Los Angeles Kings' Biggest Takeaways from the Start of 2014 Free Agency
The Los Angeles Kings' biggest move came before free agency opened on July 1 when they re-signed Marian Gaborik to a long-term contract.
It was an otherwise quiet free-agency period, as you would expect from a team that won the Stanley Cup and isn't losing any players to retirement.
That said, there was some movement and some moves that didn't take place that are of note. The Kings have just over $66.7 million against the cap next season, leaving them with about $2.2 million in cap space as of July 8, 2014.
With that in mind, here are some of the Kings' biggest takeaways from free agency so far.
Committed to the Core Group
The Kings have most of the core of the team—including Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick—signed to long-term deals.
Add Marian Gaborik to the list. The 32-year-old forward signed a seven-year, $34.125 million contract that carries a cap hit of $4.875 million per year. For a player of Gaborik's caliber—his previous contract was worth $7.5 million per year, and he led the 2013-14 postseason with 14 goals—and considering the money that's been thrown around during free agency, this is a great deal for Dean Lombardi and the Kings.
Lombardi and his staff are also confident in keeping players who struggled at times this season, such as Richards.
Richards had perhaps the most disappointing campaign of his career and ultimately ended up playing on the fourth line for much of the playoffs. However, there is no questioning the leadership he provides or his willingness to do the little things in crunch time.
Lombardi could have opened up a lot of cap space by buying out Richards; instead, he chose to trust the 29-year-old center, just as he's trusted countless other players for the last few years.
Depth at Forward
It's hard to argue that any team in the NHL is as deep as the Los Angeles Kings are at forward.
They don't necessarily have the most skilled lines or lines that will score multiple goals night in and night out. Instead, they have three solid two-way trios that can be trusted in any situation.
The Kings are set at forward for years, as just three of their 13 forwards—Marian Gaborik, Jarret Stoll and Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams—are over the age of 30.
Lombardi likely won't need to add another key piece at the deadline—see Jeff Carter or Gaborik—for a few years, if not longer. And with some prospects working their way up to the NHL level in the coming years, we can expect little action on July 1 in the future, not unlike this year.
The lone additions at forward for the Kings so far in this free agency period are David Van der Gulik and Adam Cracknell. They add depth but should be in Manchester when the 2014-15 season starts.
As many of the forwards enter the prime of their careers, the defense remains young with many of the players in their early to mid-20s.
Led by Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov, who are both 24 years old and signed long term, the Kings defense consists of many quick puck-moving blueliners.
The group got significantly younger with the departure of Willie Mitchell. The 37-year-old is taking his gritty, physical approach to the Florida Panthers. This opens the door for Jeff Schultz, age 28, or Brayden McNabb, age 23, to enter the lineup on a regular basis.
The style of play from the blue line next year should be very similar to 2013-14, with perhaps a little more speed. Drew Doughty should continue to eat big minutes and will need to play more of a shutdown role in some situations where Mitchell did the dirty work in the past.
One question is whether Matt Greene can stay healthy and have an impact on a consistent basis. The 31-year-old signed a four-year, $10 million deal to stay in L.A.