The LA Kings historically haven’t made big moves during free agency, which made their deal with Phillip Danault even more surprising.
TheScore recently called the Phillip Danault signing one of the best fits in free agency. Now, theScore columnist Brandon Maron named the deal one of the most surprising moves of the annual frenzy.
“Between the end of the playoffs and the start of free agency, Phillip Danault and the Canadiens seemed destined to part ways. The two sides agreed that Danault would test free agency, but that the door would remain open for him to return. Many thought he would eventually circle back to Montreal, unsure if a team would break the bank for the defensive pivot on the open market.
Danault wasted no time once free agency opened and put pen to paper on a six-year contract with a $5.5-million average annual value to join the Los Angeles Kings. The length and money were surprising, but the addition suddenly makes the Kings an intriguing team in a weak division. Danault seems like he’ll be a perfect fit behind Anze Kopitar in the immediate future, but with young centers Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte looking to make the jump to the NHL, his role in the later years of the contract couldn’t be more unclear.”
LA Kings ready to take the next step
Throughout the LA Kings’ rebuild, general manager Rob Blake has taken a slow and patient approach. For the most part, Blake avoided signing players to big deals during free agency. Before the Danault signing, Blake’s most memorable splash was the 2018 signing of Ilya Kovalchuk. The move was well-intentioned but unsuccessful and ended on a bitter note.
Cautious signings previously made sense for the LA Kings, given their place in the standings. With the team not ready to compete for a playoff spot, it made sense to focus on signing depth players. Blake handed out contracts to players like Ben Hutton, Joakim Ryan, and Christian Folin. Depth veteran signings kept young players from rushing into the NHL before they were ready.
The LA Kings have gradually reshaped their roster over the past few years. With the trade for Viktor Arvidsson, the emergence of top prospects, and the Danault signing, the LA Kings are signaling that they are ready to move up in the standings in the overall weak Pacific division.
TheScore also gave the nod to the New Jersey Devils’ acquisition of Dougie Hamilton and Philipp Grubauer’s move to Seattle. Additionally, they recognized Corey Perry’s jump to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex Ovechkin‘s new contract, stretching until he’s 41 years old, also made the list.