Grading the Top Offseason Moves for the Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings saw their chance at defending the Stanley Cup go down in ashes after falling to the Calgary Flames with only days left in the regular season. The two teams had been battling for a final spot, and the loss extinguished the Kings' chance to make the playoffs.
It was a slight bump in the road for a team that won two titles in a span of three seasons, and general manager Dean Lombardi has made some moves to get the Kings back on track for the upcoming season.
There are still some areas that need to be addressed—primarily finding a replacement for Andrej Sekera, who was acquired to fill the hole left by Slava Voynov—and it will be interesting to see how the Kings accomplish this with limited financial flexibility.
With that in mind, here is a look at the biggest moves the Kings have made thus far in the 2015 offseason.
Milan Lucic Trade
The Kings made a splash on draft day by exchanging the No. 13 overall pick, backup netminder Martin Jones and prospect Colin Miller with the Boston Bruins for Milan Lucic and only 55 percent of his salary.
The Kings currently sit with just over $7.5 million in cap space, but that could change after replacing Jarret Stoll and adding another defenseman. There is also a very tenuous Mike Richards situation in flux, so I wouldn't expect the Kings to overspend at this point.
The Kings paid a steep price for what could be one season of Lucic, but they picked him up at a good time. Los Angeles didn't need another first-round pick, but it hurts to lose a prospect like Miller and have Jones end up back in the division following a subsequent Bruins trade with the San Jose Sharks.
There is nothing that could have been done to control that, but it is something that still stings regardless.
Lucic will turn 28 next June, and he is heading into an up year statistically. The former Bruin has had a stretch of "off and on" seasons over the last four years.
If Lucic can contribute 20 goals and 60 points in 2015-16, it will have been a worthwhile trade, especially when you consider he has proven he can contribute in the playoffs.
Re-Signing of Tyler Toffoli
The Kings took care of business with top restricted free agent Tyler Toffoli in a short span of time. Toffoli put his initials on a deal that will pay him $6.6 million over two seasons, and it is quite the bargain for a gifted scorer with significant upside.
Toffoli is one-third of the Kings' best line and a valuable player coming off a season that saw him finish with 23 goals, 26 assists and 49 points. He is solid in all situations, was third on the Kings in total scoring and accomplished it by playing only 14:35 a game. Look for the 23-year-old to continue his rise in 2015-16 and threaten to score 30 goals.
Not Re-Signing Andrej Sekera
There was a remote chance that Sekera was going to remain with the Kings past the 2014-15 season, but that came off the table once Lucic was acquired. As it stands, the Kings probably could have added him after gaining space by terminating Richards' contract, but no one blames Sekera for taking a sizable offer from an Edmonton Oilers squad on the rise.
The Kings traded a first-round pick and a solid defensive prospect in Roland McKeown for 16 games of Sekera. From an asset-management perspective, this a colossal mistake, because you don't give up quality assets for a player you acquired for a lengthy run, especially when you miss the playoffs.
The Kings probably could have negotiated a Lucic trade after the draft, and re-signing Sekera should have been higher on the priority list.
Not Re-Signing Justin Williams
The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014, and Justin Williams played a huge role. Mr. Game 7 scored nine goals and added 16 assists for 25 points in 26 games, and he took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
This past season, he finished with 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points and was a player whom the Kings could have sold high on at the trade deadline, but Los Angeles was in the middle of a playoff race. Williams ultimately signed with the Washington Capitals for a bargain, and he will look to help the Caps try to win a Game 7 in the playoffs.
Williams cited the salary cap as a reason for being unable to remain in LA, and he also talked about how things got derailed this past season, according to an Elliott Teaford report in the Los Angeles Daily News.
It would have made more sense for Lombardi to deal Williams at the deadline than lose him for nothing, because there is a chance he could have received a somewhat decent return for the veteran winger. The move could have sent the wrong message, but it still was one worth making for the long-term health of the club.
The Kings will be fine on the wing for the foreseeable future, but losing quality players for nothing is something that general managers have to avoid at all costs if possible.
Drafting of Erik Cernak
The Kings' first pick of the 2015 draft came at No. 43 overall as the 13th pick of second round. Los Angeles included the No. 13 overall pick in the Lucic trade, but they were still able to get some quality value by selecting defenseman Erik Cernak.
Grabbing the No. 16 overall European skater was a solid pick, because the Kings lack prospect defenders after the dealing of Miller and McKeown this season. Derek Forbort may finally make his NHL debut this year, but at best, he is a No. 6 defender.
Not having a first-round pick was tough considering the state of the Kings' prospect pool on defense, but Cernak could be the real deal. Cernak is 6'4" and 207 pounds, and ESPN NHL prospect analyst Corey Pronman described Cernak as a late first-round prospect with upside and said that he is a mobile and skilled defenseman with size.
Signing of Jhonas Enroth
After the departure of Jones, the Kings needed a backup, so Lombardi picked up Jhonas Enroth on a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. Enroth played for the Buffalo Sabres and Dallas Stars last year, and he put up solid numbers when you consider how bad the Sabres were.
Enroth is a serviceable backup for $1.25 million, and he showed in Dallas that he can be a steady goaltender on a team that can score goals. He went 5-5-0 with a .906 save percentage and 2.38 goals-against average with the Stars, and you can expect him to post similar numbers in Los Angeles.
So far this offseason, the Kings have lost Justin Williams, Andrej Sekera, Mike Richards (for now, pending an NHLPA review), Colin Miller, Martin Jones and potentially Slava Voynov, whose NHL future remains up in the air after pleading no contest to beating and bloodying his wife.
Milan Lucic and Jhonas Enroth are the only major additions that have been made from outside the organization, and there is the chance that there will be some players from Manchester who will be promoted for the start of the NHL season.
The Kings are in a situation in which they have a number of top players signed to long-term deals, so they have the chance to contend for the foreseeable future. The blue line remains an area of concern for LA, and that is the one area that needs the most improvement.
As of today, the Kings have taken some steps backward, although a resurgence by Lucic could help mitigate some of the losses.