Recently The Athletic published two articles examining each team’s best and worst value contracts in 2022-23.
They used an analytics model to determine who under or overperformed based on their cap hit last season.
It was an interesting article that didn’t spring too many surprises, but it made me want to examine the Los Angeles Kings’ contract situation. Looking at who The Athletic has down as the best and worst value contracts for the Kings and adding in anyone I think they missed.
I will make a few changes though. I won’t include entry-level contracts in the discussion and I’ll be looking at the contract overall, not just how it looked in the 2022-23 season.
Worst: Cal Petersen:
After discussing him at length earlier in the week, I don’t want to spend too much time on Cal Petersen here. But he has to feature here.
There’s not much that needs to be said about Petersen. He makes $5 million a year and played the majority of his games in the AHL, not ideal.
Even if Petersen rebounds next season and becomes a serviceable NHL goalie, it’s unlikely he justifies the $5 million price tag.
Best: Gabe Vilardi:
Coming out of his ELC, Gabe Vilardi signed a one-year prove-it deal for just $0.825 million. And boy did he prove it.
With 23 goals and 41 points in 63 games, Vilardi far exceeded any expectations set on him last summer. Add in solid defensive play and he was an absolute steal at $0.825 million.
Where things get interesting is his next contract. A pending RFA this summer, the Kings might be looking for a bridge deal to get Vilardi through the next season or two so they can lock him up long-term when cap space frees up. But, if they’re big-time believers in Vilardi they might lock him up long-term this summer.
Based on Rob Blake’s comments in his exit interview, I’m assuming it’s the former, but you never know. If he does sign that bridge deal, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him on this list again next year.
Worst: Drew Doughty:
The Athletic highlighted Drew Doughty as the Kings’ worst contract amongst skaters. This is technically true but still feels a little harsh on Doughty, especially when looking at last season only.
Is he an $11 million player? Of course not. But he was a top-pairing caliber defenseman who finished second in the league for average time-on-ice. He’s overpaid, but not grossly.
In fairness, The Athletic does point out that he’s still an excellent player, just not someone who should be carrying the seventh-highest cap hit in the league.
This contract only becomes problematic when you factor in more than just last season. There are still four years left on the deal and by the time it ends, this one could look brutal.
Doughty’s just 33 years old, but there are a lot of miles on those tires. Already above 1,000 games, Doughty’s also been a time-on-ice leader for most of his career.
By the end of that contract, you’re happy if he’s still a contributing second-pair defenseman, not ideal at $11 million a year.
Best: Mikey Anderson:
At just a $1 million cap hit, Mikey Anderson might have had the best non-ELC contract in the league last season. He’s a premier shutdown defenseman who plays against the opponent’s best players every night. Those players typically don’t look cheap.
Of course, his cap hit comes in the context of the Kings wanting to free up some cap space to lock him up long-term. And no matter how much the Kings deny it, I still believe there was a verbal agreement for a long-term deal when he signed for just one year. Or at least an understanding from both sides of what the plan was.
But even when you look at his extension, eight years at $4.125 million per year, that’s still a great contract for Anderson.
That contract takes Anderson to 32 years old and locks up a top-pairing defenseman for just over $4 million per year. Yes, his offense is limited, but you need those kinds of shutdown defensemen to win.
And Anderson’s a defenseman I expect to get better as he moves into his late 20s. He’ll peak physically around this time and become a more robust defender in the process. He’s already a very physically engaged player, but with peak strength to complement that physicality, he’ll be fantastic.
Fair Contracts All-Around:
Overall, the Kings have dished out some fair contracts over the years. There are a few more players who you can argue are over or underpaid. Trevor Moore might be slightly overpaid, although I want a healthy season before declaring that. And Adrian Kempe might be slightly underpaid, but there aren’t any big standouts.
If Anze Kopitar had more than one year left on his contract he’d also feature, but you can eat his $10 million hit so long as he continues to be a true number-one center.
Alex Iafallo is another contract I imagine people will call bad because of his limited offense. But I don’t think he’s overpaid enough to call it a bad contract. Given his defensive ability and versatility, he makes up for the limited offense.
Would you like some of these players to make less money? Of course, every fan wants every player on their favorite team to be on a value contract and overperform. But that’s not going to happen and, for the most part, the Kings get good value out of their contracts.