The U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2019 was announced, a major shakeup in the Board of Governors may be ahead, extensions were signed, Jake Gardiner joined the Carolina Hurricanes and it’s time for our DTFR Podcast season previews (starting with the Pacific Division).
Los Angeles Kings
31-42-9, 71 points, 8th in the Pacific Division
Missed the postseason for the third time in five years
Additions: F Martin Frk, F Mario Kempe, D Joakim Ryan
Subtractions: F Jonny Brodzinski (signed with SJS), F Pavel Jenys (signed ELH), F Brendan Leipsic (signed with WSH), F Zack Mitchell (KHL), F Nikita Scherbak (KHL), D Alex Lintuniemi (signed with CAR), D Dion Phaneuf (bought out), G Peter Budaj (retired)
Still unsigned: F Matheson Iacopelli, F Adrian Kempe,
Re-signed: F Michael Amadio, F Alex Iafallo, D Matt Roy, G Cal Petersen
Offseason Analysis: Los Angeles General Manager Rob Blake is entering his third season at the helm of the Kings and didn’t make the same mistake twice from last offseason to this offseason.
Ilya Kovalchuk (16-18–34 totals in 64 games last season) was signed last July, Dion Phaneuf– after being acquired in a trade with the Ottawa Senators in February 2018– had the final two years of his contract bought out this June.
Despite getting rid of Phaneuf (who’ll carry a $2.188 million cap penalty this season, $4.063 million next season and $1.063 million from 2021-22 to 2022-23), the Kings still have eight players age 30 or older on their roster– including Kovalchuk.
This isn’t 2012 or 2014, Los Angeles, it’s 2019.
Every member from the two Cups in three years core is older. Every draft pick between now and then should have either panned out by now or been traded in a bundle to get something that would’ve been proactive to counteract the aging curve.
Meanwhile, the Kovalchuk dilemma appears to be at ease for the time being. Willie Desjardins is out and Todd McLellan is in as the new head coach behind the bench at Staples Center.
Now it’s up to Kovalchuk to prove he’s worthy of his ice time– even as a 36-year-old veteran of the game. Last season was a wakeup call for him as the league has shifted drastically in many ways since his departure from the NHL in 2013.
Los Angeles’ expectations for this season? Get better. Period.
If not, trades must occur. Adapt or finish second-to-last in the overall standings for the second straight season.
There’s just one problem for Blake– Adrian Kempe is still unsigned as a restricted free agent and key to the Kings’ transition.
With about $8.740 million in cap space and only four no-trade or no-movement clauses on the books, Los Angeles should be an active seller if the old guard can’t dish out one last hurrah.
Offseason Grade: C-
Alex Turcotte was selected 5th overall by Los Angeles in the draft this year and there’s a plethora of youth in the system, but at some point, prospects have to be tested to see where they’re at and to evaluate the strength of the organization as a whole.
Despite not making any bad decisions this offseason, the Kings made no decisions to drastically alter an otherwise faltering team. At least the 1990s Heritage sweaters will look sweet coming out of the vault.
As the entire hockey world awaits training camp action next month, let’s make some (un)educated guesses about the upcoming season that will totally pan out because everything always goes as expected. (It doesn’t.)
The projected standings below are only a forecast.
They are based on recent indications– as well as the last few seasons of stats– and cannot account for variations in roster construction (a.k.a. trades and free agency moves).
There’s a lot of variables that will turn the tables upside down, including transactions, injuries and otherwise. Anything can happen.
As always, it’s more important to remember 1) the spread and 2) the positioning.
Just how many points separate the projected division winner from the last wild card spot (the spread) and where a team is supposed to finish in the division standings (the position) can imply that things aren’t always what they seem.
A team that’s projected to win it all still has to play an 82-game regular season, qualify for the playoffs and go on to amass 16 wins in the postseason.
Projected Standings After ZERO Months
- y-Vegas Golden Knights, 101 points
- x-San Jose Sharks, 100 points
- x-Anaheim Ducks, 96 points
- wc1- Calgary Flames, 93 points
- Los Angeles Kings, 89 points
- Vancouver Canucks, 83 points
- Arizona Coyotes, 78 points
- Edmonton Oilers, 77 points
Vegas Golden Knights: Pros and Cons
Despite a colossal collapse in Game 7 of their First Round matchup with the San Jose Sharks this spring, the Golden Knights are ready for what could be another deep playoff run in 2020.
A full season of Mark Stone– plus the rest of the original and supporting cast (Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc.)– should provide Vegas with enough scoring power, while Nate Schmidt anchors the defense with Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Jon Merrill and adopted Vegas son, Deryk Engelland.
Aside from working on the penalty kill and the peaceful transition of power from George McPhee to Kelly McCrimmon as General Manager of the organization (effective Sept. 1st), the Golden Knights have had a quiet offseason.
Sure, they traded Colin Miller to the Buffalo Sabres which hurts their blue line depth in the event of injuries, but Vegas has a few notable prospects with the Chicago Wolves (AHL) in Jake Bischoff, Nic Hague and Jimmy Schudlt that should be ready for a taste of NHL action if necessary.
Owner, Bill Foley, has his sights set on his original vision for the franchise– winning a Cup within the first three seasons of its existence.
