A busy off-season

The 2021 off-season was hectic and chaotic for Rob Blake and his LA Kings. They underwent numerous changes, including improving the defense, strengthening the offense in the top six and bottom six, and getting rid of some extra baggage in the depth area.

It’s undeniable that the LA Kings improved in every way, but it’s always fun to revisit all the management’s moves. Did the moves positively impact the Kings halfway through the 2021-22 season? Could’ve something been done differently? Or maybe, what moves will hurt the Kings if they haven’t already?

In this article, we’ll go over every single trade, signing, and decision that the LA Kings management had made in the off-season. Whether the moves hurt the team or not, I’ll go over every move and give a letter grade based on how I feel about the decision made.

Lias Andersson extension

The hype for Lias Andersson has officially settled throughout the fanbase, but that doesn’t mean that the 23-year-old has become entirely useless. 

Being used as an extra forward for most of this season, Lias Andersson has appeared in 13 games this year and has recorded a single assist throughout the 13 games. It hasn’t been great, but for a player who accepted his qualifying offer in July, it isn’t the end of the world.

I would’ve liked to see the young player take his game to a further level, but it hasn’t worked out, and it hurts to see.

Grade: C

Andreas Athanasiou One year extension

Even at the time, I wasn’t too big on the idea of extending Athanasiou. Knowing that he would be a speedy skater with great hands, it was apparent he would be receiving a new contract with a decent wage by someone in the NHL. I just wasn’t expecting it to be the LA Kings.

AA re-signed with the LA Kings on a one-year deal at 2.7 million dollars after having ten goals and 23 points in 47 games in 2020-21. He wasn’t anything more than a third-liner at the time of the signing, and that point still stands. 

Still, I’m not too fond of the extension because of the loss of cap while not getting it to a solid place. Meaning the Kings are losing 2.7m for a player that has played a total of 12 games on the season. Credit where credit is due, AA has looked perfectly fine in those 12 games. But he’s been pushed out of the lineup while being injured, and there truly isn’t a spot on the team anymore for him. Again, I can’t blame Athanasiou for his injuries, but I believe being healthy and helpful is a skill.

*Photo Credit: Evolving Hockey

It’s a good thing the contract is only one year because there won’t be any place on the team for Andreas by the start of next season. He’s a great player when his game is going, but the injuries have really hurt him this season, and therefore I’m not sold on the idea of the extension he received last summer.

Grade: C-

Viktor Arvidsson Trade

Although Arvidsson hasn’t been scoring at the 30 goal pace that Kings fans were hoping for him to do, I love (and to this day still love) this trade.

The Kings brought in Arvidsson in hopes of finding a high-scoring top-six player, and the Kings got precisely that. 

Arvidsson has exceeded my expectations as a player on almost every level. As he’s on pace for nearly 60 points and 23 goals, he’s been a fantastic two-way winger who’s used his speed and nifty skills to further his game.

*Photo Credit: The Athletic

He’s been one of LA’s most valuable players this season, and he’s been playing much better than I thought he would. He’s played so well that his fantastic play has shown that Viktor’s market value is 3.3 million dollars more than his current contract.

I realize that the Nashville Predators were looking to move out some caps and were pretty disappointed with his previous success. Still, I feel like they could’ve shed some money more innovatively without getting rid of Arvidsson. I feel lucky that we only got Viktor Arvidsson for a second and a third. The Kings had that luxury of moving away from a few picks because of an already deep prospect pool, and Blake used it to his full advantage by bringing Arvy to LA.

*Photo Credit: Andy & Rono

Although his finishing luck has severely hurt him, where else will you find a player for so cheap that contributes to most of your team’s shots while staying defensively responsible? I can’t stress enough how significant Arvidsson’s presence is now that he’s with the Kings, and I hope he can score a bit more to prove how valuable and talented he is.

Grade: A

Phillip Danault signing

I remember how many people were upset with signing a forward to a six-year deal at 5.5 million who only had five goals in 53 games the previous year, but man, that isn’t the case whatsoever. 

Danault has double the number of goals than he did last season in 12 fewer games, and he has almost the same amount of points. Even though he’s on pace for 44 points in an 82 game season, he’s been an offensive tank for the team.

*Photo Credit: Jfresh Hockey

Despite having some of the worst finishing luck in the entire NHL, he’s contributed to the offensive zone while remaining a legitimate Selke trophy contender. He was one of the biggest signings in the off-season among every NHL free agent, and he may as well be the best player out of the entire free agency class. I’ve loved every aspect of Danault’s game this year, and I have a feeling I’ll continue to love everything about his game for years to come. 

