After a flurry of activity this weekend in which several forwards were moved to other teams, who could the LA Kings be targeting approaching free agency?
If you thought the movement leading up to the NHL Draft was crazy, just wait until the free agency frenzy period officially opens on Wednesday. LA Kings general manager Rob Blake spoke with the media following Day 1 of the 2021 NHL Draft on Friday, reiterating the team’s desire to add another top-six forward.
Los Angeles added Viktor Arvidsson, acquiring the 28-year-old in exchange for two draft picks; however, several forwards the Kings were linked to were moved in draft-day deals. With the Coyotes taking on over $11M in bad contracts, Arizona was able to stockpile draft capital to make a splash.
That move acquired the ninth-overall pick from Vancouver, sending Conor Garland as part of the package the other way.
The Florida Panthers also look to take another step toward contending for a Stanley Cup title, acquiring Sam Reinhart for their 2022 first-round pick and goalie Devon Levi. Both players were 25-year-old RFAs who would have been great additions to the LA Kings top-six group of forwards, but where does the organization go from here?
Elliotte Friedman reported on his 31 Thoughts podcast that “someone said to me that they wouldn’t be surprised if LA makes a play for Phillip Danault. They have a ton of young centers. [Drew] Doughty and [Anze] Kopitar have made it clear that they want to win. The other thing is you shield some of those guys with Kopitar and Danault. I’m just not sure how they make it all work.”
Danault, 28, is a former 26th overall pick in 2011 of the Chicago Blackhawks. He’s spent the last five-and-a-half seasons with Montreal, tallying a career-best 53 points in the 2018-19 season. In the shortened 2021 campaign, he accumulated five goals and 19 assists while playing an integral role in the team’s penalty kill and defensive zone faceoffs.
The unrestricted free agent is a centerman by trade, but he also played a fair amount along the right wing in the latter half of the 2019-20 season. He’s projected to fetch a seven-year contract at $6.2M AAV.
Will the Blues move Vladimir Tarasenko before the start of the 2021-22 season? GM Doug Armstrong noted that the disgruntled forward “has to prepare like he’s coming back to St. Louis.” The LA Kings were one of a handful of teams that were reportedly willing to take on all his remaining salary, but it would appear that the Blues aren’t anything close to the asking price.
However, when you expose Tarasenko to the Seattle expansion draft, along with his well-documented trade request, the Blues had very little leverage to begin with. Perhaps in Taranseko’s case, it’s a matter of beginning the year in St. Louis but building enough trade value and being moved at the trade deadline.
Another player exposed to Seattle, Gabriel Landeskog is reportedly looking for big money as he and the Avalanche couldn’t reach a long-term agreement prior to protected lists being due. And with defenseman Cale Makar receiving a six-year, $54M contract, will the Avs pony up for Landeskog?
A team like the LA Kings could sneak in and give Landeskog the term and the dollars he’s seeking, making them legitimate playoff contenders in the process. Doughty and Kopitar want to win? Sign Landeskog.
The impending UFA is a year removed from a 57-point campaign. The 29-year-old was limited to 40 games in the shortened 2021 campaign with a lower-body injury sustained in February. Jaden Schwartz still finished with eight goals and 13 assists. Evolving Hockey projects his next contract to be a three-year deal at a $4.8M AAV.
The Kings were linked to Bertuzzi before the expansion draft, and it might be time to revisit the 26-year-old. A restricted free agent, the Sudbury, Ontario, native was limited to only nine games in the 2021 season with a back injury. He still recorded five goals and seven points before leaving for the year. Prior to the injury, Bertuzzi put up back-to-back 47-plus-point seasons.
If the Avalanche circle back and re-sign Landeskog, Brandon Saad might make the most sense for the LA Kings. A player with a ton of postseason experience, the 28-year-old had 15 goals and nine assists in 44 regular-season games last year. Saad shined in the postseason, scoring seven goals with an assist in 10 games.
He’s a strong puck possession forward (55.2 career CF%) and would get the opportunity to play big minutes in Los Angeles after averaging just 14:06 TOI in Colorado last year.