Entering into this offseason, the Kings had several pressing issues to address. While some -- finding a new coach and general manager -- weren’t necessarily ones that the organization could have anticipated, two of the biggest concerns were ones the team had quite some time to prepare for.
Tanner Pearson got his new contract at the beginning of the month, signing for 4 years and $15 million, total. Tyler Toffoli is still waiting for his new deal, but we can already anticipate that he will get both more term and more money than Pearson did.
Per CapFriendly, the Kings have $10,817,273 of cap space (presuming a flat cap), with 16 contracts on the books for next season. A chunk of that will go to Toffoli. Another (hopefully) small piece will go towards a backup goaltender, whether from inside the organization (Jeff Zatkoff at $900,000 or Jack Campbell at $612,500) or from a trade or free agent signing.
Someone will come off the Kings’ books in the expansion draft -- we’ll speculate more on the blog on who that may be, but most Hockey Pundits lean toward Vegas selecting Brayden McNabb ($1,700,000 cap hit). While Marian Gaborik ($4,875,000 cap hit) will start the season on LTIR, he’ll most likely come off of it eventually, so that’s only temporary cap relief. Matt Greene ($2,500,000 cap hit), who’s played 29 games over two seasons, has been limited by chronic injuries and could potentially spend the season on LTIR, if it turns out he’s not healthy enough to play.
In real dollars, that’s not a lot of money for several needed RFA signings, not to mention any shopping the organization wants to do either via trade or in free agency to try to add other scoring wingers. It’s going to be a long, weird summer as the Kings’ front office tries to figure out just what this team is going to look like in 2017-18.
We’ll get more in depth on some of these players in our upcoming player profile series, but today, we wanted to take a quick look at the team’s current RFAs who need new contracts. Come back tomorrow for a look at some AHL players waiting to make the jump.
But for now -- we’ve got some good news and some bad news.
Bad? There are a lot of RFAs -- five regular NHLers, one player on the bubble, and six who are still waiting for their NHL debuts.
Good? All of these players should sign for a very modest amount of money.
2016-17: 70 GP, 6 G, 11 A
Career: NHL: 172 GP, 10 G, 24 A (Playoffs: 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A); AHL: 106 GP, 34 G, 46 A (Playoffs: 23 GP, 4 G, 15 A)
Last contract: 2 years, $600,000 AAV, arbitration eligible
If you’ve read any of my posts over the season, then it’s no secret that I may be the Vice President of the Nick Shore fan club. (President goes to whichever one of his family members has time to do things like “make cool membership cards” and “set up a Nick Shore Fan Tumblr”.) While Shore so far hasn’t been relied on for scoring, or given linemates who can help in that department, he also hasn’t quite been able to find the net at the same rate as he did in the AHL (106 GP, 34 G, 46 A). He did have a career year this year, including his first shorthanded goal, but undeniably, a team is going to need more production from its third line center.
There aren’t many comparables for players in Shore’s position. He’s not Marcus Kruger, who is so valued by his team for his defensive play and ability to flip the ice, that he garnered a big pay day, despite few points. Shore isn’t a big physical presence, and he’s not a player who the team is hoping will blossom into a top-six successor to Anze Kopitar or Jeff Carter. He’s a little bit of an enigma. One of the best comparables I could come up with was Trevor Lewis -- someone who doesn’t put up a ton of points, does many things well, and is a known quantity to the team and coaching staff.
Lewis has signed a series of short, mostly cap friendly contracts, and it’s easy to see Shore following that same path. Shore took a paycut from his ELC when he signed his last contract. He’s due a modest increase from his current contract. I could easily see Shore signing for one or two years in the neighborhood of $750,000 each year. If he does well, the team can reevaluate for future contracts. But for now, this season should be a “show me” season for Shore, who certainly deserves another shot at making the role his own.
2016-17: 36 GP, 0 G, 2 A
Career: NHL: 114 GP, 10 G, 5 A (Playoffs: 1 GP, 0 G, 0 A); AHL: 157 GP, 30 G, 42 A (Playoffs: 12 GP, 3 G, 5 A)
Last contract: 2 years, $587,500 AAV, arbitration eligible
Despite having similar production to Nick Shore, Andy Andreoff usually serves as the thirteenth forward and healthy scratch, not often trusted with key assignments or in tough games. Darryl Sutter deployed him in situations where he thought the team needed more grit. The thing is, though: the team has a lot of grit already. Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, the now-departed Dwight King, Brayden McNabb, sometimes Trevor Lewis or Derek Forbort. Heck, Jeff Carter even threw a punch this season. (Just one punch, but I’m still counting it, deep in my heart.)
The point is: unless Andreoff’s going to start doing something else very well -- passing, tipping shots, faceoffs -- or unless the team parts ways with Clifford or Nolan, I don’t know that Andreoff is a needed player. With cap space being at a premium, and more skilled players needing new contracts, Andreoff easily has the lowest ceiling. If I were GM, I would find a trade partner to take his rights for a low round draft pick, or sign him and then flip him. Of course, the benefit to retaining him is that he’s already familiar with the Kings’ system, which likely won’t change much under John Stevens, he’s exactly the kind of player you want to use as your thirteenth forward, and his next contract should be very inexpensive. If Andreoff is re-signed, his next contract certainly shouldn’t come in as any more expensive than Nick Shore, at least.
2016-17: NHL: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A; AHL: 59 GP, 27 G, 22 A (Playoffs: 5 GP, 2 G, 2 A)
Career: NHL: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A; AHL: 124 GP, 42 G, 35 A (Playoffs: 9 GP, 4 G, 3 A)
Last contract: 2 years (ELC), $925,000 AAV, arbitration eligible
2016-17: NHL: 49 GP, 1 G, 6A; AHL: 6 GP, 0 G, 2 A
Career: NHL: 54 GP, 1 G, 6A; AHL: 124 GP, 13 G, 24 A (Playoffs: 31 GP, 1 G, 11 A)
Last contract: 3 years (ELC), $667,500 AAV, arbitration eligible
2016-17: NHL: 22 GP, 0 G, 8 A; AHL: 38 GP, 6 G, 12 A (Playoffs: 3 GP, 1 G, 0 A)
Career: NHL: 22 GP, 0 G, 8 A; AHL: 38 GP, 6 G, 12 A (Playoffs: 6 GP, 1 G, 0 A)
Last contract: 1 year (ELC), $925,000 AAV, arbitration eligible
Brodzinski, Gravel, and LaDue are all in similar situations. They each got varying looks at the NHL level -- Gravel was the most consistent, but was also frequently a healthy scratch, particularly once LaDue joined the roster. Brodzinski and, to some extent, LaDue, were called up when it was too late to do much to change the Kings’ fortunes. All three could easily be regulars on the NHL roster next season; Gravel and LaDue will have increased chances for ice time presuming that a defenseman is taken from the Kings in the expansion draft. And if Brodzinski can learn to replicate his scoring touch from the AHL, he’ll fill a much needed hole in the Kings’ lineup. This season should have done a lot to get all three players comfortable with the pace of an NHL game, preparing them all for a full season.
The matter of their next contracts is something entirely different. None have really proven themselves at the NHL level to deserve a raise in pay, and paying someone based on past AHL performance is risky. The most likely scenario sees all three taking bridge deals to see what they can really do with a full season in front of them. Brodzinski and LaDue will take pay cuts from their ELCs -- paying an unproven commodity in the $1 million range seems like a terrible idea -- and Gravel could possibly see a slight increase. All three players should continue to be affordable options for the next few years as the Kings start to hand over the reins to the kids.