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Kings Options to Fix Goaltending Problem



Joonas Korpisalo

Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake has done most of his offseason work early this year.

However, he still has one glaring issue to fix.

The goaltending.

After trading Cal Petersen and to the Philadelphia Flyers to create cap space for Vladislav Gavrikov, the Kings have just one NHL goalie signed right now. Pheonix Copley.

Copley was solid last season but is a 1B caliber goalie at best.

The Kings still need to find their ace in goal if they’re serious about competing next season.

Fortunately for the Kings, there are plenty of options out there.

Joonas Korpisalo:

The first and potentially safest option is working out an extension for Joonas Korpisalo.

There have been reports over the last few days that the Kings and Korpisalo’s agents have hit a roadblock in contract negotiations. But I wouldn’t rule anything out yet.

The Kings did give up a pretty penny for Korpisalo and Gavrikov at the deadline. And while they’d be okay walking away this summer with just Gavrikov, they’d be even happier to bring both back.

Korpisalo did enough last season to earn himself an extension too. He was excellent in the regular season after coming over from Columbus. Posting a .921 save percentage and stopping 4.95 goals above expected.

Things did fall apart a bit in the playoffs after a hot start. But he didn’t get much help in front of him so those performances can be forgiven. Especially given how well he played in the first few games of that series.

The issue with Korpisalo comes down to salary. He had a great season last year, but his numbers before last year are concerning. Korpisalo’s agents would tell you that those issues are in the past after his successful hip surgery last summer.

Committing significant term or money to a player without a track record of success and an injury history is a risk the Kings won’t want to take.

This deal only makes sense from a Kings perspective as a bridge deal. Somewhere around two years at a reasonable cap hit. This gives them time to bring Erik Portillo onto the NHL roster and doesn’t commit them long-term to Korpisalo if things go poorly.

A short-term deal to prove his issues are in the past, setting him up for a big ticket at 31-years-old makes sense for Korpisalo too. But I could also see him trying to cash in on a good season.

I wouldn’t throw significant money or term at Korpisalo, but if the Kings can secure a bridge-deal around the $3 million mark for him. They should be all over it.

Connor Hellebuyck:

I recently discussed Hellebuyck as an option a few weeks ago so I won’t spend too much time on him.

But, with The Athletic reporting that his next contract likely won’t be with the Winnipeg Jets, a trade appears to be in his future.

The more I think about this option the more I dislike it. Hellebuyck is one of the best goalies in the league, but he’s also on the wrong side of 30 and will be looking for a monster contract next summer.

Sending a big package to Winnipeg for Hellebuyck would be a big win-now type of move for the Kings and I’m not sure they’re ready for that.

Even if they extend him, I think you’d only get two-three years at most of Vezina caliber play from him. After which, whatever big contract he signs will start to hurt.

I don’t think the Kings are quite ready to make that kind of move.

Juuse Saros:

Another rumor I don’t want to spend much time on is Juuse Saros. Not because he wouldn’t be an amazing pick up, but because I think there’s a less than 5% chance this one happens.

The Kings reportedly kicked tires on Saros around the deadline but quickly ended talks after Nashville started the conversation with two first-round picks.

I doubt the price for Saros has gone down and I don’t think the Kings are interested in giving up another first-round pick, let alone two.

Saros is one of the best goalies in the league, signed to a reasonable deal and at 28-years-old he still has a lot of good hockey left in him.

Unless the Kings want to move another pick and one of Brandt Clarke, Quinton Byfield or Gabe Vilardi — they don’t by the way — this deal isn’t happening.

Maybe, and this is really getting into fantasy land here, contract negotiations with Vilardi turn really bad and that kickstarts a deal. But I can’t see that happening.

Carter Hart:

Daniel Briere is reportedly listening to offers for Carter Hart, but I doubt the Kings are calling.

According to a PhiladelpiaHockeyNow source, the asking price for Hart starts at two-first round picks “but that wouldn’t end it.”

Considering the Kings already walked away from a potential Saros deal at that cost, I don’t see them making a run at Hart.

John Gibson:

It’s going to be a hard no on John Gibson.

An expensive goalie — both in cap and assets needed to acquire — who hasn’t posted positive numbers in five years doesn’t seem like an ideal move for Blake.

Tristan Jarry:

Tristan Jarry is expected to hit free agency this summer and would be an excellent option for the Kings.

He’s posted above a .900 save percentage and a positive goals saved above expected over the last four seasons and has proven he can be a number one goalie when healthy.

But staying healthy has been an issue and he’ll likely ask for more than the Kings can afford.

The Kings would need to ship out money and be okay taking on the risk of a goalie with some injury issues.

Copley does give some security on that front, as he can effectively split games with Jarry during the regular season. Keeping Jarry’s workload light during the season to prime him for the playoffs could make sense for the Kings.

Although, Jarry’s past playoff performances aren’t great.

It’s a bit of a risk, but Jarry could pay off for the Kings in a big way.

Other Options:

Frederik Andersen is an intriguing option but I’d be concerned about how he does outside of the Carolina Hurricanes system. He’ll be 34 next season and likely doesn’t have a ton of quality hockey left in him.

If he’s willing to sign a short-term deal for a low AAV it might be worth the risk, otherwise the Kings should steer clear.

Much of the same can be said about Antti Raanta and Semyon Varlamov. Both are aging goalies who don’t have a ton of runway left and likely can’t handle the workload of a true number one.

Quantity over Quality:

The Kings have plenty of options this summer, but not a lot of good ones.

The available players are either good, but too expensive in cap or asset cost, or not a significant upgrade on what they currently have.

Assuming they can’t figure out a big swing for Hellebuyck, Saros or Hart, re-signing Korpisalo is the best option.

You know what he can do and he’s already familiar with the team. Yes, the way he ended the playoffs is cause for some concern. But he showed a lot more good than bad last season and that’s worth something.

If the Kings can’t agree to a contract with Korpisalo, then figuring out a way to bring in Jarry feels like the next best option.

I’m also keeping my eye on the situation in Boston and would jump on Jeremy Swayman if he becomes available, but that feels unlikely right now.

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