Last week, we took to Twitter to see what you wanted to hear about, and thus brought you the first (of hopefully several!) JFTC mailbag post. We’re back with more answers this week, so let’s get right to it.
THE DOUGHTY CONUNDRUM
From @ShrumpTheOrc: How much cap space will Doughty’s next contract eat up?
Carlos: Last time he was up for a payday, he got just a smidge more than Kopitar. Considering the rising cap and his standing as one of the three best defensemen in the game, I would bet more than a smidge this time. Both sides are motivated to get a deal done, so look for a max deal with a $12 million cap hit.
Robyn: Too much. He wants to get paid and that’s totally reasonable. He definitely deserves to be paid like the superstar he is (and is treated as). But realistically, the Kings can’t afford to pay him like an UFA who just hit the open market. They probably will try to get close, ergo, it’ll be too much. (That’s not to say he’s overpaid, it’s to say the cap is stupid and the owners are greedy bastards. But that’s a conversation for another time.)
From @The_Big_Nothin: If the Kings and Doughty don’t agree on a contract by the next trade deadline, would a trade make sense?
Robyn: Depends on where the team is at in the season. If they’re sucking bad, maybe. Of course, it’ll all depend on what they could potentially get in return.
Sarah: If the Kings go into the next trade deadline being out of the playoffs entirely, or even perhaps a bubble team (think St. Louis dealing Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny at the past two trade deadlines), and if it has become imminently clear that both sides are not going to be able to come to an agreement, then as disappointing as it would be, I think they absolutely should consider shopping Doughty. You could absolutely extract a high enough price to make the loss sting a little less.
James H: No, the Kings will not grab Merkely because, short of a miracle or felony arrest, he will not make it past the top fifteen picks. After rebuilding their goaltending pipeline in recent drafts, I am in favor of the team maintaining its focus on stockpiling talent at center and defense. My preferred picks, if available somewhere in the 16-21 turn? Center Rasmus Kupari and defenseman Calen Addison. Both skilled skaters, shooters, and accomplished power play leaders. Sold.
Carlos: This year’s draft is especially murky when looking over the various rankings of prospects. It seems to be relatively heavy on defensemen, so sure, Ryan Merkley or someone like him could fall to the Kings, who have the 20th pick. I have seen Merkley ranked anywhere from 6th to 10th to 26th, to outside the first round all together. The consensus on the right-shot defenseman is top-tier skill with little defensive acumen. He is only 17, so he would be a long term project for any team that picks him.
Either way, a project is what the Kings will likely find waiting for them when selecting that late in the first round, so taking a skill guy over a “safe” pick at that point is hopefully the direction they take. I think outside of Rasmus Dahlin and Andrei Svechnikov, you can pretty much throw the rest of the pre-draft rankings out the window, as teams are likely to focus on something specific about each prospect that does not necessarily show up on the score sheet or scouting reports.
Sarah: There’s a ton of disagreement between prospects rankings on pretty much everyone outside of the Dahlin/Svechnikov/Zadina trio. Drafting, especially in the first round, often comes down to best player available regardless of position vs. pick what the team needs. Personally, I’d like to see the team look at taking a forward over a defenseman, as they’ve got quite the strong crop of young defensive prospects in the system already. Of the players in the 15-25 spot range, here’s a few names that caught my attention: Mattias Samuelsson, Bode Wilde, and K’Andre Miller, three big defensemen who play in the USNTDP who I’ve seen a lot of over the past two seasons in the USHL; none are flashy scorers but play strong defensive games, and with all slated to go to college next season, could have time to work on developing their game before going pro. Ryan McLeod is projected as a power forward with the Mississauga Steelheads; he increased his regular season goals from nine to 26 in a breakout season, though pick number 20 may be a bit too high for him. Ty Smith’s a smaller defenseman who the Kings will have seen a lot of, as he plays in Spokane; his game’s been compared to Drew Doughty’s and he’s ranked anywhere from 8th (Sporting News) to 21st (Sportsnet and Corey Pronman) and could be an interesting project if the Kings want to take a chance.
WHO PLAYS WHERE
From @crassbonanza: What is the plan for the third line next season? Will we see both Vilardi and Kempe on it? Who will be center? Also, with the addition of Brickley and Clague, will we be retaining all of our RFA dmen?
Carlos: All signs point to Vilardi making the team out of camp. I have seen speculation that he could start the year on Carter’s RW, though the recent trend for elite teenage prospects has seen them acquit themselves nicely as NHL centers. I would personally move Kempe to a top-six LW role, though they invested so much time developing him at C that I would be surprised to see him moved off the position at this point.
