On the first day of NHL Free Agency, the LA Kings sign two for Ontario.
While Philip Danault is the headliner, the LA Kings also bolstered their organizational depth during Wednesday’s Free Agent extravaganza, inking forward T.J. Tynan and goaltender Garret Sparks to one-year deals.
The 28-year-old Sparks is expected to serve as a veteran back-up to prospect Matt Villalta – though Jacob Ingham is also pushing for time with the Reign. Sparks, whose two-way deal will pay him $750,000 in the NHL, has spent most of his career in the AHL – save for 34 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015-16 & 2018-19 along with one appearance for the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019-20 (his last NHL game).
He’s coming off a season, where in his 16 starts with the Stockton Heat, he boasted the 8th best save percentage in the AHL (.913) to go along with a 2.69 goals-against average and a 5-10 record. It wasn’t just Stockton where Sparks was with the Heat. He also spent some time in Orlando, Florida with the ECHL’s Solar Bears, putting up strong numbers there, including a 9.28 save percentage.
Again, this is mostly a deal for organizational depth as most of his time will be spent in Ontario, but should something happen in Los Angeles, he could be called on for backup duty in a pinch. One thing’s for certain, however, when Washington comes to town, don’t be surprised if he gets the call for a little Tom Wilson insurance. Everyone’s doing it, right?
A product of the University of Notre Dame, Tynan has been one of the top playmakers – and point producers – in the AHL in recent seasons for the Colorado Eagles. In his AHL career, he’s chipped in 0.79 points-per-game, and, over the past two seasons, he has put up an impressive 82 points in just 69 games (1.19 points-per-game).
It’s safe to say he’s a play-making center as of those 82 points, just 13 of them have come from him finding the back of the net on his own. Along with Brayden Burke, acquired via trade on Saturday, Ontario’s lineup will now have added two experienced AHL playmakers to help set up the exciting young forward prospects that are knocking on the door of the big club.
Back to Tynan, where I’ve very much buried the lede as he was named the 2020-21 AHL’s Most Valuable Player, finishing with 35 points in 27 games. The Illinois native was originally drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 3rd Round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He had a few seasons of modest production in the Blue Jackets system before making his NHL debut in 2016-17 with Columbus, going pointless in three games.
After two seasons in the Vegas Golden Knights organization, Tynan was signed by the Colorado Avalanche in 2019. His strong play earned him a call up to the NHL, where he played 16 games and picking up his first NHL point – an assist, naturally.
Like Sparks, Tynan’s contract is a two-way deal worth $750,000 in the NHL.
It remains to be seen how the Ontario Reign lineup will take shape. The addition of Danault to the Kings could signal Quinton Byfield starting in Ontario, with Tynan slotting in at second-line center. It would seem something may have to give with the impressive depth of the Kings’ center position, and the organization could likely continue to give Alex Turcotte some run on the wing; but make no mistake, this is a good “problem” to have.
Though we’re past the expansion draft, entry draft and day one of free agency, it is still relatively early in the offseason, so more moves are expected – likely both in Los Angeles and Ontario.