Of course, it’s still early into his contract, and it’s only been just a few games over 40 into his first season, but hopefully, he makes the length of the deal completely worth it. Without Phil Danault, I don’t think that the Kings would be second in the pacific division. 

Grade: A+

Alex Edler signing

There were nervous faces when Alex Edler first signed with the LA Kings, as people weren’t completely sold on bringing in a 35-year-old who’s had a few rough seasons at almost 4 million dollars against the cap. In the end, he proved us all wrong.

You could say that Edler’s been wholly rejuvenated as he’s had one of the best seasons of the recent years in his career. Not only has he re-started to put up points, but he’s also been a fantastic two-way player. With the Kings, Edler finally scored his 100th career goal and, before his horrific injury, had 11 points in 26 games played. Edler would have 18 points and two goals if he were still healthy. Not bad for a 35-year-old who was considered “washed up.”

Edler’s defensive game had saved the Kings earlier on, though. It was playing like this that made him so valuable to the Kings:

 

 

He and Matt Roy found great chemistry and were the clear shutdown pairing before Edler’s injury. Having Edler in LA has been so refreshing, especially since he not only brought a physical and intelligent defensive game, but was also a significant veteran presence for the younger players in the locker room.

The hope is that Edler returns sometime soon so he can help with the defensively struggling LA Kings, but with his painful-looking injury, he may be out for a little longer than hoped.

Grade: B+

Vladimir Tkachev Signing

Signing Vladimir Tkachev out of the KHL was a fantastic decision. He was going to take another go at the NHL, and he was willing to leave his home country of Russia to join the LA Kings. The hype was legit; this speedy and flashy winger would be a big part of the depth in LA. 

That all ended quickly when he was sent down to the Ontario Reign of the AHL and hasn’t been called up since. Tkachev has 19 points in 20 games in the AHL, and we all still wonder why he’s down there. I want to give this a high rating, but the lack of NHL playing time has dropped the rating. 

Grade: C+

Blake Lizotte Extension

When Lizotte received his extension, he wasn’t seen as anything more than an extra forward. Some people were happy about the return of Lizotte, and others were happy. I didn’t see a reason as to why Lizotte should return, but I was happily proven wrong when he found chemistry with Blake Lizotte and Arthur Kaliyev at the start of the season.

Lizotte is now up to 12 points in 37 games this season as LA’s fourth-line swiss-army knife centerman. He’s also pulled off some impressive moves, such as this goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning:

 

 

Lizotte has stepped up his game this season, and it’s nothing short of impressive and respectable. At the time of his contract, he was just a borderline extra player who looked fast. He looks like he went through a transformation this off-season, and now he looks like a legitimate NHL player who should stay up in the league for a long time. Signing him to a one-year deal was great, but at the 800k price point at what he’s at, you’d wish that he signed for longer. He’s in for a more significant contract this off-season.

*Photo Credit: Jfresh Hockey

Grade: B-

The draft

Rob Blake ripped through the 2021 NHL draft like a hurricane. He was moving on from his late-round picks to have earlier-round selections to have the best players available. This signified the end of the rebuild, and he wanted to have the best available players in the last rebuilding draft class.

Blake and his crew drafted Brandt Clarke with the 8th overall pick and took Samuel Helenius, Francesco Pinelli, and Kirill Kirsanov on the draft’s second day. Right now, Brandt Clarke happens to be one of the best defensive prospects in the entire NHL system. He’s up to 35 points in 29 games with the Barrie Colts of the OHL and is their current captain. 

Samuel Helenius tore up the IIHF U20 tournament in its short span and has been the physical and gritty player on his Liiga team, JYP. The 6 ‘6 forward looks more comfortable on North American ice than he does back in Europe, and picking him up in the later stages of the second round was a great decision.

Francesco Pinelli was named the captain of his OHL team, the Kitchener Rangers. Since then, he’s had 33 points in 30 games as their number one centerman and has been a solid piece to their team. Another excellent selection by Blake at 42nd overall.

Kirill Kirsanov was picked in the third round by the LA Kings, and he looks like quite the steal. He’s been a regular on SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL all season. He’s also been one of the best defensive defensemen on that team as well. Not to mention that SKA is one of KHL’s best teams. He has four assists in 24 games in Russia.

Rob Blake and the scouting crew crushed the draft and got away with some great players in the draft. It may have cost the Kings later-round picks, but it was worth it. We all know that it’s quality over quantity. 

Grade: A

Everyone has their stance on Rob Blake and how he runs the LA Kings, but the hard truth is, he’s an excellent GM, and his off-season was terrific. There were some disappointing moves, but he made the LA Kings a lot better in the end, and he’s on track to keep doing so. If the Kings keep taking the steps that they made last summer, there is no doubt in my mind that they can be a playoff team sooner than later.