Kings' 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Playoff LossMay 15, 2022
Kings' 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Playoff Loss
Despite their 2-0 postseason loss to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 of the first round Saturday, the 2021-22 season was an unqualified success for the Los Angeles Kings.
They missed the playoffs in each of the previous three years and didn't finish higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during that span. However, they took significant steps forward this season, finishing over .500 for the first time since 2017-18.
Adrian Kempe made a leap in his seventh season. He set career highs with 35 goals and 19 assists. His plus-minus was still in the negative range (-2), but it was a drastic improvement from his -18 mark from last season.
Phillip Danault made a huge difference for the offense after signing a six-year deal in free agency last offseason. The 29-year-old hit 51 points for the first time since 2018-19 when he was with the Montreal Canadiens.
Matt Roy led the Kings in plus-minus at +23 as a defensemen, and Jonathan Quick remains a stalwart at goalie. The 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner had his best save percentage (.910) and goals against average (2.59) since 2017-18.
The core of this team is under contract through at least next season. The future is bright in Los Angeles, but there are ways for general manager Rob Blake to make the roster even better this offseason.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Dustin Brown, RW
Andreas Athanasiou, C
Olli Maatta, D
Alexander Edler, D
Troy Stecher, D
Restricted Free Agents
Adrian Kempe, LW
Brendan Lemieux, LW
Gabe Vilardi, C
Lias Andersson, C
Carl Grundstrom, C
Michael Anderson, D
Sean Durzi, D
Austin Strand, D
Jacob Moverare, D
Despite their struggles in recent years, the Kings continue to hold onto Dustin Brown. He was rumored to be a potential trade target for the New York Islanders last season, but nothing came of it.
It wouldn't have been a surprise to see Los Angeles engage teams in trade talks for the right winger if the team wasn't in postseason contention this season. He's a 37-year-old in the final season of his contract.
Instead, Brown had a solid 2021-22 campaign for the Kings. He showed flashes of his old self in April after missing one month with a finger injury. The 18-year veteran assisted on two goals in a 5-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in his first game back on April 12.
Brown made the decision easy for Los Angeles this offseason. He announced on April 28 this would be his final year in the NHL after 18 seasons, all with the Kings.
There's really no good reason for the Kings to bring back Andreas Athanasiou, though. He has played on one-year deals in each of the past two seasons, but injuries have limited him to just 75 games during that span.
Los Angeles' center line has Danault, Anze Kopitar, Alex Iafallo and Blake Lizotte, who are more than capable of handling things if Athanasiou is allowed to walk.
Along the same line, the Kings could let Lias Andersson and Carl Grundstrom leave as restricted free agents without really losing anything.
Andersson has played sparingly in two seasons with the team, and he has a minus-seven plus-minus mark in just 20 games this year.
Potential Free Agent/Trade Targets
One thing the Kings front office needs to address this offseason is offense. They 20th in the league in scoring (2.87 goals per game) and 27th in power play percentage (16.1).
This isn't a new issue for the organization. The team hasn't finished in the top half of the league in goals per game since 2015-16 when it ranked No. 14. The last time it was in the top 10 was in the 2012-13 season.
The Kings do have $20.3 million in cap space to make an aggressive move if they want to go in that direction.
Of course, they are in a great position of not having to do anything and still be set up well for the short- and long-term future.
Per of The Hockey Writers, the Kings have the best farm system in the league. Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL draft, had a delayed start to the season because of a fractured ankle suffered in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes.
The 19-year-old made his season debut Jan. 20, but he played sparingly, finishing with 10 points in 40 games.
There were rumblings before the trade deadline that Blake wanted to boost the offense. Jeff Marek of SportsNet.ca (h/t Rob Ellis of NHLTradeRumor.com) reported the Kings were interested in Vancouver Canucks winger Brock Boeser.
Nothing came of those talks, but it does set the team up for a potential move this offseason. Boeser, 25, will be a restricted free agent. He has been a productive player over the past five seasons with 251 points in 315 games, though he hasn't been efficient with a minus-11 plus-minus mark.
If the Kings wanted to try taking a big swing, Evgeni Malkin could be pricing his way out of what the Pittsburgh Penguins can afford.
Pens general manager Ron Hextall has conceded they will need some of their free agents to take discounts if they all want to be back because of the team's cap situation.
Another home run swing option for Los Angeles would be Claude Giroux. He was traded to the Florida Panthers by the Philadelphia Flyers at midseason. The Panthers only have $3.6 million in cap space, so he was likely acquired only for a playoff run.
Giroux is 34 and had his first 60-point season since 2018-19.
The Kings own a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL draft. They have done a fantastic job of drafting in recent years, based on how well regarded their system is and how well their recent graduates have performed.
If they want to draft based on need, there is no shortage of potential centers and wingers to choose from in this year's class. Noah Ostlund (Sweden), Rutger McGroarty (United States) and Filip Mesar (Slovakia) would all fit in nicely on the Kings.
Per Matthew Zator of The Hockey Writers, McGroarty boasts a "high hockey IQ, a heavy, accurate shot, and a tremendous work ethic" that could make him "one of the most dynamic players in this draft."
There appears to be a divide about the 18-year-old's talent level in relation to this class. Zator noted different pundits have him ranging from a top-12 prospect to outside of the top 50.
Ostlund might be an even more volatile prospect than McGroarty coming into the draft. His ranking varies from No. 13 to No. 73 overall. Zator cited his "quick hands" and "strong work ethic" among his key traits, as well as his ability as a passer and playmaker to get his teammates involved.
Mesar looks to be universally regarded as a top-25 prospect. of The Hockey Writers noted his offensive ceiling is lower than the very top-tier players in the draft, but his skating, transition, playmaking and versatility are listed among his biggest strengths.