The only downside for the Golden Knights heading into the 2019-20 season? Goaltending.
No, Fleury isn’t in decline from his status as one of the better goaltenders in the league, but his time in the crease has to be managed.
Though he was limited to 46 games in 2017-18 due to injury, Fleury amassed a 29-13-4 record with a 2.24 goals against average and a .927 save percentage. Vegas’ backup goaltender, Malcolm Subban, managed a 13-4-2 record in 22 games played that season with a 2.68 GAA and a .910 SV% in his rookie season.
Last season, Subban’s numbers took a turn for the worse.
He had an 8-10-2 record in 21 games played with a 2.93 GAA and a .902 SV%– all while Fleury was forced to carry a heavier schedule load, seeing his stat line slip to a 2.51 GAA and a .913 SV% in the process, but improving his overall record to 35-21-5 in 61 games.
Vegas added Garret Sparks, who carries a career GAA (3.09) and SV% (.898) that’s worst than Subban in six fewer games played over two full-time seasons as a backup (Sparks appeared in 37 games with Toronto, while Subban’s played in 43 with Vegas since 2017-18).
Gerard Gallant can’t rely on a fallback plan if one of them doesn’t yield a significant turnaround at this point in their careers (because there isn’t one) and he also can’t overexert Fleury in the buildup to the postseason.
This is why you can never have too many goaltenders in the system.
How would the Golden Knights fail?
If an Uber driver records their players complaining about their special teams play and/or said Uber driver can’t do a better job at not allowing four power play goals against on a five-minute major penalty kill.
San Jose Sharks: Pros and Cons
San Jose has about $4.683 million in cap space and Joe Thornton is still unsigned. Are we really ready to live in a world where Thornton isn’t on the Sharks and it’s not 1997-2005 again?
Also, Patrick Marleau is still unsigned too, but that’s besides the point– plus he spent the last two years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Anyway, the Sharks went all in on Erik Karlsson’s extension, shelling out $11.500 million per season for the next eight years through the 2026-27 season.
As long as Karlsson can remain healthy (and the rest of the roster for that matter, unlike in this spring’s Western Conference Final run), then San Jose’s blue line remains one of the most dynamic forces of offensive capabilities from an otherwise non-traditional source of scoring production.
Kevin Labanc is an emerging star in a Sharks uniform and will carry a bigger role this season with the departure of Joe Pavelski to the Dallas Stars via free agency.
Meanwhile, it’s officially the Logan Couture Era in Silicon Valley– if General Manager Doug Wilson is truly moving on from the days of Thornton and Marleau– with supporting roles from Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane.
While Karlsson’s cap hit tops the league on an otherwise unnerving contract if something goes wrong, Wilson managed to keep Timo Meier in teal for the next four seasons at an affordable $6.000 million cap hit.
Other than injuries, the only thing that could scare the Sharks out of the waters of contention is the inconsistency of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell in the crease.
Despite compiling 36 wins on the season in 62 games played, Jones had a career-worst GAA (2.94) and SV% (.896), while Dell also managed to have a career-worst performance as a backup with a 3.17 GAA and a .886 SV% in 25 games played (of which he won 10).
How would the Sharks fail?
San Jose has had everything imaginable happen to them in the postseason, so what seems irrational, inexplicable and/or unimaginable, because that’s probably how they’d lose (again).
Anaheim Ducks: Pros and Cons
The Ducks have about $8.500 million in cap space with a good mix of pending-unrestricted free agents and pending-restricted free agents next summer, which means they’ll only have more money to spend and reallocate to their better, younger players like Troy Terry and Daniel Sprong.
What’s the bad news?
It’s Anaheim. They’re suffering from buying out Corey Perry’s contract for the next four seasons ($2.625 million in 2019-20, $6.625 million in 2020-21 and $2.000 million from 2021-23), Ryan Getzlaf is signed through 2020-21 and has a no-movement clause, Ryan Kesler may never play again and is also signed through 2021-22 with a no-movement clause and finally, Adam Henrique has a modified no-trade clause and is signed through 2023-24.
Yes, Kesler can be place on long-term injured reserve and shelved for the remainder of his contract and/or traded elsewhere (after waiving his NMC) to free up cap space if he truly cannot return, but the fact of the matter is the Ducks are still too tied up to takeoff and fly.
The depth of prospects is sketchy with the Ducks, considering not much is known about their overall plan.
Are they overcooking some prospects for a better immediate impact in the NHL or should they just play the kids, wait around near the basement of the standings and rebuild?
Though this forecast has Anaheim tabbed for a divisional spot, they’re likely to be looking from outside the division with perhaps only the saving grace of a wild card spot thanks to John Gibson’s existence as one of the best goaltenders in the game (until the skaters in front of him let him down).
At the very least, Dallas Eakins is back as a head coach in the NHL, so all is right with the world (and he did a decent job resurrecting his career with a strong performance in San Diego (AHL) after his dismal days in Edmonton).
How would the Ducks fail?
General Manager Bob Murray holds onto his cards for too long, talent development stalls and/or Eakins turns out to not be one of those classic examples of a coach that just came into the league a little too early, then got a second chance and succeeded.
