The Kings' struggles will have GM Dean Lombardi looking to shake up his roster this summer. Meanwhile, the Kevin Shattenkirk sweepstakes could create a battle between rivals.
The Los Angeles Kings' 3-0 loss on Saturday to the New York Rangers was the likely death blow to their fading playoff hopes. As of March 27, they sat 11 points out of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference. That loss to the Rangers prompted the Los Angeles Times' Helene Elliott to suggest changes could be afoot for the Kings in the off-season.
Elliott believes the Kings must get younger, faster and improve their scoring punch. Averaging only 2.41 goals-for per game, they're among the league's worst in that category.
Improving that anemic offense, however, won't be easy. As Elliott observes, the Kings carry a high number of hefty contracts. They have over $59 million invested in 16 players for 2017-18, with restricted free agents Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli carrying arbitration rights and due significant raises.
Given that limited cap room, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi must shed some salary in order to bring in youngster, faster scorers. He could leave fading veteran forwards Dustin Brown and Marian Gaborik unprotected in the expansion draft.
With Brown earning an annual cap hit of $5.875 million through 2021-22 and Gaborik $4.875 million annually through 2020-21, it's unlikely the Vegas Golden Knights will have interest in those two. Lombardi could buy out one of them. However, Brown would be on their books for 10 years and Gaborik for eight.
The Kings GM could get bold and place one of his core players on the trade block. Defenseman Drew Doughty ($7 million annually), goaltender Jonathan Quick ($5.8 million) and forward Jeff Carter ($5.2 million) all lack no-trade clauses. One of them would attract serious interest from rival clubs.
Moving Doughty, however, would leave a huge gap in the Kings' blueline that would take years to replace. They could shop Quick and re-sign Ben Bishop, but his new contract will likely be worth more than Quick's.
With 30 goals and 61 points in 74 games, Carter's their top scorer. He's enjoying his best season since his 36-goal, 66-point effort in 2010-11. However, he's also 32 and will doesn't have many years left as a top-line scorer.
Of those three, Lombardi should consider shopping Carter while his value is high. He could get a young, affordable scoring forward with upside as part of the return and then use the remaining savings to re-sign Pearson or Toffoli.
COULD SHATTENKIRK FIND DEAL WITH DEVILS?
Washington Capitals defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk will likely be this summer's top unrestricted free agent. He could command over $7 million per season on a long-term deal.
It's assumed the New York Rangers could have the inside track on the 28-year-old native of New Rochelle, N.Y. They've been lacking a skilled puck-moving blueliner since dealing away Keith Yandle last June to the Florida Panthers.
The Rangers, however, could find it difficult freeing up sufficient cap space for Shattenkirk. With over $63 million tied up in 17 players, inking him could prove a tight squeeze unless they can free up some additional cap room.
If the Rangers can't meet Shattenkirk's asking price, perhaps a nearby rival could. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman recently speculated the New Jersey Devils “could throw a big number” at the Capitals' rearguard. Friedman believes the Devils biggest need this summer is adding a moblie defenseman. With $53 million committed to 17 players, they have plenty of cap room to pursue a big-ticket free agent.
Having lots of cap room and a willingness to spend, however, won't be enough to land Shattenkirk. Devils GM Ray Shero will have to sell him on joining his rebuilding club. If Shattenkirk prefers joining a contender, it won't matter how much Shero is willing to offer.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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