The Kings signed forward Adrian Kempe to a three-year deal Wednesday, locking up a member of their young core after a summer-long contract negotiation.
According to the team, the deal will be worth $2 million in average annual value for Kempe, who was a restricted free agent this offseason.
“It makes sense for him and it makes sense for us,” Kings President Luc Robitaille said. “We think he’s a great young player. Plays with a lot of pace, plays the way we want our players to play.”
A first-round draft pick in 2014, Kempe flashed potential in his first full NHL season in 2017-18. He had 16 goals and 21 assists and a plus-11 rating that year, helping the team to a playoff berth.
He took a step back last year, though. After a slow start that saw him total 13 points in his first 49 games, he finished the campaign with just 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists) and a minus-10 rating even as he played a career-high 20:29 per game. The Kings finished last in Western Conference.
“[This deal] gives him a chance to get another kick at the can,” Robitaille said. “Every player deserves that.”
Robitaille sees Kempe, who will turn 23 on Sept. 13, as an important piece to the franchise’s future. A 6-foot-2, 201-pound center who has represented Sweden in the last two World Championships, Kempe’s defensive play has already impressed Kings brass. Now, Robitaille wants to see him develop offensively.
“It’s up to him,” Robitaille said. “He’s played a certain role with our organization, with our team. This year, he senses that he has a little bit more of an offensive role he’s going to have to fulfill. That’s going to really give him a chance to probably create and get more chances.”
Kempe, whose brother Mario signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Kings in July, was one of several notable restricted free agents around the league who had a contract negotiation stretch deep into the summer. The deal Wednesday ensures he will be on the roster when the team’s training camp opens next week.
“We need guys like that, that come in and have a great attitude,” Robitaille said. “He works hard every day. Even though he’s only 22, he’s going to be helping some of our young guys coming in the next couple years.”