Are the Kings Going to Bother Icing a Team This Year?

Jeff BadgerCorrespondent IAugust 13, 2008

Does anybody know what's going on in Los Angeles? I mean, really—do they even intend to play hockey next season, or are they going to take a year off and think about what they've done?

I don't pretend to be a Kings connoisseur, but I couldn't help diving into this one. The L.A. Kings have been veritable bottom-feeders ever since Wayne Gretzky left and Luc Robitaille hung up the blades. Years of miserable finishes and high draft picks have dealt the team a stable of highly skilled, top-end prospects that would make most GMs drool, and yet the only royal thing about the Kings is the extent to which they will fail, given their lack of depth. Heck, right now they can't even ice a team!

To date, the Kings have only 14 players signed, with a paltry $26 million committed to the cap for the 2008-09 campaign. Given the names that are on the roster, this team should be a contender with that kind of room for additions...but no, nothing coming out of "La La Land" yet. I mean, it's not like training camp starts next week or anything—it's at least the week after.

It should be noted that these numbers do not include Drew Doughty's impending contract, which will likely be laden with bonuses that will bring the number up to $30 million. Still, that's $10 million below the cap floor, and they're missing a full set of forwards and a pair of defensemen.

Doughty hopes to crack the lineup—I'm thinking he might fight Jack Johnson to be in the top pair.

Forward lines for L.A. really aren't that bad. They are very young, to be sure, but there's a lot of fire power in these kids. Top-three lines should look like this:

  1. Anze Kopitar, Alex Frolov, Dustin Brown
  2. Jarret Stoll, Patrick O'Sullivan, Kyle Calder
  3. Michal Handzus, Brian Boyle, Derek Armstrong

Anybody see the big problem here? Two-thirds of the second line are currently don't have contracts. Now, O'Sullivan isn't going anywhere—this kid's a star in the making—and they wouldn't have traded for Stoll only to give him away, so Stoll's deal should be coming soon, as well. It's most likely money that's holding up both deals. O'Sullivan is probably looking for $2-3 million and Stoll would likely settle for $3.5 million, so that will still keep them more than $4 million below the cap floor, and that's assuming everybody meets their bonuses.

Nagy could fill that void; however, he's an unrestricted free agent, and isn't likely to resign in L.A. He isn't happy about being relegated to the third line, and the Kings want to go with the kids on the top-two (and who can blame them?). The neck injury last year has softened interest a bit, but this is a guy with some skill and decent speed, and he'll likely land somewhere. I'm not sure whose idea it was for Nagy to part ways with L.A., but, if he was staying put, he'd likely have signed. Rumors abound that he is also considering playing in Russia, but would prefer to stay in the NHL.

Assuming all of the above contracts come in, Los Angeles is still well below the salary cap floor, and could potentially make a splash before the season starts. The only big-ticket UFA is Mats Sundin, and, with Kopitar, the Kings already have a stud center—Sundin might only hurt his development.

Despite having three or four potential 30-goal scorers on the top-two lines (eventually), the lack of veteran leadership, both upfront and on defense, not to mention huge questions in goal, will more than likely find the Kings picking in the top-three again. 

With all these high draft picks, this team has to turn around at some point. The question is...when?