Defenseman Paul LaDue, one of three remaining restricted free agents, signed a two-year deal today with the Kings, with a cap hit of $825,000. It’s a slight paycut from his previous salaries, but LaDue will make the same regardless of if he’s in the NHL or the AHL. (LaDue’s 2017-18 salary, per CapFriendly, was $925,000 while with the Kings and $70,000 with the Reign.)
LaDue has proved himself at the AHL level, taking on first pairing duties more often than not while with the Reign. He’s had a shorter leash so far in Los Angeles, playing in 12 regular season games and two playoff games this past season. He scored three goals and one assist in those 12 games. (In 36 AHL games, LaDue put up eight goals and 10 assists.) LaDue’s average time on ice was 13:58 in the regular season. He had the most offensive zone starts out of any defenseman on the team, starting there more than 60% of the time. In his limited minutes, he has shown to be a strong possession player, though this is certainly affected by both the zone starts and the quality of competition that he’s faced.
While LaDue hasn’t made much of a dent in the scoresheet yet at the NHL level, he is known as more of an offensive-minded defenseman. While there isn’t a ton of data to pull from, LaDue’s work on zone entries, exits, and shot contributions compare favorably to Jake Muzzin’s, with LaDue’s major struggles coming in the area of breaking up zone entries. Improvement in that area could come as LaDue continues to adapt to the pace and style of the NHL game.
Kings GM Rob Blake has stated previously that this is LaDue’s year to earn a regular roster spot. With Christian Folin and Kevin Gravel both moving on, and no indications that the Kings will bring anyone in during free agency, the sixth or seventh defenseman spot is certainly there for the taking for LaDue. His biggest pressure could come from Daniel Brickley, or potentially Kale Clague, if the latter surprises everyone during the preseason.