Signing Day: All Eight Remaining Restricted Free Agents Get Contracts!
(deep breath) Auger and Gravel and Crescenzi and Leslie and MacDermid and Brodzinski and Mersch and LaDue and that’s it
The Los Angeles Kings have had a busy 24 hours! In the interest of equal time for all of our promising, up-and-coming, sure-to-be-amazing prospects, we’re going to spend one solitary sentence talking about the eight restricted free agents who signed contracts with LA since last night, ensuring that Rob Blake can go on vacation if he wants to. (If you want to read more than one sentence on these guys, find info on the three guys who played at the NHL level here and the five guys who played at the AHL level here.)
In the approximate order of their signing, here you go:
Justin Auger (1 year, $650,000)
Auger signed last night, before the rest of these guys, ensuring I’d have a few hours to consider his signing on its own; his scoring took a pretty big step back last season, but the 23-year-old is certainly very tall.
Kevin Gravel (1 year, $650,000)
Gravel was potentially headed for arbitration but didn’t really have much to gain from it, so he will now be able to focus exclusively on being The New Matt Greene; he is waiver-exempt, though, so an Opening Night spot isn’t exactly guaranteed.
Andrew Crescenzi (1 year, $650,000)
Crescenzi has settled nicely into an every-night role with Ontario, and even if he doesn’t get a shot to earn the NHL salary instead of the much smaller AHL salary, he’s probably pretty content.
Zac Leslie (1 year, $650,000)
Leslie will be the leading returning scorer among defensemen for the Reign, but as a waiver-exempt left-shooting blueliner, he’d need some injuries ahead of him or a breakout 2017-18 to be seen in LA this season.
Kurtis MacDermid (1 year, $650,000)
MacDermid will be the second-leading returning scorer among defensemen for the Reign, but he’s not waiver-exempt, giving the much more pugnacious player a very, very, very slightly better shot at making the team out of camp.
Michael Mersch (1 year, $650,000)
This has to be Mersch’s last chance to make the Kings, especially since he’s no longer waiver-exempt, but someone who has scored 79 goals in 223 AHL games should have a reasonable shot to make a team which wants nothing more than to up their goal tally.
Jonny Brodzinski (2 years, $650,000)
Of course, Mersch ceded his spot as Ontario’s #1 goal-getter to Brodzinski last season, and the extra year on Brodzinski’s deal is just another indicator that LA should give Jonny plenty of opportunities to lock down a regular gig with the Kings.
Paul LaDue (1 year, $875,000)
The right-handed defensemen currently signed by Los Angeles are Drew Doughty, Christian Folin, and this guy; LaDue will be on the Kings next year, and the only question is how much trust John Stevens will put in him.
The Kings now have all their ducks in a row, and assuming they don’t sign additional free agents, LA will have $5 million or so of cap room to spare. (CapFriendly has LA with $5.9 million of cap space for 22 players, but $900,000 of goalie will be heading down to Ontario, while a sub-million-dollar defenseman and a sub-million-dollar forward will round out the 23-man roster.) How will the competition between Brodzinski, Mersch, Adrian Kempe, Nic Dowd, Jordan Nolan, and Andy Andreoff shake out? Will LaDue and Gravel get tested by Leslie, MacDermid, or Oscar Fantenberg at training camp? We don’t have those answers, but we’ll certainly address the questions while we wait!