The Kings need goals. Left wing Tanner Pearson, who scored a career-best 24 for them last season and ranked second on the team in that category, needed a new contract or he would have become a restricted free agent.
With a minimum of fuss and what Pearson called “a bit of negotiating” after talks intensified about three weeks ago, they agreed on a four-year, $15-million contract that was announced Tuesday. The deal appears to be a win for both sides: The salary cap-squeezed Kings will take on an annual cap hit of $3.75 million, which is more than reasonable for a 24-year-old forward who’s on an upward career arc, and Pearson got his wish to continue his career with the Kings.
“The main goal was to stay here in L.A. I want to stay here for long-term and we were able to come to a deal that was good for everyone,” he said during a conference call with reporters. “I’m happy to be here still.”
Pearson will be paid $3.5 million in 2017-18, $3.8 million in 2018-19, and $3.85 million each of the last two seasons. That’s a healthy jump from his previous contract, which had an average annual value of $1.4 million.
Pearson earned his raise, establishing career high marks in goals, points (44), game-winning goals (five) and power-play goals (three). He and Jeff Carter tied for the team lead in shooting percentage, with a success rate of 12.8%.
With Pearson under contract, the Kings’ most prominent impending restricted free agent is right wing Tyler Toffoli, whose dip from 31 goals in 2015-16 to 16 last season might have been related to a knee injury. Toffoli underwent a procedure on his knee after the season ended.
Pearson expressed faith in new general manager Rob Blake and in coach John Stevens, who replaced Dean Lombardi and Darryl Sutter, respectively, after the team’s second non-playoff finish in three seasons. Stevens’ mission is to generate more offense, which could help Pearson flourish.
“Obviously that was a pretty crazy time for everyone at the end of the year,” Pearson said. “It’s always good to have somebody you know behind the bench and still focus on the right things. Blakey has been around the game a long time and I think he’s going to do a good job too.”
Earlier in the day, the Kings traded backup goaltender Ben Bishop to Dallas for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft. The Stars, whose 3.15 team goals-against average ranked 29th in the NHL last season, have exclusive rights to negotiate a contract with Bishop until July 1, when he can become an unrestricted free agent.
Bishop appeared in seven games with the Kings and was 2-3-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. His departure leaves the Kings without an established backup to Jonathan Quick, who missed much of last season because of a groin injury.
One potential candidate is in house. “Really liked the way Jack Campbell played this year,” Blake said via email, referring to the top goalie for the Kings’ farm team in Ontario (Calif.) of the American Hockey League.
The Kings also might add an experienced goalie to fortify the depth in their organization.
Lombardi acquired Bishop from Tampa Bay on Feb. 26 for goalie Peter Budaj, defense prospect Erik Cernak and a seventh-round pick in 2017 with the idea that a tandem of Quick and Bishop would give the Kings strong enough goaltending to get them into the playoffs despite their sputtering offense. That didn’t happen, and both Lombardi and Sutter were fired.
The draft pick the Kings received from Dallas originally belonged to Montreal. As of now the Kings hold eight picks in the draft, including selections in the first, second and third rounds.
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