The Los Angeles Kings 2019-20 regular season is still quite young, but we’re already learning a lot about the team — and having some off-season suspicions confirmed. The Kings were not expected to lead the Pacific Division standings, and that stands. However, the Kings are focused on their rebuild and there are many veterans on the roster who don’t quite fit the Kings’ rebuilding plan.
While the struggles of veterans like Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Jonathan Quick are well known, there are a few other players who lead this team yet fail to succeed. Obviously, it’s hard to win when you rely solely on a small bunch of skaters.
Anze Kopitar, 32, is in the fourth year of an eight-year contract extension worth $10 million per season. Drew Doughty, 29, is in his second season of an eight-year contract extension worth $11 million per season.
It’s crystal clear that the Kings are not winning the Stanley Cup this year, next year, and perhaps the year after. So, what’s up for Kopitar and Doughty in their prime years? “Obviously, when I was re-signing we didn’t ever think we’d do this rebuild,” said Kings veteran defenseman Doughty on Monday in The Athletic.
Frustrating times will definitely strike, especially for an emotional guy like Drew Doughty. However, he is determined to stay committed to the plan of the organization.
“We’re not too happy we have to do it. But it’s the way things have come. We have full faith in Blakey, and full faith in all the players in this room. We’re going to get back to where we were one day, just we can’t rush it. We need to trust the process. We have to play with the cards we’ve been dealt here.”
“It’s a challenge for sure, it always is,” Kopitar said for his instance. “We’re trying to do, what you call a rebuild on the fly, and we’re also trying to stay relevant.”
Despite the growing frustration, the Kings captain and his alternate captain remain dedicated to the Kings rebuilding process. “Yeah, I certainly don’t want to go anywhere. I’ve been in L.A. 14 years now and I can call it my home,” said the Slovenian center. Kopitar added that unless they want to get rid of him, he wants to be in Los Angeles forever.
The Kings General Manager Rob Blake has ensured that both Kopitar and Doughty know what’s at stake. “Those two, in particular, I have lots of communication with just to let them understand exactly what we’re doing,’’ replied Blake in an interview with the NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun.
Tyler Toffoli on the trade block?
Kopitar and Doughty are going nowhere, now that’s pretty much obvious. But what about others? Players like Kovalchuk, Brown, Carter, or Quick all have some sort of no-trade clauses in their contracts, or they simply struggle currently and still have a ton of term and salary cap hit on their respective deals. Besides, they are all well in their thirties.
That doesn’t apply to Tyler Toffoli. Toffoli, a recent healthy scratch for the Kings, is 27. The right winger has recorded three goals and four assists for seven points in 14 games this season for Los Angeles.
The Kings are expected to make changes before the trade deadline. Just last season, they traded Jake Muzzin, once an enormous force in their Stanley Cup runs. Toffoli was essential for the 2014 Stanley Cup glory, as well. It was just like yesterday when Alec Martinez buried the rebound from his shot to beat Henrik Lundqvist and win the Cup.
Nevertheless, that’s more than five years ago now, and Toffoli might be on the trade block. The Kings’ main focus is to keep securing future assets for their veterans in the trades.
“I mean, it’s just the way it is. It comes with not playing well and not winning games, so whatever happens, happens,” said Toffoli on Monday. As LeBrun states, he doesn’t expect the Kings to pursue a contract extension for Toffoli.