Today was the day for NHL teams to decide which restricted free agents would receive qualifying offers and which RFAs would instead be allowed to hit unrestricted free agency. Some other teams had agonizing decisions to make, but the Los Angeles Kings pretty much did what would be expected. There were seven players on the fence. Three played significant roles for the Ontario Reign last season (two of whom also played in LA at some point), one just got traded to the Kings and should play a significant role for the Ontario Reign next season, and three didn’t play significant roles for the Ontario Reign. Guess who didn’t get qualifying offers?
So it’s sayonara to F Maxim Kitsyn, D Alex Roach, and G Patrik Bartosak. Kitsyn was, at one time, a highly regarded prospect who took one of the best photos in LA Kings draft history after his sixth-round selection in 2010...
... but he never quite lived up to that picture, or to his talent, in the USA. Alex Roach signed a three-year ELC after going undrafted and contributed in the ECHL, but he couldn’t break through a crowded list of defensive prospects. Bartosak’s time with the Kings essentially ended when he was suspended indefinitely after twelve charges relating to domestic assault.
On a brighter note, it’s good news for the other four. Nic Dowd was always coming back to compete for a spot next season, and though Derek Forbort’s future is slightly murkier, he’s still an asset that LA wouldn’t let go for nothing. Same with Jack Campbell, who just got here. As for Crescenzi: when pint-sized scorer Brandon Kozun was traded for him back in 2014, we all thought he was a totally underwhelming return piece. But Kozun is playing in the KHL, and Crescenzi had a career year, scoring 21 points and becoming a useful piece in Ontario. The Reign’s Director of Hockey Ops had this to say in March:
Cres is a great story. He never got a chance. He didn't even come to main camp two years ago, and he was under an NHL contract. He didn't complain. In Manchester, he worked hard. And he really had a great season last year for us. He took up a lot of minutes that we never expected him to take up. He works on his draws. Big centerman like that, you got to be strong on faceoffs. And that's what he's done. I don't know if he's ever going to be a natural goal scorer, so to speak, but he can poke in 8 to 10 to 12 goals, just being in those dirty areas too. But his main focus for us is penalty killing, draws, and defensive game.
As for the other 29 teams: see who they let go right here by searching for “No QO.” If you’re curious about defensive help, the biggest names are Stanley Cup Champion Justin Schultz, Corsi Monster Patrick Wiercioch, and Drafted-Two-Picks-Before-Forbort Brandon Gormley. Up front there are a ton of bottom-six forwards newly available, but the most interesting one (at least to us) is Linden Vey.
Here are the remaining unrestricted free agents, and updates primarily via Jon Rosen:
- Milan Lucic (gone)
- Kris Versteeg (unlikely to re-sign)
- Luke Schenn (unlikely to re-sign)
- Jamie McBain (unlikely to re-sign)
- Jhonas Enroth (not gonna happen)
- Jeff Schultz (?????)
- Brett Sutter (fingers crossed)