Los Angeles Kings Lineup Beginning to Solidify for Stretch Run

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PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 15: Los Angeles Kings Defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) celebrates his first goal as new member of the Kings during the second period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Los Angeles Kings on February 15, 2018, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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With the trade deadline behind them, the Los Angeles Kings have a better idea of how their lineup is going to look down the stretch with their new additions in place.

Los Angeles Kings Lineup Beginning to Solidify for Stretch Run

The Kings added Tobias Rieder and Nate Thompson as a bottom-six forwards and Dion Phaneuf as a top-four defenseman to tinker with the roster. Rieder has goal scoring ability, speed, and can be utilized on the penalty kill unit. Thompson is an energetic defensive forward who brings physicality. Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore were sent to the Ottawa Senators in the trade that acquired Phaneuf and Thompson.

Jack Campbell got called up to replace Darcy Kuemper as the backup for Jonathan Quick after Kuemper was sent to the Arizona Coyotes in the Rieder deal. Quick will get the bulk of the starts in net, with Campbell stepping in if Quick ever needs a break or falters in some way. Quick is an elite goaltender when he’s on his game, and the Kings playoff fate could very well come down to how dominant he is down the stretch.

Jeff Carter recently returned from injury, and Trevor Lewis has been upgraded to day-to-day, having missed the last nine games with an upper-body injury. He’ll return to the lineup soon. Carter is back in the lineup now after missing significant time. He was their leading scorer last season. Lewis is a two-way forward who was having his best offensive season before he got injured. He’ll give the lineup a boost when he returns.

The Kings are currently holding the third spot in the Pacific Division, and it is becoming more clear what their lineup is going to consist of during that playoff push.

Likely Lineups for the Kings

Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alex Iafallo, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Tobias Rieder, Adrian Kempe, Nate Thompson, Torrey Mitchell, Kyle Clifford, and Trevor Lewis (when he returns from injury), will likely be the group of forwards.

Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, Dion Phaneuf, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, and Christian Folin will likely be the top defensemen for the Kings.

Compared to about a month ago, the Kings are a lot better on paper. Phaneuf gives them a valuable defensive piece, and Gaborik had been slowing down his offensive production. This roster looks like it’s poised to secure a playoff spot. These last 19 games of the regular season are going to be very compelling.

How their Payroll Looks Right Now

The payroll situation the Kings have with this current roster sets up for some crucial decisions to be made next offseason.The salary cap for this season was $75 million, and estimates are projecting that it will go up to somewhere between $78 and $82 million for next season. As of now, the total cap allocations for the Kings next season is about $73.1 million, meaning they have a little bit of money to spend.

Mitchell and Follin are going to be unrestricted free-agents, while Rieder, Paul Ladue, and Kevin Gravel will be restricted free-agents.

The biggest contract priority of next offseason for the Kings is going to involve Doughty’s future with the team. His current deal is set to expire at the end of the 2018-2019 season, but he is eligible to sign an extension beginning July of 2018. The Kings are the only team he’d be able to sign an eight-year contract with. Teams on the open market would only be able to sign him to a seven-year deal.

Nashville Predators P.K. Subban is the highest paid defenseman in the NHL right now, making $9 million for the 2017-2018 season. Doughty is likely going to well-exceed that mark when his new contract is negotiated, so the Kings have some important decisions to make.

Those are determinations to be made down the road, however. For now, the Kings are focused primarily on making the playoffs, and it seems like they have a good chance as they sit in the third spot of the Pacific Division.

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