JFTC Roundtable: Looking to the Future

After talking about who’s probably going to be leaving us, let’s look at who might stay.

With the Kings on a bye week, we thought we’d turn to the readers to see what all of you wanted to know most about the team.

Jake Muzzin being traded stole most of our thunder, but now that the dust has settled some, we’re diving into your questions. Yesterday, we focused on who will probably be leaving the Kings very shortly.

Today, we’re talking new contracts, bright spots, and the best way to watch a game at Staples Center.

In a season full of disappointments, what has been the most exciting/positive development so far this year?

Kelsey: More call-ups! It’s been happening to a degree since Sutter left, but I really like getting to know the new kids and that they have real shots at cracking the lineup. They’re going to be the key to a rebuild, in my opinion.

Colin: I’m happy to see Cal Petersen and Jack Campbell perform well in tough situations. Their numbers might not be the greatest but given the situation you can hardly blame them.

Matt H.: My favorite developments have been the emergence of Cal Petersen and Matt Luff. Two young players who hopefully show that while things may be rough right now, the future has a more positive outlook.

James: The emergence of Alex Iafallo as a more consistent scoring option, and the energetic play of Brendan Leipsic and Matt Luff. I especially like how Leipsic gets active and creates additional scoring chances to keep the play alive. Matt Luff has also shown flashes of offensive brilliance. In addition, the solid backup goaltending of Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen, despite the struggling teammates in front of him, proves that the Kings have hope in the goalie pipeline, and no longer need to depend completely on the older, injury-prone Jonathan Quick. This is heartening for the future.

Michael: It’s been encouraging to see that we aren’t just hoping Jonny Brodzinsky or Mike Amadio are the players that are going to save us. Matt Luff and Austin Wagner are super encouraging. Now if we can only get them some playing time. Oh, Brendan Leipsic – the little guy has some Theo Fleury in him.

Robyn: Honestly, the developments of the Ontario kids has been really exciting, especially Cal Petersen. I mean, he really held his own while the team was playing some TRULY awful hockey.

Sarah: Like everyone else said, seeing some of the kids step up, in particular Cal Petersen and Jack Campbell. I’d also like to add our glimpse of Jaret Anderson-Dolan at the beginning of the season has me excited for what he can bring when he comes to the NHL full-time.

Why is Drew Doughty not discussed as a potential trade? Can the Kings rebuild in time for another Cup while he is still in his prime, or would he prove more valuable in assets?

That question comes to us via Gary on Facebook. Thanks!

Kelsey: I appreciate having an elite defenseman on my team. I just... hate... Drew Doughty... so much. I would LOVE to trade him, but my worry is that the entire defense corps is built around him and if he goes our defense crumbles.

Colin: Biggest issues with Drew being a trade candidate is his new contract. The contract is a massive one. His nearest comparable is Erik Karlsson. Drew is going to be making a ton of money against the cap next year ($11 million) as will Karlsson. If you look at what San Jose had to give up for one year of Karlsson, I don’t think many teams could afford a full length contract of Drew Doughty.

James: Because he has a no-movement clause. As for whether the Kings can rebuild in time, I explored this idea in my 2017 review of Doughty. I also advocated for trading him for several parts in 2017 and 2018. I continue to believe that Doughty does not have the temperament to be the eventual captain of what will be a dramatically revamped Kings team in a few years. It would have been better to trade him for three picks or younger players to accompany Iafallo, Luff, Amadio, Anderson-Dolan, Rempal, and Wagner.

Michael: Defense is the Kings identity. He’s the anchor and the best D-Man in the world. No one else I’d rather have on the blueline.

Robyn: Well a NTC doesn’t ordinarily stop fans from speculating but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s a pretty big factor. His contract is rather hefty, he’s 29, the Kings would probably demand a huge overpayment for their star defenseman... It’s probably not worth it. Can they rebuild while he’s still useful? It’s hard to say. Some guys (cough Mike Richards) fall off a cliff the second they hit 30. But Doughty’s biggest asset is his mind. He thinks the game at such a high level. Now, if they get a coach who can utilize that asset the way Sutter did, then I say absolutely, they can rebuild in time to be contenders.

Where does Kempe end up in all this? Is he really someone who could take over a Carter role, or is that just fan hype?

That question also comes to us via Gary on Faecbook. Thanks again!

Kelsey: I don’t think he’s mature enough to take Carter’s role (yet. Maybe ever), he’s still to me very much a sniper. I can see the Kings trying to build the franchise around him though - he’s still cheap, handsome, and young.

Colin: He could fill that role, but his development hasn’t been helped by the current system. It’s a long shot, and I really don’t see him being a full time center. He has the potential, but I just don’t see it happening. In all honesty, I see him being a 3rd line winger/center in the future.

James: Kempe has not shown that he can take over. His long goal droughts are unacceptable. In 49 games, he has only 5 goals, is -10, and has 30 PIM, 5 less than Kyle Clifford. He is the Ryan Hartman of the Kings—a late first round young forward who has not lived up to the hype. Like Chicago did with Hartman, Kempe should be moved. But the Kings management is stubborn and still sees Kempe as part of the future core.

