Perhaps the most intriguing Los Angeles Kings forward to watch for this season is Michael Cammalleri. The now 35-year-old has returned to the team, signing a one-year, $1 million contract after nine seasons with the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens, and New Jersey Devils. It is a redemption of sorts for Cammalleri, who previously alienated Dean Lombardi after a failed salary arbitration in summer 2007.
Listed at only 5’9” but with a reputation for offense, the acquisition of Cammalleri is another sign, along with the waiving of Michael Mersch and Jordan Nolan, that the Kings are clearly moving away from the big-body, checking-and-grinding style of Darryl Sutter. It is also a sign that the Kings are no longer relying on Marian Gaborik for offensive support. Regarding what he can bring to the Kings at this stage of his career, he said this:
I think I can be objective and I feel strongly about my abilities and that I can be very effective and productive. I feel great physically and I don't see any issue with any of that.
As the only offensive addition made by the Kings this offseason, he’s been mentioned in most previews of the Kings’ season, though many (such as the SB Nation preview) feel his contributions won’t be sizable. Previously I wrote that I was not optimistic about Cammalleri’s prospects to boost the offense of the Kings, due to his accrual of injuries:
Cammalleri, after playing 18 games without a goal, was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career in 2016-17. He scored only 10 goals and 21 assists in 61 games, and a hand injury ended his season. Speaking of injuries, his history is well-documented—Cammalleri has missed approximately 150 games due to injury since 2005.
But Cammalleri was the difference in the September 28 preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes, scoring two goals. Here he gets his hands on a deflected pass to stuff the garbage in:
And here he tips a shot from the point by Jake Muzzin:
If Cammalleri continues with goals like these from the slot, Kings fans will be very satisfied. John Matisz of Postmedia Network has written a brilliant explanation of the flaw of Corsi—the Kings became Corsi kings by taking too many shots from the perimeter last season. Cammalleri can help change that. If he does, he can be the poor man’s Joe Pavelski with his front-of-net presence and hands.
Fortunately, the Kings are no longer a grinding team under new coach John Stevens, which will maximize Cammalleri’s chances of staying healthy this season. But we can’t count on that—Cammalleri has not played above 70 games in a season since 2008-09. I predict 22 goals and 20 assists from him, but in only 65 games. Nevertheless, this will provide a significant offensive boost for the Kings, who no longer need to wait for Gaborik, another frequently injured player, to return and play alongside Anze Kopitar.