The former 26th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft of the Chicago Blackhawks tallied a career-best 13 goals twice during his time with the Montreal Canadiens. Danault smashed that total with 27 goals in the 2021-22 campaign.
Inked to a lucrative six-year contract last summer, Danault was the first big fish in free agency that general manager Rob Blake reeled in during his tenure with the team. Accompanied by the Viktor Arvidsson trade days before and the Alexander Edler signing hours after, Danault was part of a veteran trio looking to swiftly accelerate the rebuild in Los Angeles.
The 29-year-old, who had only visited LA as a member of the visiting team, was now expected to take some of the defensive responsibilities away from Anze Kopitar while establishing a winning culture on a team with an influx of youth.
“I learned a lot about this team,” Danault said. “When I came in, I basically knew nothing about LA. I knew they had good young guys coming up, and they had a good core with Kopi, Quickie, Brownie, and Dewy. I think we achieved a lot of things this year, and we gained a lot of experience. It’s going to bring us far for the next few years, and I think we can be really good in the years coming up. We built a culture this year, and we stuck with it and where it brought us was pretty good, but we want to go further next year. A very good year overall for the team, and we’re going in the right direction. The future is bright.”
The Kings achieved a 99-point season and a third-place finish in the Pacific Division. Todd McLellan‘s club pushed the Edmonton Oilers to the brink of elimination in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs but couldn’t close out the series, despite taking a 3-2 lead.
Danault accumulated two of the team’s power-play goals, but the Kings just couldn’t find the offense to keep up with Connor McDavid, who racked up a healthy 14 points in the seven-game series.
In their first playoff appearance in four seasons, the LA Kings gained invaluable experience against the favored Oilers, with many players getting their first taste of the postseason.
Perhaps more impressive, the Kings nearly eliminated Edmonton without their top defenseman and one of their top-six forwards in Drew Doughty and Arvidsson, respectively.
With the offseason in front of them, Blake and the Kings’ brass will be tasked with adding pieces, the right pieces, to take the team to the next level in the 2022-23 season.
Danault, who had nothing but positive things to say about his first year in Los Angeles during the team’s year-end reviews, welcomed the opportunity to recruit talent to the City of Angels.
“Oh, I would love it,” he said. “I think we can do some damage very soon, and I think this is going to be an attractive place to be.”
This summer looks to be another favorable opportunity for the Kings to add to their roster. Of course, the big name, and likely most expensive, on the free-agent market is Filip Forsberg.
It’s unclear whether the Swedish forward will return to Nashville.
The reports around the trade deadline suggested the two sides were ever-approaching a contract extension. Forsberg’s long, slow skate around Bridgestone Arena after the Predators were swept cleanly in the first round of the playoffs might suggest otherwise.
The Jakob Chychrun rumors could resurface again, and the Kings were linked to the Coyotes defenseman at the deadline.
Whatever Blake does this summer, the Kings figure to be playoff contenders again in the 2022-23 campaign.
Of course, with Dustin Brown retiring after an 18-year NHL career, there will be a shift in leadership in Los Angeles.
Danault figures to be a leading candidate to take the vacant alternate captain role.
When Doughty missed time with a knee injury in December and again with a season-ending wrist injury, Danault was given the “A” in an interim capacity.
In the future, that could be made permanent.
“Yeah, the ‘A’ for me meant a lot,” Danault said. “I told Blakey too, thanks for believing in me. It just shows exactly what they were thinking of me, the leadership, the energy, the experience. To put an ‘A’ on my jersey, I was very proud to wear it every night. I want to make a difference every night for my team, in a good way, and every year, I want to do a little bit more.”