Calgary Flames: Pros and Cons
The Flames couldn’t win the Cup with two-time All Star goaltender, Mike Smith, on their roster, so they rolling with David Rittich and Cam Talbot– who joins Calgary from their intra-province rival Edmonton Oilers.
Speaking of the Oilers, that’s where Smith ended up. Goalie swap! But without any actual trading involved, since Talbot was most recently serving as a “Plan C” for the Philadelphia Flyers if Carter Hart, Brian Elliott and Co. weren’t ready to go down the stretch.
Anyway, back to the “C of Red”.
Calgary sent James Neal to Edmonton in exchange for Milan Lucic and ended up saving $500,000 per season for the remainder of Lucic’s contract (signed through 2022-23) in the process. The Oilers retained salary in the trade. You heard that right.
Matthew Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane are still unsigned RFAs and General Manager Brad Treliving has about $7.757 million to work with in cap space.
Get a deal done with Tkachuk and the Flames will go on without any interruption as a team that pleasantly turned a lot of heads in the regular season last year, then sputtered out in the First Round in five games to the Colorado Avalanche.
Bill Peters is ready for his second season behind the bench in Calgary and the roster looks set to remain in contention for a divisional berth, if not leading the Western Conference once again.
How would the Flames fail?
Simply put, if they flame out at the end of the regular season like they did last season– March was a bad month, which led to their demise in five games against Colorado in the First Round.
Los Angeles Kings: Pros and Cons
The good news for the Kings? Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford, Mario Kempe, Derek Forbort, Paul LaDue, Joakim Ryan and Jack Campbell are all pending-UFAs after next season and Carl Grundstrom, Austin Wagner, Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid are all pending-RFAs.
The bad news? Drew Doughty is signed through 2026-27 at $11.000 million per season, Anze Kopitar is making $10.000 million per season through 2023-24 and Adrian Kempe is currently an unsigned RFA.
General Manager Rob Blake has a lot to sort through this season, but he’s already made some corrections to his blunders in his first two seasons as an NHL GM.
For starters, he replaced Dion Phaneuf with Ryan in free agency, brought back his stable backup goaltender in Campbell on a one-year deal and didn’t give up on Ilya Kovalchuk, but rather hired an actual NHL head coach fit for the contemporary game in Todd McLellan.
Though Marco Sturm remains one of the best looking assistant coaches in the league, we’ll let this one slide, Los Angeles.
Are the Kings actually that much better than they were last season? Time will surely tell, but one thing’s for sure– they can’t possibly be much worse, right? Right!?!
If anything, the Kings are a wild card team at best or situated behind either Vancouver or Arizona at worst in the standings, but they should be lightyears from the basement in the division this season with some solid additions through the draft over the years in Alex Turcotte, Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabriel Vilardi.
Los Angeles should be able to (somewhat) bounce back from their regression last season, but at the same time, the year isn’t 2012 or 2014 anymore. It’s time to start cutting the chord with former “glue guys” turned placeholders on a roster that needs an influx of youth sooner rather than later.
How would the Kings fail?
If Jonathan Quick gets hurt in any fashion and Blake can’t get rid of at least one of the eight players on the 23-player roster over aged 30 or older.
Vancouver Canucks: Pros and Cons
The Canucks are looking to make it back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2015, but did General Manager, Jim Benning do enough this offseason to set Vancouver back on the right track for 2020?
Benning went out and acquired J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Marek Mazanec, a 2019 3rd round pick and a conditional 2020 1st round pick in June, then signed 29-year-old defender, Tyler Myers to a five-year, $30.000 million contract.
Miller and Myers are two quality assets compared to previous transactions made in the offseason by the Canucks. For once, Benning didn’t overpay an aging veteran player, but he also hasn’t cleaned up what might be a costly (both in price and on ice) fourth line in a league that runs four lines deep.
There’s a very real chance that none of the players on Vancouver’s fourth line any given night are making less than $3.000 million per season.
That’s unfathomable in a salary cap driven sport and only speaks to the number of misguided happenings in asset management by the Canucks.
Come to think of it, Vancouver only has five players out of a possible 23-player roster making less than $1.000 million per season. Sure, nobody’s making $10.000 million, but all those $2.000 million-plus, $3.000 million-plus, $4.000 million-plus and $5.000 million-plus contracts add up.
At least Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser are worth watching night-in and night-out. Plus, Thatcher Demko should pan out to be one of the league’s better goaltenders.
There’s just one concern for Benning as the offseason continues– Boeser and Nikolay Goldobin are still unsigned RFAs.
And Boeser is certainly worth the four-year, $7.000 million cap hit he’s looking for. Too bad the Canucks only have $5.058 million in cap space though.
How would the Canucks fail?
By being close, but not close enough in yet another race for the playoffs. Things are heading in the right direction, however.
Arizona Coyotes: Pros and Cons
Mastermind GM John Chayka has landed this offseason’s biggest prize in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins– two-time Stanley Cup champion, Team USA representative and hot dog enthusiast, Phil “The Thrill” Kessel.
Kessel brings his goalscoring prowess to the Western Conference for the first time in his career, having been drafted by the Boston Bruins 5th overall in the 2006 NHL draft, then playing with Boston until being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009 and then again the Pittsburgh in 2015.
