Irrational Non-Binding Kings Roster Musings

About six weeks till rookie camp! Hardly seems possible. Time to forget about old you-know-who and get on with the business of dreaming up this year's rosters for our various teams. First, we'll look at the current roster players, identify holes, then we'll look at who can fill those holes, internally and externally. Then we'll look at the prospects, to see who is likely to be ready. And then (last?) we'll look at trade scenarios, who might be on the block, who might be attainable via trade.

Kings Roster as of 7/22/2010

 

Ryan Smyth - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams

LW2 - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown

Scott Parse - Michal Handzus - Wayne Simmonds

LW4 - (Brad Richardson) - RW4

F13, Peter Harrold

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty

Jack Johnson - D4

D5 - Matt Greene

Davis Drewiske

Jonathan Quick - Erik Ersberg

The open spots are:

  • top-six left wing
  • two bottom six forwards (ideally physical ones, could be one banger and one defensive forward, e.g. Eric Belanger, or maybe an "energy" guy)
  • a second pairing defenseman (ideally someone "stay at home" to ground JJ)
  • a third pairing defenseman (or a 7th defenseman, if Drewiske is ready to take the third pairing spot with Greene) and
  • maybe a 14th forward for the press box (could be an enforcer).

Prospects Who Might be Ready to Fill Some of Those Spots:

Top six left wing -- Brayden Schenn (yes, I know he's a center)

Bottom six forward (physical): Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, Kevin Westgarth.

Bottom six forward (defensive Belanger type): Trevor Lewis, Marc-Andre Cliche

Bottom six forward (energy): Rich Clune

2nd pairing defenseman (stay-at-home): n/a

3rd pairing defenseman: Jacob Muzzin

Prospects who might be ready but there's no obvious place for them: Thomas Hickey, Viatcheslav Voynov, Johan Fransson, Ray Kaunisto, Oscar Moller, Andrei Loktionov, Corey Elkins, Alec Martinez, Bud Holloway.

I also believe that Ersberg will be dealt and Jonathan Bernier and Jonathan Quick will be the goalies, but there's no obvious place to say that. So I'll just say it here.

What I Think Lombardi Thinks

  • Clifford is likely ready to play a bottom-six role. Lewis might be ready. Kaunisto? (I don't know about Lombardi, but I thought he looked solid in what I saw of the development camp; I can picture him challenging Lewis, but what do I know). Clune will play, unless he hurts himself. So that's Clifford, Lewis/Kaunisto, Clune, Richardson, maybe factor in Moller, who can play an "energy" role sort of. Therefore, no need to bring in anyone via trade or UFA signing for the bottom six. Although...
  • Maaaaybe he'll sign someone like Fredrik Modin (at discount) or Eric Belanger to keep the bottom six from being too green.
  • Schenn might be able to take the third line LW spot from Parse, but he's probably not going to be able to step into a top-six spot. Not saying he won't. But he probably won't.
  • LW2 (or LW1, depending on how you look at it) needs to be filled either by UFA signing or via trade.
  • The second pairing defenseman slot could have been filled by Volchenkov et al, but that ship has sailed. No-one in the depth chart (maaaaaybe) Muzzin fits the job description of "stay-at-home", but it's possible to change the concept of that pairing and turn it into a dynamite offensive d-pair, in which case Hickey, Voynov, Fransson and Martinez are contenders. Still, the option of trading for a top-four defenseman might be the best move, depending on what happens re LW2. 
  • Muzzin, Fransson, Hickey and Voynov can fight it out for the last D spot. I (Quisp) give the edge to Muzzin and Fransson.

So, after mulling over the prospects, the roster looks like this:

 

Smyth - Kopitar - Williams

LW2 - Stoll - Brown

Parse/Schenn - Handzus - Simmonds

Clifford - Richardson - Clune/Lewis

Westgarth, Harrold

Scuderi - Doughty

Johnson - D4

Muzzin/Fransson - Greene

Drewiske

Quick - Bernier

With the open spots being top-six left wing and second pairing defenseman. How, oh how, can we fill those spots?

What Free Agents Are Available?

Top six forward: Well, there's this Ilya Kovalchuk guy. Also, Alexander Frolov and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

Second pairing defenseman: Willie Mitchell, Andreas Lilja (I know both these guys have issues, but play along).

Who Might Be Available via Trade?

Top six forward: Simon Gagne, Patrick Sharp (yes, I know what Bowman said), Bobby Ryan (I said trade, not offer sheet, calm down!), Marc Savard, Michael Ryder. Also, our friend Lou may need some help moving salary, so there are some options there where we wouldn't have to give anything up. Dainus Zubrus, Travis Zajac, I don't know. Not that exciting. I'm not mentioning Parise because they won't move him.

Second pairing defenseman: Tomas Kaberle, Sheldon Souray, Brian Campbell, Kevin Bieksa.

Who do I think Lombardi likes from this group? Gagne, Sharp, Ryan and Bieksa. And of the free agents: Kovalchuk or Frolov (at the right price), Ponikavovsky, maybe. Mitchell and Lilja (in both cases, if healthy-ish).

If I could pick anyone from this list: (in order) Kovalchuk, Ryan, Sharp, Frolov, Ponikarovsky; healthy Mitchell, Bieksa, Lilja.

