5.75 million.
The mediocre Lewis finished last among the Kings' regular forwards in postseason scoring and has had ugly underlying numbers for a few seasons now. With a $1.525 million cap hit, he's also an expensive option for the fourth line. There's generally a market for Cup-winning role players, and Lombardi could do the Kings a favour by trading an easily replaceable player for a draft pick.
Top Trade Targets
The Kings actually have a reasonable amount of cap space to play with, even after a presumed Gaborik signing, and that gives them some options over the summer. Their biggest need is probably a second-pairing left-shooting defenceman.
The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be looking to upgrade up front, and a Gunnarsson-for-Mike Richards trade seems like the kind of foolishness they might indulge in. The money is a bit of a problem, but not an unworkable one, and Gunnarsson would be a nice partner for Slava Voynov.
The Edmonton Oilers have worlds of cap space and just might be desperate enough to be suckered into taking Richards as they work to upgrade their forward corps.
Prospects Most Likely to Debut in 2014-15
Vey got into 18 games at the NHL level in 2013-14. He wasn't great but wasn't terrible either. He's an exceptional scorer at the AHL level and could make the jump to the majors full time next season.
A big, tough defender acquired in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres, McNabb already has some NHL experience and could break camp on the Kings' blue line.
Another big defender, Forbort was L.A.'s first-round pick in 2010 and is another likely call-up if the Kings need help on the back end.
Projected 2014-15 Depth Chart
- [Marian Gaborik]—Anze Kopitar—Justin Williams
- Tanner Pearson—Jeff Carter—Tyler Toffoli
- Dwight King—Jarret Stoll—Dustin Brown
- Kyle Clifford—[veteran C]—Trevor Lewis
- Spares: Jordan Nolan, Linden Vey
- Jake Muzzin—Drew Doughty
- Robyn Regehr—Slava Voynov
- Alec Martinez—[right-shooting D]
- Spare: Brayden McNabb
- Jonathan Quick
- Martin Jones
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