No. 81 had 82 points in 82 games played last season, which was down from career-high 34-58–92 totals in 2017-18. Additionally, he hasn’t missed a game since 2010.
Along with Carl Soderberg– another offseason acquisition in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche– Kessel and the Coyotes are revamped and poised to make a run for the postseason.
Arizona’s only ranked low in this forecast because of nearly a decade of middle of the road rosters and missed opportunities since losing in the 2012 Western Conference Final in five games to Los Angeles.
The Coyotes haven’t been back to the playoffs since, but they’re trending upward.
With Nick Schmaltz, Jakob Chychrun and Oliver Ekman-Larsson locked up on long-term contracts, the core has really come into fruition while Chayka remains active in the draft and trade market.
Now they just need a little luck on their side to avoid losing Antti Raanta to the injury bug again.
How would the Coyotes fail?
If this forecast actually turns out to be true and Arizona finished 7th in the division, because otherwise who would actually want to see them fail?
Edmonton Oilers: Pros and Cons
Pro: New GM (Ken Holland) and a new head coach (Dave Tippett).
Con: Another new GM and a new head coach.
Pro: Connor McDavid!
Con: Plays for the Oilers.
Pro: They were able to trade Milan Lucic.
Con: While acquiring James Neal and retaining part of Lucic’s salary in the process, thereby spending more money than in the first place.
Pro: They should actually be better this year.
Con: We keep saying every year, even about a team that has the second-greatest player in the game behind Sidney Crosby on the roster.
Pro: There’s a lot of pending UFAs and RFAs on the roster.
Con: That means at least half of them are now going to have a career-year in a contract year and be overpaid either by Edmonton or other teams in the next offseason.
Pro: Two-time All Star Mike Smith signed a one-year deal to backup Mikko Koskinen.
Con: The average age of Edmonton’s goaltending duo is 34.
How would the Oilers fail?
How there’s any such thing as optimism besides having McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton is incredible. If they make it to a wild card berth, it’d take McDavid playing every position, probably.
Charlie McAvoy scored the game-winning goal late in the third period on a tremendous give-and-go as the Boston Bruins defender snuck in from the point en route to Boston’s, 4-2, win over the Los Angeles Kings at STAPLES Center on Saturday.
Tuukka Rask (19-8-4 record, 2.37 goals against average, .920 save percentage in 32 games played) made 23 saves on 25 shots against for a .920 SV% in the win for the Bruins.
Los Angeles goaltender, Jack Campbell (7-10-0, 2.23 GAA, .928 SV% in 19 GP), stopped 20 out of 24 shots faced for an .833 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 34-17-8 (76 points) on the season and surpassed the Toronto Maple Leafs for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division standings. The Kings fell to 23-29-6 (52 points) and remained in 8th place in the Pacific Division.
Boston also improved to 22-4-5 when scoring first this season and 22-1-3 when leading after two periods. Los Angeles stumbled to 1-23-1 when trailing after 40 minutes of play this season.
The B’s are now 2-0-0 on their current five-game road trip and 7-0-1 in the month of February.
With the win on Saturday night, the Bruins have matched their longest winning streak of the season (five games), while handing the Kings their fourth-straight loss.
Two skaters made their NHL debuts in Saturday night’s matchup as Karson Kuhlman took part in his first career NHL game for the Bruins, while Matt Roy participated in his first NHL game with the Kings.
Instead, Quick received medical attention for “flu-like symptoms” and was sent home, leaving Willie Desjardins with no choice but to start Campbell and with an emergency goaltender as his potential backup.
Rask got the start on Saturday night after Jaroslav Halak posted a 30-save shutout against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.
Grzelcyk kicked off the action with a high-sticking infraction against Austin Wagner at 2:59 of the first period. Los Angeles did not convert on their first power play opportunity of the evening.
Moments later, Jake DeBrusk (17) sent the puck past Campbell to give the Bruins the lead, 1-0, at 5:31 of the opening frame thanks to a great pass from Peter Cehlarik.
Cehlarik (2) and David Krejci (34) tallied the assists on DeBrusk’s goal as No. 74 in black-and-gold set a new career-high in goals in a season with his 17th in his 50th game played (DeBrusk had 16 goals in 70 games played last season, his rookie year).
DeBrusk also has scored at least a goal in Boston’s last three games (he has 3-3–6 totals since Feb. 12th).
Past the midpoint of the first period, Roy interfered with Brad Marchand and was assessed a minor penalty at 11:25. The Bruins did not convert on their first skater advantage of the night.
Entering the first intermission, Boston led, 1-0, on the scoreboard as both teams each recorded eight shots on goal in the first period. The B’s led in blocked shots (6-4), giveaways (4-0) and face-off win percentage (59-41) after 20 minutes of play, while the Kings led in takeaways (3-1) and hits (14-6).
Both clubs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the second period.
Carl Hagelin hooked Marchand at 5:26 of the second period, but the Bruins couldn’t muster a goal on the power play.
Shortly after the skater advantage ended for Boston, McAvoy hooked Wagner and sent Los Angeles on the power play at 8:55 of the middle frame.
Late in the ensuing power play, Ilya Kovalchuk (12) held the puck and worked his magic, firing a shot past Rask’s glove side as a teammate was screening the Bruins goaltender to tie the game, 1-1, at 10:37.