Decision Tree

  • If Kovalchuk is signable at a doable cap hit, Lombardi does it and calls it a day.
  • If Kovalchuk doesn't work out, does Lombardi go for plan B Frolov, or promote a prospect that probably is not ready (Schenn, Moller, Parse, Loktionov, Holloway, etc.), or make a trade? We'll start with the trade option:
  • Gagne is a Lombardi "type." He's available and PHI needs to dump salary. So in all likelihood, it would be a prospect and pick and maybe a cheap roster player for Gagne kind of deal. A deal for Sharp would be in the same vein. Gagne obviously has injury issues, as has been discussed ad nauseum. Just the fact that Philly fans would be crushed (since they love him) and Kings fans would be mad (because it's another example of Lombardi's love of wounded character guys) makes it an interesting option. And Sharp doesn't suck either. Neither is an especially great move (when you've been spending weeks contemplating Kovalchuk), but could be a very good one, if the chips fall just so. There is a splashy trade option, though, and that's
  • Bobby Ryan. I don't understand why Ryan is not taking the money from Anaheim. And I can't imagine what hefty price Anaheim would demand in exchange for him, if they would even be willing to trade to their hated cross-town rivals at all. But I would gladly send Williams, Stoll and a package of prospects and picks to Anaheim for Ryan. But I probably wouldn't want to let go of the prospects it would take to get that done. Anyway, I don't think it will happen in a million years. Which is what I say when I want somethiing to happen but want to sound not batshit crazy.
  • So then the question becomes, it is better to give up prospects for Gagne or Sharp, or give up no one and re-sign Frolov? If Frolov can be had for less than $4MM, I would go with the Fro. If not, I guess I would look at Ponikarovsky, who I still think has the potential to dominate. If that doesn't work, try for Sharp or Gagne. Unless the price is too steep, in which case, stand pat and wait for a better deal to emerge, while allowing Loktionov, Schenn, Moller, Holloway, et al, duke it out for the spot.
  • As far as defensemen, I would simultaneously look into Mitchell and Lilja while finding out what the price for Bieksa would be. If Lombardi thinks Simmonds and Schenn are ready for top-six duty, I could see something like Justin Williams or Jarret Stoll for Bieksa, with picks and prospects balancing it out. But are Simmonds and Schenn ready? Simmonds, maybe. Schenn, maybe not yet. If I knew that Mitchell was healthy, I would probably lean heavily in his direction, but that's hard to know, and impossible to guarantee. My hunch is that the second-pairing d-man is not going to be cast immediately. There is no outstanding no-brainer option, just several options that could be great or could be less great.

All of which suggests something like this:

Smyth - Kopitar - Simmonds

Ponikarovsky/Frolov - Stoll - Brown

Schenn - Handzus - Clifford*

Parse - Richardson - Moller

Clune/Westgarth, Harrold

Scuderi - Doughty

Johnson - Bieksa

Muzzin/Fransson - Greene

Drewiske

Quick - Bernier

*Yes, I know. He's a left wing.

Looking at that line-up, I do not like the Fro/Poni left side. Oh maybe I do. I don't know. But let's say I don't. Because I also want to bring up the notion of trading for the rights to Bill Sweatt from Toronto, who has announced they are letting him go. They have his rights until 8/15, then he's UFA. I would throw a pick their way and grab him early. You can never have too many faster-than-the-speed-of-light guys. And maybe he makes the team. And then I live my dream of having a "speed" unit, like the old Donnelly/Millen line, and it looks like this:

 

Smyth - Kopitar - Simmonds

Sweatt - Loktionov - Moller

Clifford - Schenn - Brown

Parse - Handzus - Richardson

Clune, Westgarth

Scuderi - Doughty

Johnson - Bieksa

Muzzin/Fransson - Greene

Drewiske

Quick - Bernier

Okay, that has many problems. For one thing, it's a great line-up for the year after next, but I don't think Loktionov (especially) or Moller will be ready for top-six duty this year. It's a physical maturity thing. Otherwise, that's a powerful line. And the Clifford/Schenn/Brown line is great too, but also a year from being ready for prime time. That one is closer than the Lokti/Moller line. But still, not quite.

Another problem is I got rid of Stoll (as well as Williams) and didn't get anything back. Yeah, this is a good line-up for 2011-12. Not for this year.

Retooling. Keeping Sweatt. Keeping Bieksa. Bring back Stoll. Signing Modin for cheap. Drop Loktionov and Moller to the AHL, dammit.

Smyth - Kopitar - Simmonds

Sweatt - Stoll - Brown

Schenn - Handzus - Clifford

Parse - Richardson - Modin

Clune, Westgarth

Scuderi - Doughty

Johnson - Bieksa

Muzzin/Fransson - Greene

Drewiske

Quick - Bernier

Five rookies (Schenn, Clifford, Sweatt, Muzzin or Fransson, and Bernier). That's too much. But I think three of those guys (Muzzin or Fransson, Clifford, Bernier) will make it. Schenn and (especially!) Sweatt are iffy. But so what? That would be a team I would pay to see play every night.

So I'm going to leave it in the spirit of blog whimsy and let you pick me apart.

 

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