How to keep the Kings on top
The Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in six games to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
How to keep the Kings on top
As the Los Angeles Kings celebrate their first Stanley Cup championship, speculation turns toward their potential off-season moves, which will affect their chances to repeat as champions.
The Kings currently have more than $54 million committed to 20 players. All their key players – goaltender Jonathan Quick, defensemen Drew Doughty, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene and Slava Voynov, as well as forwards Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Justin Williams and Jeff Carter – are under contract.
Only forwards Dustin Penner, Jarret Stoll, Scott Parse, Colin Fraser and Dwight King are free agents, with King the sole restricted free agent.
Don't expect GM Dean Lombardi to engage in a salary purge akin to the one that broke up the 2010 Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. He's well-positioned to keep the roster intact for another Cup run.
Of Lombardi's free agents, Penner and Stoll are the most notable. Penner, 29, had a horrible regular season, with only 17 points in 65 games, but redeemed himself with a strong showing (11 points in 20 games) in the post-season.
Coming off a five-year deal paying him $4.3 million per season, Penner must accept a short-term deal for less money, something he indicated he might be willing to do, if he hopes to remain a King.
Stoll also saw a decline in his numbers this year, with only 21 points in 78 regular season games, down substantially from the consecutive 40-plus point performances of that last three campaigns. Stoll was employed more as a checking line specialist this season, especially on the penalty kill and faceoffs, which likely accounts for that decline.
The 29-year-old center is coming off a four-year contract with an average cap hit of $3.6 million and remains valuable to the Kings in a defensive role. Like Penner, he'll probably have to accept a shorter term for less money to remain in Los Angeles.
King will be an affordable re-signing, as will Fraser and Parse should they decide to stay.
Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times believes re-signing Quick, who has one year at $1.8 million left on his contract, should be Lombardi's “top priority.”
Quick was the main reason the Kings overcame an inconsistent season to make the playoffs, earning a Vezina Trophy nomination for his efforts. L.A. also wouldn't have won the Stanley Cup without Quick, who was rewarded with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for his efforts.
Lombardi obviously wants to retain his starting goalie, who seems keen to stay, but it could prove expensive.
Considering what Quick has accomplished this season, Dillman believes his representatives will seek a contract similar to the seven-year, $49 million deal signed earlier this season by Nashville Predators goalie Pekka Rinne.
It's also been suggested Lombardi will get into the bidding for New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise if he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. Considering how much it would cost to sign Parise, along with the price of retaining Quick, it's unlikely Parise be coming to Los Angeles.
The Kings certainly appear in good shape to repeat as Cup champions, but, obviously, it's by no means a sure thing. The Boston Bruins, last year's champs, also seemed well-positioned to repeat, returning with their championship roster nearly intact.
The short off-season, however, led to the dreaded “Stanley Cup hangover” and an inconsistent 2011-12 culminated with a first round exit at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
For the Kings management and the coaching staff, finding a way to motivate their players to defend their championship through another long season (barring another lengthy CBA work stoppage) will be a greater challenge than keep their roster intact.