Michael: I’m going to sit on the fence here. Kempe is someone who would have really benefited from a good coach with good direction. John Stevens knew defense and Willie D. is just doing his Weekend at Bernie’s impression as a lame duck coach. That being said, he needs to realize that he needs to sign on the cheap for his next contract.

Robyn: Hahahahaha.

What do you think a potential contract could look like for Alex Iafallo?

That question, via JFTC reader Deadmarsh!. Thanks!

Kelsey: I’d like to see him get something like $3 million a year for six years, but the Kings budget is so thin and Iafallo’s so understated that I can see the org cheaping out.

Colin: Well his numbers aren’t phenomenal, he’s been a bright spot on a terrible team, but when it comes to contracts, it’s all business. I think a bridge deal that is say $3-4million for two years. He’s got to prove he can produce, to warrant more than that. He’s one of our better players, but in reality he’d probably be a bottom six player on most mid-table or better teams. The added benefit to a manageable contract like that is that it can be more easily traded further down the line.

Michael: Three years, $2.5 AAV.

Robyn: I’m guessing somewhere in the $3 million range for AAV, maybe around 4-5 years. I don’t envy Rob Blake this summer because there will be a lot of guys who need new contracts and the team is at a crossroads with a lot of players.

Say the Kings don’t win the draft lottery, where do we see the rebuild team going from there?

Kelsey: God, I hope we don’t win the draft lottery. We have no ability to support or develop Jack Hughes at this point.

I’d like to see the Kings keep doing what they’re doing this season - develop strong players, get them shots at the show, not trade them away for nothing or buy aging players based on their previous brand...

Matt H.: I think this depends on where the Kings end up in the lottery if they don’t get the top pick. Obviously the hope is if they don’t get Hughes they could still get a top three pick and end up with Kakko or Podkolzin. Otherwise I think the other main focus this summer would be trying to shed at least one of the bad contracts the Kings are stuck in.

Robyn: You mean after all the crying and sobbing, wailing and gnashing of teeth? Obviously it’ll suck not to have Jack Hughes but there’s big hope in JAD and Rasmus Kupari. The future isn’t that dull and you never know who may fall into their laps.

Michael: Please never say this again. I can’t even imagine.

Kelsey: Oh, man. I don’t know. I was at a Kings game at Staples like a month ago, too! I guess, just, it’s different when you’re watching a team you love live - it feels like you’re part of the team in a weird way.

As far as how to experience a game at Staples - hang out at LA Live either before or after, take a picture with the Gretzky (or Bob Miller!) statue, enjoy the smell of the hot dog carts but definitely, definitely do not eat one.

James: I always appreciate how clean the Staples Center is. And no place creates entertainment experiences as well as LA. The dramatic music as the Kings step onto the ice, and the DJ and the comedy sequences in between the action, are all professionally produced. Save up the money and treat yourself to seeing the game at the 200 level. At the 300 level, the action looks distant, like what you see on TV. But the 200 level is more intimate. You can better appreciate how the players have no room and no time. They must act in a snap. You can witness the elite footwork, skating technique, timing, and trust in teammates that playing in the NHL requires.

Michael: Show up early. Watch warmups from the glass. Go to the Team LA store. Touch the game-used items. Grab a pretzel and a bottomless popcorn. Buy a 50/50 raffle ticket. Have some good comebacks for opposing fans who want to disparage the current 30th place tag attached to the black and white, and never let Sharks or Ducks fans feel comfortable in the arena. Don’t sit on your hands; participate in all of the home chants.

Robyn: There is no proper way to experience a game, except don’t be a dick, don’t yell obnoxious things, and please be considerate of those around you--i.e. don’t say stupid sexist things, try to limit your bathroom or whatever trips, and be quick to return to your seat if you’re doing it in the middle of a period and don’t let opposing fans get under your skin. Other than that, just cheer for the team however you like (I mean within the realm of respectability).

Sarah: There really aren’t many bad seats in the house, so pick what seats work best for you. (But James does have a good point about the 200 level.) The most fun games are the big rivalry ones, so if you can, try to see the Ducks or Sharks or, well, the Golden Knights. The food and drinks at Staples are pretty good, and you can always pre- or post-game at any of the many nearby restaurants in LA Live. Get there early enough to walk around the arena and do some people-watching. Definitely go down to the glass to watch warm-ups. The pre-game show is intense and it literally keeps getting more high-tech (and adding more lasers) every year. I’ve traveled to a chunk of NHL arenas for games and LA still has one of my favorite pre-game and in-game presentations. Thanks, Hollywood. And keep an eye out while you’re walking around; you never know who you’ll see: in Bob Miller’s last season with the Kings, when he was still coming to many games but not always appearing in the broadcast booth, my friend and I walked right past him. She stopped short and I walked right into her, spilling beer down her back, because there was Bob Miller just hanging out and talking to people. Above all else, have fun!