Toffoli, Pearson, and Expectations: Analyzing LA’s Biggest Signings

Examining the state of the cap crunch with two very important players locked up.

The Los Angeles Kings have had a fairly busy start to their summer—at least in comparison to most other non-playoff teams.

First, they fired their coach and general manager immediately after the season was over and announced the replacements for both positions within days. Then, they signed Tanner Pearson to a great deal of four years and $15 million (annual average value being a paltry $3.75 million). By the end of May, they’d found one new assistant coach to join John Stevens. And a week later, they announced that precious cupcake Tyler Toffoli had agreed to another bridge deal of three years, $13.8 million (AAV $4.6 million) — first reactions here.

While Pearson doesn’t have the pedigree of Toffoli, he did manage to put up career highs of 24 goals and 20 assists for a 44-point season in 80 games, which met our expectations from last offseason. He’s probably not going to crack 30 goals too often in his career, but he’s still very much a solid 20-25 goal scorer, which is probably what management’s expectations are of him. A fair deal for Pearson, this contract is also very good for the Kings and could look even better down the road if he manages to copy Cam Atkinson’s career trajectory. The American winger was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets and saw his point production shoot the roof this past season. Atkinson, then-25, signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal two years ago. Two years prior, he put up 40 points and since his signing, Atkinson has improved his point totals to 53 and 62. Jakob Silfverberg is another winger who saw his offense increase after signing his four-year, $15 million contract, though his point totals aren’t quite as robust as Atkinson’s. If Pearson can manage to consistently achieve 40 points, the Kings should be very happy with this signing.

LA has higher expectations for Toffoli than they do for Pearson. In 63 games this season, he potted 16 goals and picked up 18 assists for 34 points. Toffoli appears to have a higher ceiling than Pearson and is more likely to be in the 25+ goal scoring range. Since Toffoli’s career points per game should be somewhere around .66 to .70, this is a "prove it" type of contract (or so the hockey pundits say). Pearson’s last deal was only two years and the Kings seemed like they were starting to sour on him. So now it’s Toffoli’s turn to show that he deserves a mega contract. If all goes well in the next 24 months, Toffoli and the Kings will be back at the negotiating table trying to figure out just how much money this kid should get. If not, then in 36 months, he’ll be free to test the market.

The onus may be on Toffoli and Pearson to score and "earn" their contracts, but it’s also up to management to provide them the support they need. It will be very interesting to see how John Stevens balances defense while trying to push for a more up-tempo, higher scoring game.

Thanks to these deals coming under (projected) budget, the Kings now have about $5.3 million to sign five RFAs. That’s plenty of money, but don’t expect Rob Blake, Mike Futa, and cap wizard Jeff Solomon to slow down any time soon. Hopefully Pearson and Toffoli are able to stay healthy and maintain their incredible chemistry.