After three atrocious years of missing the playoffs, first round exits by the Sharks and then a four-game sweep by the expansion franchise Golden Knights, the Los Angeles Kings are ready to do battle in the Pacific again.
The first order of business in this offseason was getting defenseman Drew Doughty signed to a long contract with the Kings. Doughty has stated, “I don’t want to win a cup anywhere else but L.A. That’s the bottom line.”
As the rumor mill whirled on where he would go, Kings’ fans let out a sigh of relief when the organization inked the Norris Trophy winner for eight more years. This was a message that Rob Blake and Luc Robitaille believed that Doughty could deliver them to another Cup run.
Some bright spots for the Kings last year were from Selke winner, Anze Kopitar, who put up 92 points. Dustin Brown with 61 points (an improvement of 25 more than last year), Jake Muzzin, who had 34 assists (15 more than last season) and even Trevor Lewis saw increased point production last season with 14 goals and 12 assists. The Kings improved their goals per game by .46 this season.
The Kings did not sit quietly this offseason, signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a three year $18.75 million dollar contract. Kovalchuk, a first overall pick in 2001 by the Atlanta Thrashers, has back to back 40-goal seasons, is fifth all-time in the NHL for overtime goals scored (14), 18th all-time in goals per game (.511), and has two 50+ goal seasons.
While he spent the last five years in the KHL, Kovalchuk was the 2018 Olympic MVP for Russia. Scored 120 goals in the regular season, and was selected to five all-star games. If Kovalchuk only scores 35 goals, he will be a tremendous asset to this goal-starved team.
That 70's line suffered the greatest last season at the loss of Jeff Carter. Coach John Stevens tried to fill the hole in the lineup as best he could, shifting Adrian Kempe to third line center or moving Trevor Lewis into the slot.
Tanner Pearson is under contract for 3 more years at $3.75 million per and Tyler Toffoli with two more years left at $4.6 million per year. These “70s” need to score more than 39 goals a season collectively if the Kings are to be successful in the future.
Ilya Kovalchuk-Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown
Tanner Pearson-Jeff Carter-Tyler Toffoli
Alex Iafallo-Adrian Kempe-Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford-Nate Thompson-Michael Amadio
Extra forward: Torrey Mitchell
Drew Doughty-Jake Muzzin
Alec Martinez-Oscar Fatanberg
Derek Forbort-Dion Phanuef
Best case scenario:
-The Kings will have one of the best power plays in the league with Kopitar, Kovalchuk, Carter, Doughty, and Muzzin.
-Doughty has another Norris contending season, playing upwards of 36 minutes a game.
-Quick has another 2012 Vezina Trophy winning season and steals a few key games around November to help the Kings into the playoffs once again, carrying the team on his back.
Worst case scenario:
- Half of the Kings roster is over 30, and they just signed ANOTHER 35-year-old.
-Kovalchuk is a bust and the Kings are no better off than with Jarome Iginla and Michael Cammalleri of the seasons past.
- Losing Jonathon Quick to another injury would handicap the Kings, even with promising netminder Jack Campbell backing him up.
Do the Kings have what it takes to get back to the cup final? I think they do. I believe in what Robitaille and Blake are doing for the future with drafting Gabriel Vilardi, goaltender Matt Vallalta, and this year’s 20th overall, Rasmus Kupari.
I see the Kings as a solid third in the Pacific Division by April.
How do you think the LA Kings will do in 2018/19? Let us know in the comment section below and be sure to give us a follow on Twitter by searching (@VAVELNHL_ENG).