2013 NHL Season: 5 Items the Los Angeles Kings Need to Address

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IJanuary 7, 2013

2013 NHL Season: 5 Items the Los Angeles Kings Need to Address

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    The Los Angeles Kings won’t have to wait much longer to raise their Stanley Cup banner to the rafters at Staples Center and begin their title defense.

    They will also begin the toughest team challenge in sports, which is winning back-to-back Stanley Cups.

    Luckily for the Kings, the usual “Stanley Cup” hangover shouldn’t be a problem since all of the team’s players had an extended offseason to prepare for another intense season with high expectations.

    Let’s look at five things the Kings still need to address if they are to repeat as champions.

Determine Jonathan Bernier’s Future

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    The Los Angeles Kings have a few options to consider regarding the future of talented backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier. 

    General manager Dean Lombardi can trade the 24-year-old for a player that can help the Kings in the playoffs or acquire draft picks that will help add depth to the team’s prospect pool.

    He could also re-sign Bernier, but Los Angeles won’t have a ton of salary cap space in the summer when they are trying to get under the $64.3 cap ceiling for the 2013-14 season.

    Unless Bernier wants to re-sign for less money than he could earn on the market, the Kings may be forced to trade him even though he can become a restricted free agent in July.

    The Kings would be smart to determine his future before the trade deadline, when his value could be very high.

Add More Wing Depth

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    The Kings have three top-line-caliber centers in Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Anze Kopitar, but the lack of depth on the wings should be a concern heading into the season for head coach Darryl Sutter.

    Dustin Penner, Justin Williams and Simon Gagne are good players, but none of them are 30-goal scorers or have the ability to take over games offensively.

    Dwight King is a promising young player who performed well in the playoffs last year, but he’s not a reliable offensive player at this point in his career.

    Lombardi would be wise to add another goal-scoring winger to the lineup before the playoffs, especially if Kopitar, Richards or Carter don't perform at a high level or deal with injuries.

With Anze Kopitar Injured, What Will the Kings' Top 6 Look Like?

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    According to ESPN's Craig Custance, Kings center Anze Kopitar will miss an extended period of time with an injury.

    Anze Kopitar of the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings suffered a minor knee injury Saturday while playing in Sweden and is expected to miss three weeks, Kings GM Dean Lombardi confirmed.

    Sutter will have to reshuffle his lines with his top center unavailable to start the season.

    There are a couple of different line combinations he can use to maximize the production from his offense, but fortunately for Sutter, he has two players in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards who are fully capable of excelling on the first line.

    Here are some possible top-six combinations that the Kings could use while Kopitar is hurt.

    From left to right: LW, C, RW

    Dustin Penner - Jeff Carter - Justin Williams

    Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Dustin Brown

    Simon Gagne - Jeff Carter - Dustin Brown

    Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Justin Williams

Which Junior Prospects, If Any, Deserve Chance to Make NHL Roster?

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    The Kings will have to determine if any of their top prospects at the junior and minor league levels should come to training camp and compete for a spot on the NHL roster.

    There are a few top prospects that the Kings should invite to camp and see how they handle playing against NHL competition.

    Let's look at a few of these players.

    Player Current Team Position Notes
    Tyler Toffoli Manchester Monarchs (AHL) C If Kopitar's injury worsens, Toffoli's goal-scoring ability would be a real boost to the Kings' offense.
    Andrei Loktionov Manchester Monarchs (AHL) C Loktionov is arguably the team's best forward prospect, and after spending three seasons in the AHL, he's ready to earn a permanent spot on the Kings roster.
    Tanner Pearson Barrie Colts (OHL) LW Pearson was the Kings' first-round pick in the 2012 draft. He plays well defensively and impacts games physically. Pearson could feature in a bottom-six role if he plays well offensively.

Who Will the Kings Buy out After the Season?

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    Since the new CBA gives teams the ability to buy out two players after this season, general managers will have one year to determine if certain players with large contracts are worth keeping long term.

    The Kings have quite a few lengthy contracts with sizable cap hits, so Dean Lombardi has a number of players that he could buy out.

    Here are the most logical players for Lombardi to consider.

    Player Cap Hit Years Left on Deal Notes
    Jeff Carter $5.27 million 10 Carter is a very good player who should score 30 goals in every full season in which he's healthy. However, 10 years is a long time to have a player with a $5.27 million cap hit. Carter is a slightly better player than Richards, so if the Kings decide to buy out one of the two in the summer, Lombardi should choose Richards.
    Mike Richards $5.75 million 8 Richards didn't perform at a high level last season, and he has eight years left on his current contract. If he struggles again this year, the Kings should seriously consider buying out Richards, especially if Toffoli and Loktionov prove they are ready to be NHL centers.
    Jarrett Stoll $3.75 3 Stoll hasn't scored more than 50 points since the 2005-06 season, and his scoring has declined in each of the last two years. Last season, Stoll had one of the worst years of his career with 21 points in 78 games. If he doesn't improve this year, the Kings should buy him out.

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