LA Kings Phillip Danault

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Per The Athletic, the LA Kings are the third-most improved on paper, but is it enough to make the postseason?

Per LA Kings general manager Rob Blake, the goal for the upcoming season was simple – make the playoffs. It was something that the former Kings defenseman noted in his year-end exit interview – the current roster was not good enough – and he did something about it. Before the NHL’s free agency period opened up, Los Angeles acquired Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators.

On the first day of free agency, forward Phillip Danault was inked to a six-year contract and defenseman Alexander Edler was on his heels at a one-year deal.

And per The Athletic‘s Dom Luszczyszyn, the Kings are the third-most improved team this offseason, just behind the Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils. According to the roster model, the Kings are expected to have 3.5 more wins than last season.

LA Kings
Photo Credit: The Athletic

Here’s what Luszczyszyn said in his breakdown.

Los Angeles’ biggest issue was depth last season, at every position. They didn’t have much top end talent either, but the lack of talent throughout the lineup was also concerning. That’s been addressed here, first with a trade for Viktor Arvidsson and then with two key signings in Phillip Danault and Alex Edler.

Arvidsson was once a bona fide top line winger and it’s possible he can regain that in Los Angeles, especially if he slots in next to Anze Kopitar. He grades out as a second-liner, as does Danault who now gives the team a solid one-two punch down the middle. That should take some stress off Kopitar while also shielding prized prospect Quinton Byfield as he makes the jump to the big leagues. Both additions add some much needed presence to the top six.

Edler isn’t what he once was, but he can still play. His poor results can mostly be explained by environment and he’ll either be a nice complement to Drew Doughty or a decent anchor on another pair. He still has some game. – The Athletic

But is it enough to make the playoffs?

As is, the Kings have just $2.7M in salary cap space left for the season. By all accounts and barring any unforeseen trades, Blake is probably done adding to the roster. Using JFresh Hockey’s WAR Roster Builder 4.0 model, I plugged in the projected Kings lineup – including Quinton Byfield – yielding 83 points in the standings.

Note in this lineup projection, Gabe Vilardi was moved to the wing and Lias Andersson is exposed to waivers. If cleared, he would begin the year in Ontario.

Scenario 1

LA Kings
Photo Credit: JFresh Hockey

In the scenario below, Byfield begins the year in Ontario, with Vilardi at the 3C and Andersson on his wing. The roster projects an 84-win club. Between the two rosters, there are no changes to the defense. After listening to Thomas Drance, who covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Athletic, I really like the Edler-Walker pairing. Kale Clague is no longer waiver exempt, so he will get a long look this year as well.

The defensive pairings lend toward an offensive-minded defenseman paired with a defensive defenseman, which seems to be favorable heading into the season. That said, the LA Kings D corps does not project to produce a whole heck of a lot of offense, but that can obviously change if Edler returns to 19-20 form and Clague taps into his offensive potential under a full season at the NHL level.

Scenario 2

LA Kings
Photo Credit: JFresh Hockey

On paper, Vegas, Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton all appear to have better rosters than the Kings in the Pacific Division, but that’s why the games are played. Even if the Kings do not make the playoffs in the 2021-22 campaign, there can be signs of encouragement if the team is trending toward becoming a perennial playoff contender.

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