Los Angeles currently sits with just over $4.5 million in cap space – but after accounting for RFAs, that brings it down to under $2 million. And, oh, they still need a goalie. How do they make this work?
With the help of CapFriendly, I took a stab at a potential option.
First, RFAs Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Samuel Fagemo, and Tobias Bjornfot would all be signed to Qualifying Offers. As noted above, this really puts a dent in the available cap space to fit in a goaltender. Someone has to be on the way out.
As Rob Blake alluded to, after acquiring Dubois, the team has made sacrifices and may need to make more. One of those could be Viktor Arvidsson and his $4.25 million contract. I think the way to acquire a goaltender is to trade Arvidsson and fill his spot with a capable Unrestricted Free Agent.
To move Arvidsson’s contract, I look to the East. The Ottawa Senators are an up-and-coming team with playoff aspirations in 2023-24. They’re likely to move on from Alex DeBrincat this summer, so they’ll have some money to play with. Arvidsson would bring a hard-working veteran winger who can produce to a young Senators lineup. On the high end, I think Arvidsson could net a 2024 second-round pick.
Now, to the goalie.
If I’m Blake, I am calling Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins. The B’s just traded Taylor Hall to the Chicago Blackhawks to get some much-needed cap relief. Boston is seeing an exodus of forwards with the likely retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, not to mention the trade above of Hall. They hope to get Tyler Bertuzzi re-signed, but it seems he could hit the open market. Either way, this is a team that needs all the money they can get to fill out their roster.
The Kings would have acquired a 2024 second-round pick in my hypothetical trade with Ottawa, or LA has their own 2025 second to use in a deal with the Bruins. This could require an additional asset (a mid-level prospect or perhaps Carl Grundstrom, which would free up a little more money).
The 24-year-old Swayman is coming off another good season, posting a .920 save percentage, and was top-ten in GSAx for goalies who played at least 20 games in 2022-23 (per MoneyPuck). However, he suffered a lower-body injury in November that cost him a chunk of the season. I would ink Swayman to a three-year deal with the Kings that pays him a total of $6.675 million ($2.25 AAV). This deal gives Swayman (and the Kings) a little security while bringing him to his UFA year where he can test the market.
Now, the Kings still have a hole to fill with Arvidsson’s absence. There are a few UFAs that are underappreciated players that I think the Kings could get for around $2 million.
One is Conor Sheary. The 31-year-old winger would be a good fit on the third line, and he’s more than capable of chipping in offensively. Last season, Sheary scored 15 goals and 37 points while playing in all 82 games. He’s a versatile winger capable of playing in the top six in a pinch. He’s coming off a deal that paid him $1.5 million.
The player I settled on for this exercise is Evan Rodrigues. The 30-year-old is among the more underrated players in the NHL, and I think he is a perfect fit for the middle six in Los Angeles.
Rodrigues is an excellent five-on-five player, and the only thing that holds him back is his inability to finish. But he’s strong defensively and is a good play-driver. He can play with top players and can play either center or wing. Historically, he’s yet to find teams that appreciate what he brings to the table. He didn’t ink his one-year $2 million deal with Colorado until September last year. Coming off a season where he scored 39 points in 69 games, maybe this will be the year NHL GMs have caught on, but I’m banking on the 5’11” forward being overlooked again.
For my exercise, I signed Rodrigues to a two-year contract that pays him a total of $4 million ($2M AAV).
Alas, here is your 2023-24 LA Kings:
It is worth noting that there are 22 players on the above roster. Blake alluded to the fact that there may be times this season when the team wouldn’t carry a full 23-man roster, so this could be something they consider. Though, I think the Kings can also make this work by trading Grundstrom.
A few points on my roster:
- I am keeping the top line intact from the second half of last season. This was dominant at times, and I am comfortable running it back.
- How this second line shakes out remains to be seen, but this could be a truly dominant line. By my tracking, Kevin Fiala was the team’s top shot contributor at 5-on-5, while Trevor Moore was third and is also an excellent play driver. With Dubois between them, that has great potential.
- The third line is a sneaky one. It may seem unassuming, but you have a play-driving, two-way center in Danault, a play-driving two-way winger in Rodrigues, and a north-south sniper in Arthur Kaliyev. This could be the most productive third line the LA Kings have had in a while.
- Blake Lizotte can run any fourth line, and it’s a good opportunity for Samuel Fagemo.
- Yes, I am comfortable going with a pairing of Brandt Clarke and Jordan Spence. I am choosing to have Clarke on the left since the weakest part of his game is his feet, and I think Specne may be better suited to go back and retrieve pucks in LA’s 1-3-1. Tobias Bjornfot is there if need be as well.
Lastly, the main reason for this exercise is to try to determine if there is a way to move Arvidsson’s contract, find a capable starting goaltender, and also backfill Arvidsson with a legitimate middle-six player. Maybe it isn’t this exact scenario – but there are options for the LA Kings to thread the needle of not losing out up front and finding an NHL goaltender.
(Main Photo Credit: Matt Stone/Boston Herald)