While the Kings and Kings fans look on with envy at the wide collection of teams still on a quest for the ultimate prize in sports, the reluctant supporter must eventually turn their attention back to their own team and look inward. The question now, is who will be back for next year? The Kings obviously achieved something significant for themselves this year, and it was a great run. While I’d be the first to admit there was plenty wrong, even the biggest pessimist must admit that there was definitely some significant positives.So first, who’s back next year?
In goal, we’ve got Quick (signed through 2012-2013), Ersberg (signed through 2010-2011) and Bernier (signed through 2010-2011). My best estimation has Quick and Bernier fighting it out for the 1/2 position, though Quick has the inside track to be sure. According to his own admissions, Murray played Quick a bit heavily this season, so we can expect to see him spelled more often, especially with a strong challenge from Bernier in net. It will be without question the first time the Kings have had questions in goal that we’re essentially, “who the hell is going to be in net?” I can say that I for one am pleased that our issue is TOO MUCH talent in net. Bummer.
On the blue line we’ve got Drew Doughty (2010-2011), Rob Scuderi (2012-2013), Matt Greene (2013-2014), Jack Johnson (2010-2011), Peter Harrold (2010-2011) and Davis Drewiske (2012-2013). That’s six guys, leaving aside players like Hickey, Teubert (long-shot), Martinez, and Voynov who will likely make a push for the roster next year. I’d imagine all six of those guys will make the roster, with Harrold sticking around primarily because of his versatility. Since O’Donnell will likely be leaving (though he could come back on a one-year contract), the Kings will have a spot open for a shut-down defenseman. If they bring one in from outside the organization, it may mean only one spot available for a rookie to make the team.
What’s going on upfront? Well it’s obviously much more complicated in that area. First of all, the Kings have Kopitar (2015-2016), Smyth (2011-2012), Handzus (2010-2011), Stoll (2011-2012), Williams (2010-2011), Brown (2013-2014), Moller (2010-2011), and Simmonds (2010-2011). If you’re not keeping track, that’s 4 centers (if you consider Moller a center), 3 right wingers, and 3 left wingers. Of course the Kings also have an impressive stable of forwards eagerly banging on the door in the form of Loktionov, Lewis, Cliche, Clifford, Clune, and Segal. The biggest hole is going to be the 2nd line left winger, also known as the slot that Frolov occupied for the better part of a decade. There’s certainly room for another youngster to may a play for a roster spot, assuming Lombardi doesn’t go out and stockpile a bunch of old “character” players.
So what should happen? I think the Kings need a defenseman and/or a top 6 (game-breaking?) scoring winger. Obviously Kovalchuk fits that mold (the winger, not the defenseman) but I’m not certain that it’s going to be possible. Reports have him turning down a $10m/year contract from Atlanta. While I tend to think that he was making those demands in an effort to force his way out of the sinking ship of Atlanta, he’s still going to be incredibly expensive. With the Kings needing to resign Bernier, Johnson and most of all (hopeful) Norris trophy winner Drew Doughty next season, they may not be able to lock up that much cap room in one player, even one as talented as Kovalchuk. It’s worth noting that he also seemed to disappear in the playoffs as the Devils got rocked by the Flyers in round 1.
For the price, Marleau may be a better bet, and would almost certainly come cheaper. He’s a much grittier player who doesn’t disappear on defense, and while he is listed as a center, he’s played on the wing with Thornton in San Jose for the past few years and would certainly help bring some offensive firepower to the Kings lineup. If it were my choice, I’d rather grab a player like Marleau and a hard-nosed defenseman in the style of Mattias Norstrom or Sean O’Donnell who can help bring the Kings to the next level in 2010-2011.
Tags: Bernier Brown Cliche Clune Devils Doughty Drewiske Ersberg Flyers Greene Handzus Harrold Hickey Johnson Kings Kopitar Kovalchuk Lewis Loktionov Marleau Martinez Moller Norris Trophy Norstrom O'Donnell Off-Season Quick Scuderi Segal Sharks Simmonds Smyth Stoll Teubert Thornton Thrashers Voynov Williams