The off-season of the Los Angeles Kings has been busy, and they may not be finished.
With the 2023 NHL Entry Draft behind us, the Kings and general manager Rob Blake were in a position in free agency to better the team and make moves throughout the organization.
Before the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the Kings made two trades. The first was trading promising defenseman Sean Durzi to the Arizona Coyotes for a draft pick. Durzi grew as a player, often playing well above his responsibilities. He was pushed into a top-pairing role because of the injury to Drew Doughty in his first NHL season and excelled with little time to prepare.
In his second season, Durzi made the accommodation to the team by switching to the left side and playing well under the circumstances. We wish him well in Arizona.
By far, the most significant trade made by Blake was the one that sent Alex Iafallo, Gabe Villardi, and prospect Rasmus Kupari to the Winnipeg Jets for center Pierre-Luc Dubois, a move to strengthen the center position and give the team more scoring overall.
Blake got his guy and immediately signed him to an 8-year deal with an AAV of $8.5 million. Losing Durzi, Kupari, Iafallo, and Villardi hurts, but this move puts the Kings in a better position to succeed down the road, which is ultimately the road to another Stanley Cup.
The Kings had a mild draft this year. Picking up some solid players that add depth to the organization, Los Angeles did not pick high enough to grab an impact player. Instead, they chose players who could contribute to the long success of the franchise in one way or another.
The free agency period has been as expected. The Kings signed four players to add to their organization, including some goaltending depth. Goaltenders Cam Talbot (one-year, $1 million) and David Rittich (one-year, $875,000) were brought in to battle for the backup spot behind presumed starter Pheonix Copley. Other free agents signed to contracts include defensemen Joe Hicketts (one-year, two-way contract, $775,000), Andreas Englund (two-year, $1 million AAV), and Steven Santini (one-year, two-way contract, $800,000). Forwards, Mikhail Maltsev (one-year, two-way contract, $800,000), and former Los Angeles Kings Stanley Cup champion, Trevor Lewis has signed with the team, agreeing to a one-year deal with an AAV of $775,000.
Likely going to the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Ontario Reign, will be Maltsev, Hicketts, and Rittich. If these are the players sent down, this is a good move because Hicketts and Rittich could use their veteran leadership to help the young players on the roster.
As for the Main roster, Englund supplies toughness and size to a defense that has lacked size for a few seasons. Lewis will provide leadership and veteran advice, and Talbot will be nice insurance in between the pipes if Copley falters.
These moves made in free agency do not make the Kings an elite team but make them a better, deeper team.
Photo: Zach Dooley/LA Kings Insider