The Los Angeles Kings have been one of the NHL’s elite teams over the last few years. They have won two Stanley Cups in that time under the regime of general manager Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter. However, lean times are ahead for the Kings.
Lean Times Ahead for the Los Angeles Kings
The Current Roster
The Kings entered the season with a solid NHL roster. Is it a roster that makes them contenders in the West? That seems very unlikely. The current core consists of Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick.
While that core is a great start, the depth the Kings once had is now gone. Age, free agency, the salary cap, long playoff runs and a weak farm system have contributed to the Kings current lack of depth, as well as declining production.
The lower body injury to Quick on opening night could sideline him for at least the first half of the season. With Jeff Zatkoff and Peter Budaj expected to carry the load, this could put the Kings in a whole that will make it tough for them to make the playoffs this year.
The Jonathan Quick news keeps getting worse for Kings https://t.co/A6rBFouiZB
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) October 15, 2016
The Salary Cap
Lombardi locked up some of his veterans to long term deals. That has left the Kings cap-strapped and committed to some aging players for years to come.
Over the next three seasons (through the 18-19 season), Los Angeles has eight players signed at $46.8 million against the cap. That does not include Toffoli, who is a restricted free agent after this season. Toffoli will be in line for a major increase over his current $3.25 million dollar cap hit.
While signing Kopitar long-term (in year one of an eight-year deal at $10 million per) had to be done, having veterans Dustin Brown, Marion Gaborik, and Carter signed for the next five to six years could be a huge problem for LA. Quick still has seven years to go on his deal as well. Quick is also a member of the 30-year-old club in LA, which is a growing list (turns 31 in January).
Tyler Toffoli and the Kings must adjust to life w/o Milan Lucic and an underwhelming free agency. My dotcom story. https://t.co/094QhOFzFS
— Curtis Zupke (@curtiszupke) August 8, 2016
The Farm System
Looking at the vast majority of publications and websites who rank NHL prospects, the Kings at best have a bottom five system. Nineteen-year-old winger Adrian Kempe is the only prospect in the cupboard for Kings fans to get excited about.
The Kings have not had a first-round draft pick the last two years. In 2016 L.A. was without a first round pick due to the Andrej Sekera trade in 2015 (Sekera wound up being a rental).
Also, the Kings did not have a first-round pick in the deep 2015 draft due to the trade with the Boston Bruins for Milan Lucic. Martin Jones was also a part of that deal, which was another major future asset the Kings traded away. Lucic winded up spending only one season with the Kings. Los Angeles was dispatched by the San Jose Sharks in round one of last year’s playoffs in just five games. That is a steep price to pay for a rental, especially one that did not include a big playoff run.
Finally, while the Pacific is yet to be on par with the Central or the Metropolitan, there are talented young teams knocking on the door in the division. The Arizona Coyotes and the Edmonton Oilers have a lot of young talented players on the roster and in the pipeline. The Calgary Flames could also be very formidable very soon, especially if they can find some competent goaltending. A rebuilding situation could be in the Kings future very soon, with some very lean years ahead for the franchise.