Zdeno Chara followed up McAvoy’s penalty with a holding penalty of his own against Kopitar at 12:22, but the Kings couldn’t convert on their second-straight power play opportunity.
Shortly after killing off Chara’s minor, the Bruins gave up a two-on-one, leaving Alex Iafallo with a surefire high-quality scoring chance that Rask denied while sprawling in desperation– kicking the puck out of mid-air with his leg pad extended while on his back.
On a face-off win in the attacking zone by Patrice Bergeron, the puck ended up on Marchand’s stick as the Bruins winger sent a rocket of a wrist shot past Campbell’s glove side from the face-off dot.
Marchand (23) gave Boston the lead, 2-1, with Bergeron (34) tabbing the only assist at 16:15 of the second period.
About 90 seconds later, Noel Acciari high-sticked Kovalchuk and was assessed a minor infraction. Los Angeles did not convert on the ensuing power play.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and trailed the Kings, 19-17, in shots on goal. Boston led in blocked shots (15-6), giveaways (7-2) and face-off win% (55-45) after two periods, while Los Angeles held the advantage in takeaways (4-2) and hits (21-11).
The Kings were 1/4 on the power play through two periods, while the Bruins finished 0/2 on the skater advantage on the night as Los Angeles did not take another penalty in the third period.
Late in the third period, a flurry of goals made Saturday night’s hockey game feel like the last few minutes of a basketball game as Iafallo (12) collected a rebound to set a new career-high in goals and tie the game, 2-2.
Paul LaDue (1) and Adrian Kempe (12) had the assists on Iafallo’s goal at 15:37 of the third period.
Less than a minute later, Marchand went to the penalty box for hooking Carter at 16:00. Boston’s penalty killing units successfully killed off the minor infraction and caught the Kings in the vulnerable minute after Los Angeles’ power play.
McAvoy (3) dished the puck to DeBrusk while penetrating the attacking zone and kickstarted the give-and-go as he entered the slot to receive the pass back from DeBrusk and riffled a shot into the twine behind Campbell.
DeBrusk (8) and Krejci (35) picked up the assists on McAvoy’s goal at 18:47 of the third period as Boston took the lead, 3-2, with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.
In the final minute of the game, Bergeron (21) one-handed a loose puck past Campbell with an almost poke-check maneuver to secure the victory for Boston, 4-2.
Bergeron’s goal was unassisted at 19:23 of the final frame.
Boston swept the Kings in their season series, 2-0-0, with the, 4-2, victory on Saturday night despite trailing in shots on goal, 25-24.
The Bruins finished the night with the advantage in blocked shots (17-9), giveaways (8-6) and face-off win% (60-40), while Los Angeles led in hits (29-19).
The Kings went 1/5 on the power play Saturday night, while the B’s finished 0/2.
The Bruins continue their five-game road trip Monday night against the San Jose Sharks before journeying to visit the Vegas Golden Knights (Feb. 20th) and St. Louis Blues (Feb. 23rd). Boston is 2-0-0 on their current road trip and plays their next home game this month on Feb. 26th against the Sharks.
This week’s episode is chock full of coffee infused, Seattle inspired, artisanal Seattle expansion discussion in addition to William Nylander’s new deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Plus, waivers and trades are rampant this time of year, Tom Wilson: The Bad and the Bad Things That Happened This Week, Chuck Fletcher was hired as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers and a 15-year first round draft pick look back of the Los Angeles Kings.
Los Angeles Kings
45-29-8, 98 points, 4th in the Pacific Division
1st Wild Card in the West, swept in the First Round by VGK 4-0
Subtractions: F Andy Andreoff (traded to TB), F Andrew Crescenzi (signed, Austria), D Christian Folin (signed with PHI), D Kevin Gravel (signed with EDM), F Michael Mersch (signed with DAL), F Torrey Mitchell (signed, Switzerland), F Tobias Rieder (signed with EDM), D Jordan Subban (signed with TOR), G Scott Wedgewood (signed with BUF)
Still Unsigned: F Justin Auger
Re-signed: D Paul LaDue, D Alex Lintuniemi, D Kurtis MacDermid
Offseason Analysis: Cash-strapped in the era of the salary cap and nearing the end of their Stanley Cup contention window, the Los Angeles Kings went out and signed 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year deal worth $6.250 million per season.
Normally, $6.250 million per season isn’t a terrible deal, especially on a three-year contract for a player that’s over 30. One of the problems with this deal, however, is that Kovalchuk is 35.
By the end of his current contract he’ll be 38.
With just over $2.100 million in cap space right now, the Kings have all but sealed their fate to a rebuild after Kovalchuk’s playing days are done– assuming he’s going to retire for the second time after the 2020-21 season.
Anze Kopitar (31) isn’t getting any younger, despite being under contract at $10.000 million through 2023-24. Dustin Brown (33) is signed for the next four-years and the same goes for Jeff Carter (33). Los Angeles’s core group of forwards is aging– and aging fast without anything screaming up the depth charts.
Half of their forwards are 31 or older.
On defense, Jake Muzzin‘s turning 30 in February, Dion Phaneuf (33) and Alec Martinez (31) lead the way among older blue liners. Oh yeah and Drew Doughty (28) is in the final year of his $7.000 million AAV contract.
