Less than a week after winning Lord Stanley’s Cup, head coach Darryl Sutter is already preparing to start his quest for a repeat. Will the eight seed that could become a Western Conference powerhouse for the upcoming seasons?
Due to General Manager Dean Lombardi locking up several players for long-term deals, the Kings only have three unrestricted free agents this offseason in Jarrett Stoll, Dustin Penner, and Colin Fraser. In addition, the Kings have some valuable pieces in their farm system and available to trade.
Jarrett Stoll is the best faceoff man the Kings have and provides a major scoring threat on the third line. Stoll also plays a major role on both the penalty kill and power play. Due to his cup experience, expect a lot of teams to pursue Stoll this offseason. If he is willing to stay in Los Angeles for a slightly cheaper price, look for the Kings to lock him up for the next few years.
Although Dustin Penner did not have the scoring success that the Kings had hoped when they originally acquired him, Penner has developed an important role as a strong possession forward on the second line with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Penner played far more physical this postseason and scored several key goals including the overtime winner against the Coyotes to send the Kings to the Finals. The Kings can afford to lose Penner because a healthy Simon Gagne would fit nicely on a line with former teammates Richards and Carter, but it is important for the Kings to make an attempt to resign Penner because of his newfound physical identity.
Colin Fraser turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Kings, but don’t expect him to come back to Los Angeles if his price tag is too high. Expect Fraser to be replaced by twenty-year-old Kyle Clifford, who spent a lot of time developing his game this last year.
One of the most important tasks for Kings’ management this offseason is resigning Jonathon Quick to a LONG-TERM deal. Quick has one year left on his contract, but expect him to be making top dollar and wearing a Kings’ jersey for the rest of his life. The Kings cannot afford to let the Conn Smythe winner test the free agency waters.
Don’t be surprised if the Kings bring in a big player through a trade this offseason. Backup goalie Jonathon Bernier is one of the best young goalies out there, and was actually supposed to be the Kings goalie of the future. However, the emergence of Jonathon Quick has left Bernier as the best backup in the league, and teams looking for goalies will surely have high interest in the young net minder.
Every defenseman for the Kings is under contract for the 2012 season, and star forwards Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Justin Williams are locked up for the next two years. If the Kings were to add any pieces in free agency, expect them to add some goal scorers because their offensive game could still use some work. Some potential free agents that Lombardi is rumored to be interested in are Devils’ left-winger Zach Parise and Capitals left-winger Alexander Semin, both of which would provide tremendous offensive firepower.
It is very hard to win back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships, but the Kings have set themselves up pretty nicely for the next several years. Think of the Kings as the NHL equivalent of the Oklahoma City Thunder.