Robyn: By all accounts, it seems that Vilardi will have an opportunity to earn his spot in camp. As always, it does come down to training camp and how he performs. Rumor has it that the Kings really liked Vilardi and wanted to bring him up right away, but given his shoulder injury, felt it was best to let him heal and play out the rest of his junior year, which was probably a good move. As for Kempe, his ceiling was always a third line winger. I personally prefer they keep him at winger, but they seem to like his speed at center, which is useful, but he um kinda sucks in the middle.
Sarah: As for the RFA defensemen, they’ve got Paul LaDue and Kurtis MacDermid with NHL experience, and Jordan Subban and Alex Lintuniemi still waiting to make the jump up from the AHL. (Kevin Gravel is a UFA. Oscar Fantenberg re-signed last week with a one-year, $650,000 cap hit contract.)
I’m guessing that Kale Clague will have every opportunity to compete for a spot out of camp, but will spend time in the AHL. A really strong camp/pre-season from him could change my mind, but I’d prefer to see him taking on tough minutes in Ontario first. We’ve got a limited body of work from Danny Brickley, but I liked what he brought to the table and could see him doing the Ontario/LA shuffle quite a bit this coming year.
LaDue has looked good in Ontario but still has more work to do to really cement himself as a reliable NHL defender. He should come fairly cheap for their next contract, but if there’s a good offer to be heard, I think the Kings should at least listen. MacDermid has been fine in Ontario but I’d absolutely trade him, especially considering how crowded the Ontario blue line is about to become. Subban I assume will get a 1-2 year contract as a “show me”. Lintuniemi’s been reliable in Ontario but I don’t know if there’s much NHL potential there. Re-sign for depth or trade, if there’s a deal.
Robyn: Regarding Brickley and Clague, I’m assuming both will get an opportunity to earn their way to the big club, but all eyes will definitely be on Brickley since he already made his NHL debut, though he wasn’t eligible for the playoffs. I’m also going to assume that they’ll try to re-sign all their RFAs, have everyone duke it out in camp, and let the chips fall where they may. Supposing that they let both Kevin Gravel and Christian Folin walk (both UFAs), they still have 6 rostered players (including Brickley) under contract and 5 RFAs to sign. If they don’t feel that any of the RFAs will cut it in camp, they can always sign a veteran d-man in the offseason again.
THE HARD-HITTING QUESTIONS
From @ShrumpTheOrc: Why is Kempe’s flow so perfect?
Sarah: He’s clearly part veela.
Robyn: He’s Swedish. Must be something in the water.
From @jollywhiskey: Kempe and Brodzinski: the new Tyler and Tanner adorable bromance?
Sarah: First, let’s not forget about the Classic Modern Era Kings Bromances:
There always comes a time when a team needs to move on to the next new, shiny thing — sometimes that’s a hot new prospect, and sometimes, that’s a hot new bromance. The Kings even have an Instagram memories thread full of Bromance Potential, many of which draw on Adrian Kempe’s mere existence. Now, to be fair, this hinges entirely on Kempe’s ability to have photogenic chemistry with everyone he encounters.
Find someone that looks at you the way Adrian Kempe is looking at this referee. pic.twitter.com/OhqcXg6ozg— LA Kings (@LAKings) March 13, 2018
And while the beginning of the season was all about the Rookie Roomies —
“How to Take Selfies 101” with Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 14, 2017
Final Grade: B-
— this summer’s been all about Adrian and Jonny.
we just want to help keep the bromance alive pic.twitter.com/4B0VCNA8lT— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 10, 2018
Now, to be fair, they’ve been pretty entertaining on Twitter, but if Jonny Brodzinski really wants to cement his spot in the Adrian Kempe Bromance Encyclopedia, he’s got to push hard out of training camp for a permanent spot on the team. Brodzinski’s seen great success as a shooter and a scorer in Ontario, and but it hasn’t translated much yet to the NHL. I still think he’s got NHL potential, but playing him in limited third/fourth line minutes isn’t the best role for him. (See, look, I made this relevant.)
So, yes, Tanner and Tyler might be growing up and moving on from being the social media bromance darlings, but don’t worry, boys, we’ll always have West Hollywood.
Thanks to all of our readers who submitted questions! We’ll be back later in the summer to field more of your questions.
Can’t wait on getting answers? Drop us a line in the comments, or get at us on Twitter at @JFTC_Kings. We’ll help you out.