Now that the Stanley Cup Final is over, it’s time for the silly season! For all the speculation that comes with the silly season, we have come up with LA Kings Pick ‘Em – which will look at players of similar positions that might be available and best for the team. Today’s matchup is Brandon Saad vs. Jaden Schwartz.

The LA Kings will be big players this offseason. They actually already started by trading for winger Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators. This shouldn’t be the end of their moves, as the team has made it known they are looking for another top-six winger and a dynamic, young left-shot defenseman.

The defensemen wish list will be discussed at some point, but not in this article. This article will discuss two of the top wingers expected to hit unrestricted free agency – Brandon Saad and Jaden Schwartz.

Per CapFriendly, the LA Kings have a lot of salary cap space. They currently have $14.6 million available, although after they sign their own remaining restricted free agents, the number will probably be closer to $12 million. Even still, that is a lot of money to go after any player they want to go after.

Anyone who has read my recent work knows that I am fully on board with the Kings going after Dougie Hamilton, but for this exercise, let’s assume they do not land him and the large salary cap hit he would command. Instead, the Kings can be the top bidder for either Saad or Schwartz, but should they?

Let’s take a closer look at each player.

Brandon Saad

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It appears that Brandon Saad could end up as a salary cap causality in Colorado. With big contracts looming for Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog, and Philipp Grubauer, the Avalanche might simply not have enough cap room to bring the 6-foot-1, 206-pound Saad back. This is a situation the LA Kings are poised to take advantage of.

Brandon Saad will turn 29 at the end of October and has been a consistent points producer since he entered the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2012. Known as a “power forward,” Saad uses his size to his advantage and can play on either wing. He also has a knack for putting the puck in the net, which the LA Kings desperately need. In nine NHL seasons, Saad has scored at least twenty goals in at least five of them. In the abbreviated 2021 regular season, Saad scored fifteen goals for the Colorado Avalanche.

Saad is coming off of a contract that paid him $6 million per season. To leave the powerhouse Avalanche, one has to assume he will want at least that, and probably even more. With all of their salary cap space, the LA Kings have the means to make Saad an enticing offer salary-wise, but they have to be careful about the term. The Kings have several high-profile forward prospects coming through the system that will need spots in LA.

They don’t want to get locked into a long-term contract with Saad and have his salary still on the books as the prospects develop and eventually want to get paid themselves. If Saad wants big money now in the time of the flat salary cap, a four-year, $28 million contract ($7 million AAV) could be acceptable for both sides.

Jaden Schwartz

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The St. Louis Blues had a nice push last season to secure the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Division. They were then demolished in four games by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round of the playoffs, and suddenly the 2019 Stanley Cup champions are a team in flux.

Star right-wing Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade, and the Blues will have to walk that tightrope of remaining playoff contenders while trying to get fresh faces in the lineup.

At 29 years of age, Jaden Schwartz has a reputation for being a “sniper.” Like Saad, he broke into the NHL in 2012, but unlike Saad, he has spent his entire career with one team. In his nine NHL seasons, Schwartz has topped the 20-goal mark four times. When healthy, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound left wing is a very effective player.

The keywords of that last paragraph are “when healthy.” Throughout his NHL career, Schwartz has been plagued by injuries – so much so that he has one full season under his belt and that was the COVID shortened 2019-20 season. Coming off of a $5.35 million AAV contract was a fair deal for both sides, given his injury history.

If the Blues decide to move on from Schwartz, he could be a backup option for the LA Kings if they miss on the other big fish free agent forwards.  Schwartz on a three-year contract with a $5.5 million AAV could actually be a very effective “placeholder” deal until the prospects are ready to spread their wings in Los Angeles.

The Verdict

The winner here is Brandon Saad. His durability and goal-scoring ability would be a very welcome addition to the LA Kings’ top-six group of forwards. Throw in his experience from deep playoff runs when he was in Chicago, and you have someone who will be great to have around the young players as the Kings emerge from their rebuild. If the Kings are going to make a splash in this offseason’s free-agent market, Brandon Saad is definitely a name they should consider.

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