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Pacific Peeks: Kings still paying the price of previous success

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The Kings brought back some familiar faces on cheap deals, and couldn’t do much else.

San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

All of the changes the Los Angeles Kings have made this summer involve familiar faces.

To replace Darryl Sutter, the team hired longtime assistant John Stevens as Head Coach. To replace General Manager Dean Lombardi, the team promoted ex-Sharks captain and Los Angeles legend Rob Blake, who’d been in their front office as an assistant general manager since 2013. Even the team’s free agent signings, Mike Cammalleri on a one-year, $1,000,000 deal and Andrei Loktionov on a professional tryout (PTO) contract, are players that began their career as Kings draft picks.

As things have changed at the top, the more they’ve stayed the same. Since winning Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014, Los Angeles has brought back familiar faces, and paid a premium to do so. They re-signed Tyler Toffoloi, Tanner Pearson, and Andy Andreoff to three, four, and two-year deals, respectively, for a combined $9,027,5000.

With those deals on the books, the team now has $61,853,560 locked up in 13 players after this season. Assuming the cap remains stagnant in 2019 at $75,000,000, that leaves a little over $13,000,000 to sign a backup goaltender, at least three defensemen, and three forwards. In 2020, they have $53,342,727 committed to 11 players, but will need to re-sign Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Drew Doughty, who could become the highest-paid blueliner in the league.

Even with the Expansion Draft this offseason, Dustin Brown’s $5,875,000 remains on the books for five more seasons, and Marian Gaborik’s $4,875,000 is for the next four. The latter was apparently shopped for Ottawa Senators defenseman Dion Phaneuf, which would have made their salary cap crunch, somehow, even worse, as Phaneuf is signed for over $2,000,000 more than Gaborik. The Kings alleviated some of their cap concerns buying out veteran defenseman Matt Greene, but they’re still paying heavy choice for their previous success.

Los Angeles, given the investments they’ve made in players that helped win the franchise’s first two championships, had little choice this offseason than to turn nostalgic, and sign some of their previous players on cheap, low-risk deals. They took chances on players with no previous ties to the organization, signing depth defenseman Christian Folin and backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper to one-year deals, and even tried to sign Joe Thornton. The Kings still have the short-term flexibility to add someone, such as James Neal, with $6,831,440 in salary cap space this season, but they can’t afford to lock up a significant player long-term after heavily investing in their own players previously.

The Kings are an interesting corollary to the decade’s other most successful team, the Chicago Blackhawks. Chicago, too, has brought back familiar faces, but General Manager Stan Bowman has perpetually tweaked his roster, and has made tough decisions by cutting ties with core pieces while keeping a small group intact. Dean Lombardi did not, and instead opted to invest substantially in many of the players that won with Los Angeles.

Now, Rob Blake is paying that price, with no choice but to bank on better performances from aging, overpaid veterans like Brown and Gaborik, and finding value in the free agent bargain bin. That’s not an ideal approach for a team that’s missed the playoffs two of the last three seasons, but it’s the only possible one because of their financial commitments.

Arrivals

  • LW Michael Cammalleri (one year, $1,000,000 AAV)
  • C Andrei Loktionov (PTO)
  • D Christian Folin (one year, $850,000 AAV)
  • G Darcy Kuemper (one year, $650,000 AAV)
  • D Stepan Falkovsky (three years, $698,333 AAV)*
  • G Cal Petersen (two years, $925,000 AAV)*
  • LW Bokondji Imama (trade, Tampa Bay Lightning; three years, $706,667 AAV)*

Departures

  • G Ben Bishop (trade, Dallas Stars)
  • D Vincent LoVerde (Toronto Maple Leafs; two years, $725,000 AAV)*
  • D Cameron Schilling (Winnipeg Jets; one year, $650,000)*
  • D Zach Trotman (Pittsburgh Penguins; one year, $650,000 AAV)*
  • G Anders Lindback (one year, $650,000)*
  • RW Sean Backman (Eisbaren Berlin, DEL)
  • RW Devin Setoguchi (Adler Mannheim, DEL)

Re-signings

  • RW Tyler Toffoli (three years, $4,600,000 AAV)
  • LW Tanner Pearson (four years, $3,750,000 AAV)
  • C Nick Shore (one year, $925,000 AAV)
  • LW/C Andy Andreoff (two years, $667,500 AAV)
  • D Kevin Gravel (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
  • D Paul LaDue (one year, $874,125 AAV)*
  • RW Justin Auger (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
  • D Zachary Leslie (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
  • C Andrew Crescenzi (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
  • LW Michael Mersch (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
  • D Kurtis Macdermid (one year, $650,000 AAV)*
  • C Jonny Brodzinski (two years, $650,000 AAV)*

Unsigned

  • RW Jarome Iginla (UFA)
  • D Matt Greene (buyout, UFA)
  • LW Teddy Purcell (UFA)
  • C Patrick Bjorkstrand (non-tendered UFA)
  • LW Joel Lowry (non-tendered UFA)

*Denotes two-way contract.

Next up: we take a look at the Arizona Coyotes’ offseason on Tuesday.