Now that Ilya Kovalchuk has found himself a home for the next two decades, what will the Los Angeles Kings do now?
Although it would have been nice to see Kovalchuk put on a Los Angeles Kings jersey, the world has not come to an end. In fact, Kovy not coming to the west coast can benefit the Kings in more way than one.
With the millions of dollars saved by the Kings by not signing the Russian superstar, their first order of business should be extedning the contracts of Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, and Wayne Simmonds who all become RFA's next summer. Doughty will be looking for a hefty raise of AT LEAST $4 million per year. Johnson might be looking for something between $3 and $4.5 million as well, whereas Wayne Simmonds should expect something below $3 million. Kings GM Dean Lombardi might also decide he wants to bring back young goaltender Erik Ersberg, who is a UFA next summer.
Even with the young players needing contract extensions, that doesnt play in until next summer, therefore the Kings can still make a push at some offensive fire power via trading or the free agency market.
Shall the Kings decide to trade, the only big name out there linked to the Kings is Boston Bruins center, Marc Savard. Savard is not quite the same player as Ilya Kovalchuk, but I can't imagine Kings fans being upset by the addition of Savard. Boston has been shopping players and trading a considerable amount this offseason, so why not again?
Former Flyer and new Lighting forward Simon Gagne was being looked at by the Kings as well, but with Kovalchuk re-signing with New Jersey and Gagne being traded to Tampa Bay within an hour of each other the Kings summer plans took a serious tumble right in front of them.
The most realistic option for the Kings now would be to either settle with the team they have now and make room for some kids on the roster or pursue some other talented free agents.
Alexander Frolov remains on the free agent market, but with his lack of production over the past couple of years its unlikely he will be back in Los Angeles.
A few others the Kings could approach are Maxim Afinogenov, Lee Stempniak, and Alexei Ponikarovsky. Stempniak made a lot of noise after he was dealt to Phoenix last year so maybe another change of scenery would be good for him. 6'4 230 pound forward Alexei Ponikarovsky could be another player like Handzus. His big body is perfect to screen goalies, score rebounds goals, cause traffic in front of the net, and annoy the opposing goalie. As for Afinogenov, he is the type of player the Kings can try to reel in for a reasonable amount of money and limited number of years. With no Kovalchuk, this means Lombardi will most likely extend Doughty, Johnson, and Simmonds, so why not bring in an old veteran who knows the game like Maxim Afinogenov. He's a perfect player to teach the younger Kings players a thing or two about the NHL.
At the end of the day, Kings fans surely have the right to be upset, but you will find out a couple years down the road how glad you really are that Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson are still wearing Kings colors. Lombardi seems to be taking the franchise in the right direction so we will see where it goes.