Don’t worry, Kings fans, General Manager Rob Blake took care of any doubts about Doughty’s future by signing the star defender to an eight-year extension beginning in 2019-20 at $11.000 million per season.
That raise of $4.000 million? Yeah, that doesn’t help the cap situation. No amount of Norris Trophy’s or Selke Trophy’s can counteract rising salaries– in fact, they don’t help negotiations from a general manager’s perspective.
But why worry about the future when Los Angeles is trying to win one more Cup now?
After all, starting goaltender Jonathan Quick is 32-years-old and on a friendly $5.800 million per season through 2022-23. When things start to tumble, the Kings can flip Quick and retain some salary to… well, let’s not think about that– let’s assume Quick will be a King for life.
There’s no bright scenario on the horizon for Los Angeles. Time is ticking away.
While head coach John Stevens looks to improve from last season’s 45-29-8 record (98 points) on the season, he’s looking at doing so with an aging core and on the backs of a 32-year-old starting goalie and 36-year-old backup (Peter Budaj). Unless Jack Campbell, 26, is finally ready to emerge as an NHL backup.
Oh and Stevens is at the helm of a team in California (did anybody see the Erik Karlsson trade the other day? The San Jose Sharks got a lot better, like, as good as– if not better than– the Nashville Predators defense)– let alone the rest of the Pacific Division (hello Vegas Golden Knights).
But less about the worries for the Kings and more about just what will Kovalchuk do in his NHL return?
He last had a 31-point season (11 goals, 20 assists) for the New Jersey Devils in 37 games during the lockout shortened 48-game 2012-13 season. Prior to that Kovalchuk had 37-46–83 totals in 77 games with the Devils in 2011-12, which was, oh yeah that season New Jersey went on to face the Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final (he had one point in that series).
Then came the summer of 2012 when “Kovy” retired. This, of course, came two-years into his
17-year (whoops, cap circumvention) 15-year, $100 million contract that he signed with New Jersey in 2010.
Devils fans felt cheated, not that Atlanta Thrashers fans had already felt betrayed by Kovalchuk leaving their team for New Jersey in the first place.
Kovalchuk returned to Russia, signing a four-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg (KHL), where he went on to have 16-24–40 totals in 45 games in 2013-14, then 55 points (54 games played) in 2014-15 , 49 points (50 GP) in 2015-16, 78 points (60 GP) in 2016-17 and 31-32–63 totals (53 GP) in 2017-18 with the club.
So he hasn’t lost his scoring touch.
At least, that’s what Stevens and Blake are hoping. A lot has changed in the NHL since his departure, namely speed and skill. It’s not a question of whether Kovalchuk can put pucks in the net, but rather, can he skate with the rest of the league’s teams zooming around on the ice?
Especially as the Kings continue to rely on a burly version of the game– one that still emphasized more physicality than other teams, despite Stevens’s refined approach last season.
Keeping a watchful eye on the stars in Los Angeles isn’t an uncommon thing. For Kovalchuk, it’s about to be part of his life again, but on a bigger scale than Atlanta or New Jersey.
Offseason Grade: B-
By default, landing one of 2018’s top unrestricted free agents not named John Tavares means the Los Angeles Kings improved and deserve an “above-average” rating for their offseason marks. But the Kings didn’t get any younger and let some expendable assets (Tobias Rieder, Kevin Gravel and Christian Folin) walk that helped spread a little depth down the lineup when necessary.
This season and next offseason are crucial to the future direction of the organization, what with Adrian Kempe, 22, entering the final year of his entry-level contract this season and that salary cap thing again. Things cannot remain stagnant for too long.
Or else the Kings might be the next Chicago Blackhawks.
Second Round predictions, Minnesota needs a new GM, Calgary’s got a new coach, award finalist reactions, a Game 7 breakdown between Boston and Toronto, and where do the Leafs go from here? All that and more as Nick and Connor discuss on the latest DTFR Podcast.
The Vegas Golden Knights are the first team to punch their ticket to the Second Round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs having swept the Los Angeles Kings in the First Round. Vegas defeated Los Angeles, 1-0, in Game 4 at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
Marc-Andre Fleury picked up his second shutout of the postseason with a 31-save performance in the win for the Golden Knights, while Jonathan Quick stopped 20-of-21 shots faced for a .952 save percentage in the loss.
Neither team scored in the first period, keeping up with the trend of low scoring throughout the entire series.
Adrian Kempe took the only penalty of the night for Los Angeles at 14:05 of the first period. Vegas failed to convert on the ensuing power play and was outshot 14-8 after 20 minutes of play.
Early in the second period, former Kings defender, Brayden McNabb (1) was the first and only player in the game to score after the Golden Knights skated into the offensive zone on a three-on-two breakout. McNabb’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal proved to be the game-winner after all was said and done and came against his former team. Reilly Smith (3) and William Karlsson (1) were credited with the assists on the goal at 4:04 of the second period.
After 40 minutes of play the Golden Knights led 1-0 on the scoreboard, but were being outshot by Los Angeles, 21-15.
Entering the third period, Vegas was 20 minutes away from completing the swept and advancing to the Second Round as long as Fleury continued to stand tall and the Golden Knights could muster enough of an effort to win.
