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2020 NHL Free Agency: How much have LA Kings improved so far?

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LA’s biggest additions have been through subtraction.

Drew Doughty #8 and Ben Hutton #15 of the Los Angeles Kings take part in the pre-game warm up prior to NHL action against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS Place on February 18, 2020 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Tomorrow marks two weeks since free agency began and while there are still names out there, the Los Angeles Kings have 19 of 23 roster spots locked down and a whole group of young players eyeing the open roster spots. The team added defender Olli Maatta, as well as prospect Lias Andersson, but their big splash move was simply drafting well.

If you’re familiar with analytics work within hockey and/or you have a subscription to the Athletic, you’ve certainly heard of analyst Dom Luszczyszyn, who has been improving upon his predictive model over the last few years. He recently took a look at each team’s off-season moves and ranked all 31 teams’ performances so far.

Using a player’s last three seasons of box score data, Luszczyszyn created a model that identifies a Game Score Value Added, a concept he adapted from basketball. No model is perfect, and rookies, coaching, usage and team stats are a few of the things that could affect the model’s accuracy.

You can read more on the methodology here, but with a wins above replacement rate for each player, he can predict (on paper, anyway) how much better or worse a team will be next season based on the values of each team’s roster. He also looks at the total salary moved, comparing these two values on a scatter plot:

With that said, Luszczyszyn’s model ranked the Los Angeles Kings at eighth overall in added value through the 2020 free agency period so far:

Los Angeles Kings

Wins Added: 0.6 wins

Salary Added: $3.3 million

In: Olli Maatta

Out: Trevor Lewis, Ben Hutton, Nikolai Prokhorkin

The Kings didn’t really do much other than add Olli Maatta and subtract a few depth players. Maatta himself isn’t worth a lot on his own and the wins added mostly come from subtracting Trevor Lewis and Nikolai Prokhorkin from the roster, as both are below replacement level players.

Pointing out the obvious, the Kings are going to continue to improve as older players’ contracts fall off the books, and as noted above, the model cannot account for rookies. The Kings aren’t quite at the final stages of the rebuild, but the end is in sight, resting on the shoulders of the new generation of players.

It’s worth pointing out, then, that Corey Pronman of the Athletic gave the Kings the second-best rating of the 2020 NHL Draft, one of just five other teams to get an A rating. He also rated the Kings at fifth in terms of overall young talent pool, saying this:

By adding Quinton Byfield, the Kings got the most important piece in a rebuild: the potential star No. 1 center. This significantly changes their outlook. Now you can start looking at their great quality depth of young players and asking where the pieces plugin. They still need more pieces, particularly impact players who play right at the top of a lineup and ideally a defenseman or two in that range.

It might not be next year that the impact of this off-season as a whole is felt, but it’s coming soon. If they stick with it through what might be another rough season, the future is definitely bright.