Kings Free Agents: Who Stays, Who Goes?
I’ll be separating the RFA’s and UFA’s, ranking them in order of priority.
The Los Angeles Kings don't have a lot of free agents this summer, but they have some important ones.
With four restricted free agents (RFA) and three unrestricted free agents (UFA), Rob Blake is in for a busy summer.
Bringing everyone back would require moving players on and I'd expect a few on this list to hit free agency.
I'll be separating the RFA's and UFA's, ranking them in order of priority.
Certainly, priority one for the RFA's, Gabe Vilardi might be priority one overall this summer. It isn't a matter of if, but for how much and how long with Vilardi.
Rob Blake didn't commit one way or the other when asked about signing Vilardi long-term during his exit interview. But was quick to point out Vilardi's consistency, not only on-ice consistency, but off-ice too.
"We need Gabe to be able to play full seasons," said Blake. "I think you're starting to see a little bit of his potential, which is real good. He was committed this year, not on the offensive side, on both sides."
To me, that sounds like a bridge deal for Vilardi. And I imagine that will make negotiations easier. I doubt Vilardi wants to sign long-term after his breakout season.
He'll want another "prove it" type contract. Two years at $3-4 million makes sense for both sides.
Vilardi can prove he's a 30-goal 60-point player over the next two seasons and set himself up for a big pay raise. And the Kings don't commit themselves long-term to a player who has one productive NHL season under his belt.
The Kings also free up a lot of cap space in the next two seasons. They drop Anze Kopitar's $10 million dollar hit, Viktor Arvidsson's $4.25 million and Matt Roy's $3.15 million.
Obviously, that will be re-distributed into other areas. But a good chunk of that extra money can go to Vilardi if he plays as he did last season consistently.
There's also the possibility that Vilardi files for arbitration if they can't strike a deal. But the Kings are going to try and avoid that.
I've talked about Rasmus Kupari a lot over the last few months, so there isn't much left to say about him.
He made big strides in his 200-foot game last season. Became a reliable faceoff taker and penalty killer. But needs to find that next level offensively.
I'd expect a two-year contract for Kupari, somewhere around the low $1 million range, maybe even just below $1 million.
The uncertainty surrounding his offensive ceiling makes it difficult to commit anything long-term to him and makes it unlikely he wants to commit long-term.
After two years, the team will know for sure if he's a career fourth-line center or if there's more to him. Then a long-term contract can be figured out.
If Jaret Anderson-Dolan was a UFA, I'd expect him to test free agency, but as an RFA he's limited in his options.
He proved last season he's capable of playing in the NHL. But it's difficult to see a spot for him on the roster next season. Early projections would have him as a 13th or 14th forward and with players like Samuel Fagemo knocking on the door, he could fall further down the pecking order.
There's no incentive for the Kings to let him walk, so I'd imagine he's brought back for next season.
He could be packaged in a deal or used as a reliable pinch hitter again next season. There's value in having a quality replacement option.
Anderson-Dolan has a future as a consistent NHL contributor, but I question if that's with the Kings.
The term of his contract will be interesting, and I'm guessing the AAV comes in somewhere around $825,000-$975,000.
Amongst this group, I'd expect Zack MacEwen to be the one player who doesn't return. Brought in on deadline day to replace Brendan Lemieux, MacEwen never really found a consistent spot on the roster and didn't impress much when he played.
There isn't much reason to bring MacEwen back. The only reason I could see the Kings doing it is MacEwen's health.
When he was acquired. MacEwen was recovering from a broken jaw and couldn't effectively play his role knowing he couldn't fight.
It's possible the Kings see value in a fully healthy MacEwen because they don't have anyone that matches his profile. But those players aren't too hard to find, and with spots hard to come by, I don't see him back.
Vladislav Gavrikov established himself as a true top-four defenseman during his 26 total games with the Kings and fit the team's system perfectly.
For a few years now fans have been crying out for a second-pairing left defenseman and Gavrikov was the answer. He formed an excellent partnership with Matt Roy and even flashed a bit of offense.
With Gavrikov, it isn't a question of whether the Kings want him back, but whether they can afford it.
There isn't going to be a ton of cap space available to the Kings this summer and he's going to want a big pay raise.
If the Kings can find a taker for Sean Walker, things become a bit easier, but it all depends on how much Gavrikov wants.
The Kings will be looking for a similar AAV to Mikey Anderson's $4.1 million, but assuming they aren't going to sign the soon-to-be 28-year-old Gavrikov for eight years. I'd expect the AAV to come up a little bit there.
Something around five years, $4.5-$5 million would be a good projection for the Kings. But Gavrikov might be able to command more in the open market. If a team wants to offer him $6 million a year, I don't see the Kings matching it.
During his exit interview, Gavrikov spoke highly of his time with the Kings and the organization as a whole. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see him test free agency.
It's important to remember, he can test free agency and still sign with the Kings. It makes sense for him to test the waters and see if there's a massive contract on the table for him. If not, he can come back and sign with the Kings.
If the Kings can lock him up at $5 million or less, they should jump all over it. Anything more and I don't think it makes sense for them. He was great, but the Kings shouldn't be paying a huge premium for a second-pairing defenseman.
I would have put Joonas Korpisalo above Gavrikov a week ago, but Blake's exit interview changed that a bit.
I'm always cautious about reading too much into what Blake says in press conferences, but he was adamant that the Kings want Cal Petersen to be an NHL goalie again.
If there's any truth to that, the idea that they'd go out and sign Korpisalo this summer just doesn't seem realistic.
They already have $6.5 million committed to goalies next season and adding another $3 million or so doesn't make sense. They might use the money they save not signing Korpisalo to lock up Gavrikov and run with a Copley/Petersen tandem next season.
It would be a massive risk for Blake, but I can't squint and see the world where that happens.
If Blake was overselling the team's commitment to Petersen and they find a way to shed his contract. I'd almost guarantee they'll make a big run at Korpisalo this summer.
A deal around three years at $3-$4 million would be ideal for the Kings and gives them security for the next few seasons in net.
It also fits into the timeline for recently acquired Erik Portillo to slowly integrate himself into an NHL spot and take over as the starter at the end of Korpisalo's contract.
It seems like Korpisalo's future is directly tied to Petersen's and how serious Blake is about Petersen being an NHL goalie next season.
This is an easy one, it's very unlikely Alex Edler returns next season.
I can't imagine a world where the Kings bring back the 37-year-old defensemen who they scratched in the playoffs. I also expect Edler to retire from the NHL this summer.
It's been a great career for Edler, but it was clear this season he couldn't keep up with the NHL's speed anymore.
Tobias Bjornfot looked capable in his ten games with the team last season and I'd expect him to take over Edler's spot.