Analyzing the LA Kings’ Salary Cap Options Part 1: Free Agents

This year’s class of free agents offer speed, goals, and intrigue. But can the Kings afford any of them?

The Los Angeles Kings already got their big unrestricted free agent signing over with on draft day, a little earlier than usual when they won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes. According to CapFriendly, the team now sits at 20 rostered players with about $3 million left in cap space to sign the three restricted free agents to whom they extended qualifying offers: Paul LaDue, Alex Lintuniemi, and Kurtis MacDermid. Considering that a team can carry 23 players max, this shouldn’t be much of an issue, though who actually ends up making the official roster come opening night remains to be seen.

However, it’s possible the Kings aren’t done and may see what’s on the market. Let’s take a look at their hypothetical options for this season.

Per CapFriendly, there are nearly 300 UFAs this season. The biggest prize that everyone is gunning for is John Tavares. While it would’ve been tempting to try and sign him, he never would’ve fit with the Kings’ needs and plans. Instead, they signed Kovalchuk to a much more cap-friendly deal (relatively speaking). Joe Thornton is another fun name on the list, but he’s made it clear he wants to stay with the San Jose Sharks. And the likelihood that he’d ever come down south seems fairly remote. (There’s nothing concrete to support that, just a feeling.) Plus, he’d cost way too much.

One intriguing name on the list is winger Anthony Duclair. He could be an interesting get for the Kings if they decide to take a chance on him. He’s had kind of an up-and-down career so far, having a breakout season with the Arizona Coyotes in 2015-16 with 20 goals in 81 games. He struggled the next year with only 5 goals in 58 games and only marginally improved this past season with 9 goals in 33 games before being flipped to the Chicago Blackhawks. He didn’t fare very well there, either, scoring only two goals in 23 games before his season was ended early due to injury. For playing on some not great teams, he’s had some okay possession numbers with some very generous zone starts.

Anthony Duclair Possession Stats

17-18ARI/ CHIL56622.871017141.646496361350.511.9912411.959.8699.1753.1222.8429.6450.0928.9849.99

He had a great World Junior Championships back in 2014, winning gold with Team Canada, raising his stock quite high. Duclair has speed to burn, which makes him seem promising, but he often lacks the hands/finish. He could be a cheap reclamation project for a team willing to take a chance on him or he could end up as another Trevor Lewis or Adrian Kempe type (fast but no finish). If Duclair is willing to sign an inexpensive contract, this could be a low-risk, high reward type situation. Worst case scenario, Ontario gets another winger who excels at the lower level but can’t quite make it in the NHL.

Along the same vein, Tobias Rieder would’ve been an interesting experiment to continue if the Kings had chosen to extend him an qualifying offer, which, curiously, they did not. He could still be a good pick up for any team looking for a young(ish) depth forward with good speed and the occasional hands. Wait, I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Hm.

If nothing else, this sets up 2019 quite nicely with a lot of options available to the team.

LA Kings Salary Cap

FORWARDS (8 - $39,347,727)TERMSPOSAGE2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Kopitar, Anze "C"NMCC30$10,000,000$10,000,000$10,000,000$10,000,000$10,000,000UFA
Kovalchuk, Ilya35+RW35$6,250,000$6,250,000UFA
Brown, DustinM-NTCRW, LW33$5,875,000$5,875,000$5,875,000UFA
Carter, Jeff "A"C, RW33$5,272,727$5,272,727$5,272,727UFA
Toffoli, TylerRW, LW26$4,600,000UFA
Pearson, TannerLW25$3,750,000$3,750,000UFA
Lewis, TrevorC, RW, LW31$2,000,000UFA
Thompson, NateM-NTCC33UFA
Clifford, KyleLW27$1,600,000UFA
Rempal, SheldonELCLW, RW22RFA
Iafallo, AlexELCLW, C24RFA
Kempe, AdrianELCC, LW21RFA
DEFENSE (4 - $15,775,000)TERMSPOSAGE2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Doughty, Drew "A"RD28UFA
Phaneuf, DionRSM-NTCNMCLD33$5,250,000$5,250,000UFA
Martinez, AlecRD30$4,000,000$4,000,000UFA
Muzzin, JakeLD29$4,000,000UFA
Forbort, DerekLD26$2,525,000UFA
Brickley, DanielELCLD23RFA
GOALTENDERS (2 - $6,475,000)TERMSPOSAGE2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Quick, JonathanG32$5,800,000$5,800,000$5,800,000$5,800,000UFA
Campbell, JackG26$675,000UFA
RECAPTURE PENALTY (1)2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Richards, Mike$1,320,000
GRAND TOTAL$62,242,754
Current Cap $79.5M
2019 Roster5 Defensemen8 forwards2 goalies13 skaters

Notable names who will need new contracts include Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, and Daniel Brickley. With approximately $17 million in available cap space, there should be plenty of room to re-sign Drew Doughty (say $10 or $11 million AAV) as well give significant raises to Iafallo and Kempe. But that leaves a thought-provoking strategy for Rob Blake and Mike Futa: Assuming a relatively flat cap, how much do they hold back to re-sign Jake Muzzin and Derek Forbort? (If they should even be re-signed at all?) Sure, that’s another problem for another day but it all factors in to who they sign and for how much.

For better or worse, the Kings’ roster is fairly well set for the next two seasons, even with their impending free agents. The only question seems to be “how much” they’re going to offer all of their RFAs. Granted, this only takes into account which players are available as UFAs. There are some different possibilities with trades, which will we’ll look at in part two.