Los Angeles Kings' Best and Worst Moves in Free Agency so Far
With the core of the team signed long term, the Los Angeles Kings were in a better position than most teams heading into the 2014 free-agent frenzy.
However, there were still a few lingering issues to resolve, including addressing the expiring contracts of a few proven veteran players. And, perhaps offering contracts to some young, inexperienced players that could pay off down the road.
This is a closer look at the Kings' best and worst moves in free agency, along with their other signings so far.
Best: Signing Marian Gaborik
It occurred before July 1, but the signing of unrestricted free agent Marian Gaborik for $31.125 million over seven years is clearly the most important move of the offseason for L.A.
When fans and analysts discuss the great trade-deadline acquisitions of all time, Dean Lombardi's trade for Marian Gaborik should be near the top of the list.
The 32-year-old Slovakian forward led all playoff scorers with 14 goals and finished fourth in points with 22 in 26 games.
Gaborik has developed chemistry with Anze Kopitar, and the duo's ability to create scoring chances is among the best in the NHL. They can do it off the rush, the cycle and through long stretch passes or quick east-west puck movement on the power play.
With Gaborik locked up long term, the Kings have a scoring line that rivals that of the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks. It also takes pressure off of the second and third lines, which can focus on puck possession, the forecheck and hopefully protecting a lead.
Worst: Losing Willie Mitchell
After missing the entire 2012-13 season due to lingering knee injuries, it appeared Willie Mitchell's NHL career was in jeopardy. Fortunately, he came back and once again was a key member of the Kings' blue line.
Mitchell is a leader and a shutdown defender. Even at age 37, he demanded significant money as a free agent. Unfortunately, L.A. didn't have the cap space to keep the blueliner.
This may be the worst move in free agency for the Kings, but Dean Lombardi's hands were tied because of the cap.
The Kings will miss Mitchell's gritty style in the defensive zone. Although he may have lost a step and can't contribute much offensively or on the rush, Mitchell proved he can still eat up minutes. He averaged more than 20 minutes per game in the regular season and topped the 22-minute mark in the playoffs.
Mitchell's departure opens the door for young defensemen like Jeff Schultz to play a bigger role next season.
Underrated: Signing Jeff Schultz
No, Jeff Schultz didn't play a single regular-season game with L.A. in 2013-14.
That makes what he did in the postseason more impressive. Schultz stepped in for the injured Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr and managed to help slow down the Anaheim Ducks, averaging more than 18 minutes per game.
The 28-year-old stands 6'6" and weighs 225 pounds, not a bad option for a seventh or eighth defenseman. What makes the Schultz signing great is the fact that it's just a two-year, $1.7 million deal.
The Kings have a player they know they can trust to step in at crucial times without any notice, and they didn't have to commit long term or overspend.
With Mitchell gone, look for Schultz to play a few games next season, but it's unlikely he will become a regular in the lineup.
Veteran defenseman Matt Greene will be back in L.A. next season. The 31-year-old signed a four-year, $10 million contract on June 24.
Injuries limited him to just 38 games in the regular season, but he suited up in 20 of the Kings' 26 contests in the postseason. Greene will likely be asked to play a bigger role next year because of Mitchell's departure. He is now the team's top physical, stay-at-home defenseman.
Cracknell has played 65 games in his career, all with the Blues, and will be a good piece of insurance to have should the Kings run into injury trouble.
David Van der Gulik
The left winger is 5'10" and 173 pounds. He signed a one-year, $550,000 contract and should spend most of the season in the AHL with Cracknell.