With Free Agency starting in full swing tomorrow, there are quite a few questions to be answered. Dean Lombardi says he’s looking to fill at least one more spot via free agency, and in all likelihood it’s a top 6 winger. That said, there’s a whole bunch of players that meet the criteria of a solid, if unspectacular winger that can contribute some offense and fill the hole left when we shipped out Simmonds for Richards.
Obviously the Kings won’t be looking for any goaltenders in the free agency market, so there’s nothing to spend too much time thinking about on that front. And the defense is pretty well set up, with Johnson, Mitchell, Scuderi, Greene, Doughty (probably), and at least one youngster ready for the roster (Martinez, Voynov, Hickey?) they probably won’t be looking for much on that front either. So it’s offense or bust for the Kings this free agency period. And while there’s no Kovalchuk out there for the moment, there are quite a few other options worth considering.
Let’s take a look at some of the bigger potential targets for the Kings.
Erik Cole – Cole is a Hurricane through and through, spending all but one season with Carolina, he’s not real likely to depart from his comfort zone to head out west to the Kings. That said, he’s got some skills, and should he decide he wants another shot (or two) at a Cup, Los Angeles might be able to lure him this direction. Cole is fast, offensively skilled and has some size. The combination of size (6’2″ 205lbs) and speed make him a threat to be sure, and his ability to play either wing makes him appealing as well. He signed for $2.9 million last season, and might go for a bit under that this time around. He would be a good fit at about $2.3-2.5 million.
Simon Gagne - The Kings like to pick up players from Philadelphia, and while Gagne spent the last season with a Lightening Bolt on his chest, he’s a Flyer at heart, having played over a decade in the City of Brotherly Love. Gagne doesn’t score overwhelming numbers, but he’s a useful player that can easily fit in on the top 2 lines, and like Cole plays well on the wing, where the Kings need some players. Gagne has also proven in the last two seasons that he can bring the game when the playoffs are on the line. He’s a bit more expensive, having brought in $5.25 million last season, and while a minor reduction is not out of the question, it seems that the Kings may not be able to fit another $5 million man under their cap.
Ville Leino – Another Flyer, another potential King. That’s how it works around here. But Leino “grew up” in the Detroit system, which is far from a bad system to learn. Leino is the youngest of the prospects that I’m looking at, only 27 years old, and with the potential to hang around for a while. Last season was his first real productive season, with a solid 53 points in 81 games, so he’s got some skills, but not nearly the track record of some of the other options. His big breakout was the ’09-’10 playoffs, where he scored 21 points in 19 playoff games. It was quite a haul, and he’s sure to use it to increase his last salary of $800,000. He’s a risk, but depending on salary demands, might fit in well with a young team developing their identity.
Sergei Samsonov – Samsonov is a crazy risk. He’s got some serious upside, with hands that could make him a great fit on a top line where he’s got somebody to feed him the puck. Playing with Thornton in Boston, Samsonov was putting up nearly 30 goals per season, and he continued to look ready to break out. When he lost his “partner in crime,” his production dropped off significantly. He’s still productive (usually) but he’s bounced around for a while, and hasn’t quite recaptured the magic. That said, if he can get a good centerman (and we have two) he could still be a threat. He’s smaller than some other options at only 5’8″, but he’s fast, and talented. He’s relatively affordable as well, with a previous season salary of only $2.5 million.
There are some very interesting options out there, and these are just a few of them. I’m curious, who do you think the Kings should be looking for?
Topics: Carolina Hurricanes, Dean Lombardi, Detroit Red Wings, Drew Doughty, Erik Cole, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jack Johnson, Jeff Carter, Joe Thornton, Los Angeles Kings, Matt Greene, Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers, Rob Scuderi, Sergei Samsonov, Simon Gagne, Tampa Bay Lightening, Ville Leino, Wayne Simmonds, Willie Mitchell