Up next in the towering defensemen potentially available to the LA Kings in free agency this summer is New Jersey defenseman, Ryan Graves.

Another 6-foot-5 left-shot defenseman, Ryan Graves, will likely hit the market as the New Jersey Devils have a Baker’s Dozen worth of free agents to deal with. Besides, New Jersey has multiple left-shot defensemen under contract next season. Jonas Siegenthaler was recently signed to a contract extension, Brendan Smith has another year left on his deal, and top prospect Luke Hughes is ready for NHL action, so the Devils may not see a need for Graves.

It’s hard not to lump Graves in with the current pending LA Kings’ UFA Vladislav Gavrikov and Seattle pending UFA Carson Soucy. Given their size, handedness, and the need in Los Angeles, the trio all are likely to be considered, with the two outsiders coming into the picture if the Kings cannot find the money for Gavrikov.

Evolving Hockey has Gavrikov and Graves right around the same number ($4.6M AAV), and while I think that sounds about right for Graves, I still think Gavrikov is a $5M player. We’ll see.

Graves is long, and I don’t see why he wouldn’t fit comfortably into LA’s current system as Gavrikov did. All Three Zones tracking shows him as a player who was strong in defending his blueline on a very high-paced New Jersey team. In a hypothetical slower, 1-3-1 LA Kings system, there’s no reason Graves wouldn’t flourish.

Via All Three Zones

While I do think he offers a little more going forward than Gavrikov or Soucy, it isn’t substantial. Here’s a side-by-side from Evolving Hockey

In 78 games during the 2022-23 season, Graves scored eight goals and tallied 18 assists. Two points shy of his career-high 28 the season prior.

Like Soucy, Graves grades better than most LA defensemen regarding defensive zone retrievals and zone exits. If you’re sensing a theme in these articles, you’d be correct – it’s an area LA needs to improve:

Via All Three Zones

If it’s physical play you’re looking for, you probably won’t find it much with Graves. His 3.2 hits/60 ranked 201st in the NHL among defensemen.

One of the positives about Graves is he plays some of the toughest competition in the NHL:

Even with the tough competition, he put up some impressive possession numbers this season at 5-on-5 (per Natural Stat Trick):

Player CF% GF% xGF% SCF% HDCF%
Ryan Graves 51.9 57.9 53.6 54.3 56.8


All this to say – if the LA Kings are priced out of Vladislav Gavrikov, they’re likely priced out of Ryan Graves, considering the two will probably be in the same ballpark. I think, though, if the LA Kings have the money to choose between Gavrikov, Graves, and Carson Soucy, if they went with the cheapest option, I’d suspect the results and on-ice performance would be pretty similar in LA’s system.


(Main Photo Credit: Glenn James, NHLI, Getty)

3 thoughts on “LA Kings: Diggin’ Graves in the UFA market?

  1. How about trading Drew to Toronto (hometown) to clear up cap space and signing both of the defenceman. We get younger and tougher.

  2. Blake needs to give term thats what Gav wants/
    $5.5 x 8 to keep him from FA.
    His style is not tough on his body, he will age well.
    Mentor and partner for the platoon of potential upcoming Kings defenders: Bjornfot, Spence, Moverare, Grans, Clarke, Nousianianen and Krygier, over that time span.

  3. Having 3 LHD that are potentially good fits gives Blake some leverage. The Kings are so tight on cap space, the cheaper might be the better.

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