Smith tripped Dustin Brown past the midway point in the period, but Los Angeles failed to convert on their second power play of the night.
In all 82 games of the regular season— with five different goaltenders— the Golden Knights failed to record a 1-0 shutout. After the final horn at Staples Center, Fleury and his Vegas teammates racked up their second 1-0 shutout of the series.
The Kings finished the night leading in shots on goal (31-21), hits (41-37), giveaways (10-9) and faceoff win percentage (55-45), but Vegas had the 1-0 advantage on the scoreboard and led in blocked shots (20-7). Neither team scored a power play goal in Game 4 with the Kings finishing 0/2 on the night and the Golden Knights failing to convert on their only power play of the game in the first period.
Sweeping a series is pretty rare these days as only 12.5 percent of all Stanley Cup Playoff series’s since 2009 have ended after four games, so the league’s newest franchise can add that to a long list of accomplishments.
Speaking of accomplishments, the Golden Knights join the 1970 Pittsburgh Penguins as the only teams to go 4-0 in their first four postseason games. The Golden Knights, however, are the first team in NHL history to sweep a Stanley Cup Playoff series in its inaugural season (excluding total-goals series that were a thing from the league’s inception through the 1936-37 season).
The Golden Knights await the winner of the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks First Round matchup. San Jose leads that series 3-0 and can sweep the Ducks Wednesday night on home ice.
Fleury stopped all 30 shots he faced en route to his 11th career Stanley Cup Playoff shutout, while Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick made 27 saves on 28 shots against for a .964 save percentage.
Say what you want about the pregame festivities at T-Mobile Arena prior to puck drop in Game 1 of the Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings’s First Round series, but one thing’s for certain— Vegas loves hockey and a good show.
The sports town just can’t get enough of its NHL franchise.
Leading up to the start of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Sin City, fans outside the arena could get a free Golden Knights tattoo— the real kind, not one of those temporary ones that wash off in the shower.
But after the fracas of fun going on outside T-Mobile Arena, it was time for hockey.
Just over three minutes into the game, Vegas blue liner, Shea Theodore (1), fired a slap shot past Quick and gave the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead and the home crowd of 18,479 fans— the largest crowd in the franchise’s short history— erupted. Tomas Nosek (1) had the lone assist on the goal at 3:23 of the 1st period.
Theodore’s third career Stanley Cup Playoff goal proved to be enough for the rest of the night, as the Kings couldn’t beat Fleury.
Both teams swapped minor penalties (Brayden McNabb at 4:21 for hooking Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Carter at 12:47 for holding the stick William Karlsson) and the Kings rallied while Vegas went without a shot on goal for about eight minutes.
Toffoli continued to take a beating in the first period as Nosek caught him along the wall. Nosek was assessed a minor penalty for boarding at 15:46 of the period.
The Golden Knights penalty kill was successful and time ticked down to the end of the first period.
After twenty minutes of play, Vegas led 1-0 and Los Angeles led in shots on goal, 12-8. The Kings also dominated in hits (27-19) and blocked shots (4-3). Faceoffs were almost even with the Golden Knights having won 55 percent of the first period’s faceoff dot action. The Kings were 0/2 on the power play and Vegas was 0/1.
Los Angeles had tremendous control on the power play that resulted in a shot that missed the net to the right of Fleury. The puck caromed off the boards and landed on Dustin Brown’s stick with Fleury in desperation. Brown sent the puck wide right of the far post with the majority of the net open. Anze Kopitar found the loose puck but was quickly stripped of any scoring chances by a Golden Knights player.
The Kings were then guilty of the game’s next two penalties with Trevor Lewis having knocked over Colin Miller in front of Fleury without a puck in sight at 10:30 of the second period and Brown having bumped into Fleury at 15:20. Both were minor penalties for interference with the latter of the goaltender interference kind.
Vegas was unable to convert on either power play.
After two periods, the Golden Knights held onto their 1-0 lead and trailed Los Angeles in shots on goal, 20-19. The Kings led in hits 52-48 while Vegas continued to control the faceoff circle, winning 54% of faceoffs through 40 minutes of game action.
William Carrier was caught up high on a hit by Drew Doughty in the third period, but was able to skate back to the Golden Knights bench. Carrier did not immediately go back to the locker room until a concussion spotter presumably requested he go through protocol.
In the waning minutes of the game, Fleury continued to stand tall and earned his 63rd career playoff win and 11th postseason shutout. Both are the most among active NHL goaltenders.
Los Angeles finished the night leading in shots on goal (30-28), hits (68-59) and blocked shots (22-13). Neither team was able to convert on the power play as both teams went 0/3 on the man advantage.
The Golden Knights were 34-5-2 in the regular season when scoring first and are now 1-0 when scoring first in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Vegas takes the 1-0 series lead into Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday night.
Viewers outside of the local markets in the United States can tune in at 10:00 p.m. ET to NBCSN, while fans in Canada can tune to CBC or TVAS to catch the action.
Though the number of games on the schedule is normal for this day of the week, this particular Monday is nothing close to normal.
