Kings keep their core players, but there are issues too
The core is intact.
After a year to forget — better yet, the Kings’ annus horribilis, the horrible year — it’s noteworthy that the core pieces remain unscathed.
Goalie Jonathan Quick, a former Jennings Trophy winner — for his service with the team with fewest goals allowed — won’t be coming off wrist surgery, as he did last summer.
Defenseman Drew Doughty is still in his prime and finished second in Norris Trophy (top defenseman) voting in June, his highest career finish.
Center Anze Kopitar is in the early stages of negotiations for what will probably be a lengthy contract extension.
“Up front we are set with the addition of Lucic,” said Rob Blake, the Kings’ assistant general manager.
That would be power forward and left wing Milan Lucic. He was the big summer acquisition for the Kings, who got him from the Boston Bruins in exchange for backup goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and a first-round draft pick (13th overall) in the 2015 entry draft.
Jones was later traded to San Jose, and the Kings signed free agent Jhonas Enroth on Wednesday to fill the No. 2 goalie spot.
Up front, the Lucic deal will enable the Kings to move Marian Gaborik to a more comfortable and suitable spot on the right wing.
Potentially, the top two lines could be formidable: Kopitar centering Gaborik and Lucic, and veteran Jeff Carter centering left wing Tanner Pearson and right wing Tyler Toffoli.
After that, it gets tricky.
The potential third- and fourth-line centers could be Andy Andreoff and Nick Shore, two youngsters with a combined three goals and 52 games of NHL experience.
Everyone knows Kings Coach Darryl Sutter loves to play youngsters. That is sarcasm — but Sutter might have no choice.
General Manager Dean Lombardi has noted that the Kings don’t have a lot of cap space to make a big move, which is why they weren’t able to keep “rental defenseman” Andrej Sekera, who went to the Edmonton Oilers for a six-year, $33-million deal, or veteran Justin Williams. The forward went to the Eastern Conference, joining the Washington Capitals for a two-year deal worth $6.5 million.
There are two problematic issues for the Kings, the first concerning center Mike Richards, whose contract has been terminated by the club. But the expectation is that the NHL Players’ Assn. will appeal that move. Until the matter is resolved, the Kings won’t know their options for sure. If worst came to worst, they could always put him in the minors indefinitely.
Equally problematic is the situation revolving around defenseman Slava Voynov. After pleading no contest to a misdemeanor in the wake of a domestic violence charge, Voynov has been sentenced to 90 days in jail, meaning there is a chance he could still be unavailable as the Kings prepare to start their regular season Oct. 7 against the San Jose Sharks.
Complicating matters, he is still recovering from surgery for a torn Achilles’ tendon and the league still needs to conduct its investigation into the domestic violence incident.
So the uncertainty over the futures of Voynov and Richards will keep the Kings in limbo for the foreseeable future.
The upside of missing the playoffs this year is that the Kings will have the chance to recharge, thanks to a long off-season. They had played 11 playoff series in a three-year span — almost a full extra season. Williams, after signing with the Capitals, alluded to that in his introductory conference call.
“My head was upset when we didn’t make the playoffs, but my body said thank you,” Williams said.
The same sentiment presumably applies to his former teammates in Los Angeles.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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