In addition to it being the 100th day of the season, the NHL is joining in on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations by playing three matinees this afternoon. The first – Dallas at Boston (SN) – drops the puck at 1 p.m., and it is followed two hours later by Anaheim at Colorado and San Jose at Los Angeles (NHLN/SN) at 4 p.m. Finally, the lone contest of the night is the New York Islanders at Montréal (NBCSN/RDS/TSN2), which gets underway at 7:30 p.m. All times Eastern.
Teams on the bye: Buffalo, Calgary, Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington and Winnipeg.
There’s only two contests that really stand out to me, but since the Kings and Sharks have a little bit of animosity between them, we have to take in that matchup.
Road trips can be tough, but 22-13-6 San Jose, which currently trails Dallas by a point for the second Western Conference wild card, managed to make the best of the situation to earn a 2-2-2 record over its past six games.
However, it’s surprising the Sharks were able to even post that record given their defense. Since December 31, the Sharks have allowed 24 goals against in six games played, and their four per-game average is (t)fourth-worst in the NHL in that time.
I’m leaning towards Jones. San Jose’s defense, led by D Justin Braun and D Marc-Edouard Vlasic (both with two blocks per game since New Year’s Eve), Burns (team-leading eight takeaways in the last six games) and D Brenden Dillon (2.8 hits-per-game since December 31) has allowed only 30.83 shots against per game since New Year’s Eve, the 10th-lowest mark in the league in that time.
Unfortunately for San Jose, the little that has gotten to Jones has given him major issues. He’s posted only an .859 save percentage and 4.04 GAA in his past four starts (both bottom-10 marks in the NHL since December 31) to earn only one point in the standings. He’ll be looking to rebound tonight against a Kings offense that fires an average of only 30.7 shots on goal per game.
Speaking of the 24-14-5 Kings, who currently occupy third place in the Pacific Division, they are one of the few teams in the league currently jealous of the Sharks’ current run.
That’s right, 2-2-2 is way better than the three-game losing skid Los Angeles is currently suffering. The Kings are averaging four goals against since January 4, the (t)sixth-worst in the league in that time.
In a similar question to the one we had about the Sharks, does the blame fall on 19-14-2 G Jonathan Quick or his defense?
The comparisons between the Kings and Sharks continues, as Quick has to bear the load of this losing skid. Led by F Adrian Kempe (two takeaways since January 4), D Kurtis MacDermid (3.7 hits per game since January 4) and D Alec Martinez (3.3 blocks per game in his last three games played), Los Angeles has limited its opposition to only 27.67 shots per game, the second-fewest since January 4.
Even though he’s had the luxury of a lighter work load, Quick has been absolutely miserable over his last three game. He’s managed only an .866 save percentage and 3.75 GAA during this losing skid, and he squares off against an offense that averages 32.8 shots per game.
Barring a postseason matchup, today’s game is the finale of the four-game Battle of California series. Though the Kings won the first meeting 4-1 in The Tank on October 7, San Jose has emerged victorious from the previous two games. The Sharks beat the Kings 2-1 in Los Angeles on November 12, and then 2-0 on December 23.
With two teams in a bit of a rough patch, a good rivalry victory can do a lot to get them back on track. Personally, I’m leaning towards the Kings winning this afternoon’s game with their superior defense.
With four unanswered goals, the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Rangers 5-2 at PPG Paints Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.
At the start of the first period, it seemed like Pittsburgh was well off to a good start. Only 3:14 into play, Patric Hornqvist (Second Star of the Game Carl Hagelin and Kris Letang) buried a backhanded shot to give the Pens a 1-0 advantage. However, it was the Rangers that entered the first intermission with the advantage, as Michael Grabner scored an unassisted backhander with 4:43 remaining in the frame to level the score, and Brendan Smith (Vinni Lettieri and Paul Carey) registered his first goal of the season 3:49 later to give New York a one-goal advantage.
The Penguins’ offense apparently didn’t take too kindly to being outplayed by New York’s recently struggling corps, because they registered a whopping 34 shots to the Blueshirts’ 15 over the course of the remaining two periods.
But more shots doesn’t always lead to immediate success. Pittsburgh needed 13:15 of play in the second period before it leveled the game at two-all courtesy of a wrist shot from First Star Dominik Simon (Brian Dumoulin and Sidney Crosby), the first goal of his NHL career.
75 seconds after the goal horn stopped blaring for Simon’s marker, Third Star Phil Kessel (Conor Sheary) buried what proved to be the game-winner. The goal itself was nothing to write home about, as Kessel took advantage of Sheary’s quick pass from the corner to rip a wrister past G Henrik Lundqvist before he could even blink. However, the goal marked the 700th point of Kessel’s career.
Just think if he got a hot dog for every point to his name…
Pittsburgh’s offense continued to dominate possession in the third period and eventually added on two extra tallies. Crosby (Kessel and Jamie Oleksiak) tacked on an insurance tally with 7:27 remaining in regulation, and Hagelin (Oleksiak) scored an empty netter with 5:28 later to set the 5-2 final score.
G Tristan Jarry earned the victory after saving 26-of-28 shots faced (.929 save percentage), leaving the loss to Lundqivst, who saved 42-of-46 (.913).
The Penguins’ home victory snapped a four-game winning streak by road teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series. The 55-33-12 hosts in the series now have a 20-point advantage on the visitors.