Kings Add Fiala via Trade; What’s Next for LA Roster Remake?


When the LA Kings 2021-22 season ended in mid-May after a seven-game series with the Edmonton Oilers, GM Rob Blake had a clear mission as he looked ahead to October.

He needed to add a scoring winger, some toughness, and improve the power play. Getting a left shot defenseman was also on the list. However, solving the first three issues were clearly the priority. Pending where things stood with his salary cap situation after checking those three boxes would determine how much wiggle room he’d have to potentially do something with his blueline.

A little more than one month later, significant progress has been made on all three fronts – with still more work in progress.

The power play situation remains a work in progress, as coach Todd McLellan is currently seeking an assistant coach for his staff; an opening that was created with Marco Sturm moving on to coach the AHL Ontario Reign.

Regardless of who ultimately fills that spot behind the bench – Jim Hiller maybe? – the Kings have at least added another offensive option with Wednesday’s trade for forward Kevin Fiala.

The price wasn’t cheap, yet Blake was dealing from a position of strength. As noted in several recent radio interviews and Kings Of The Podcast episodes, LA’s prospect pool is nearly spilling over from within. Thinning the herd is not only necessary to allow for proper playing time and development, but was also going to allow them to add to their current NHL roster without giving up key assets already in LA.

With a first round pick (the No. 19 selection in next week’s NHL Draft) and Brock Faber, one of LA’s top five prospects, Blake was able to acquire that missing piece at forward.

Faber’s situation over the past six months has been an interesting one. His stock continued to rise, both from his play at the University of Minnesota and with Team USA. Blake met with Faber and tried to sign him several months ago, however the 19-year-old blueliner made the easy decision. With a crowded blueline in LA, Faber would likely have started the season with AHL Ontario. So, play in the minors for $ 70K on an Entry Level Contract or go back to the Gophers and chase a National Championship? The decision wasn’t too difficult. Would a path to the NHL be easier next summer for Faber? Likely yes. But the Kings were committed to improving the roster now, coming off an impressive 2021-22 campaign that left many wondering, ‘With a healthy roster, could they have beaten Edmonton and gone on a deep playoff run?’

After playing at a nearly point-per-game pace over the past three seasons, including posting 33 goals over his most recent campaign, Fiala is nearly straight out of central casting, in terms of what the Kings were looking for. Not only did Blake not hesitate in adding a piece he desperately needed, he immediately signed Fiala to a seven-year contract extension at an AAV of $ 7.875M (along with a full No Movement Clause in years 2-4, and a limited No Trade Clause in years 5-7). In doing so, Blake now knows what he’s working with when it comes to rounding out his roster.

Where do Blake and the Kings go from here?

For starters, action is expected to heat up on the Adrian Kempe contract front now that the key trade is behind LA management. Our sources continue to indicate the preference is to get a deal done in the five-year range, if at all possible. We’re sticking with the $ 5.5M projection we’ve been using, and that’s reflected in our updated look at the Kings cap situation below.

They’ll also need to get deals done for a few RFAs, as well as make final decisions on guys like Lias Andersson and Brendan Lemieux. One possible replacement / upgrade over the latter would be a guy like Nic Deslauriers. He’s a former Kings prospect, a solid penalty killer, can give you goals from the fourth line, brings that physical element LA is looking for, is very tight with Phil Danault, played with Fiala in Minnesota last season, etc. It just makes a ton of sense to figure out how to bring the Unrestricted Free Agent forward back to the Kings organization. On the other hand, he is 31 and that might be just a few years older than their targeted age range. We’ll see what happens in the weeks ahead – this year’s Free Agency window doesn’t open until July 13.

One little interesting tidbit worth noting here is that Qualifying Offers are due July 11. Lemieux is currently a Restricted Free Agent. Thus, the Kings will need to qualify him by that date to retain his rights. If they were to do so, that most likely signals they’re out of the Deslauriers sweepstakes.

In the meantime, we’re hearing Blake will make an attempt to re-sign Alex Edler in a depth move. His veteran leadership was a key addition to the Kings this past season and with Dustin Brown retiring, having somebody with his experience could prove to be valuable. He’d likely be in a third-pairing role, and even get the occasional night off. Having recently turned 36, Edler isn’t looking to play top-4 minutes every night.

Sean Walker starting the year on the left side is also an option the Kings are considering. They’re just so deep on the right side that something is going to have to give. With Walker coming back from essentially two injury-riddled seasons, he’ll possibly need to be eased back into the rotation either way.

Here’s an updated look at where things stand

Besides the Kempe contract, there are a few assumptions in the above calculations. For example, Sean Durzi may have to work off of a qualifying offer next season (essentially a 5% raise over his base salary last year). There likely isn’t enough room in the budget to sign him to much more at the moment. Mikey Anderson is also due for a raise, and we’re projecting him to get a slight bump on a short-term bridge deal.

In a perfect world, the Kings would still like to add a little more to the blueline. To do so, they’ll probably need to move a contract or two out, as after they finish off these last few contracts in process, they’re likely going to be right up against the cap.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

– The line combinations and defensive pairings are for illustrative purposes only. However, the intent is to directionally look at what this collection of 23 players would total via the salary cap.

– Player contracts highlighted in yellow (ie Kempe) are for current RFA / UFAs. These estimates are based on current info, and are subject to change in the weeks ahead.

– Players like Andreas Athanasiou, Olli Maatta, and Troy Stecher are not expected to return next season.

– Jaret Anderson-Dolan will no longer be waiver exempt next season. Thus, it’s either NHL, trade him this summer, or risk losing him to waivers if they try sending him to the AHL at any point, starting in September. We have penciled him in on the opening night roster.

– Prospects like Alex Turcotte and Samuel Fagemo can continue to play in the AHL for another season without the risk of waivers. Hence, they aren’t included in the current roster projection. Obviously, this could change should a trade create roster openings and / or they play their way into a spot during training camp that forces the team to keep them in the NHL. Partial list of other prospects who are exempt from waivers next season: Arthur Kaliyev, Quinton Byfield, Rasmus Kupari, Sammy Fagemo, Akil Thomas, Toby Bjornfot, Jordan Spence, and Helge Grans.

– Spence and fellow defenseman Jacob Moverare proved to be fine fill-ins when the Kings blueline was banged up during LA’s 2021-22 campaign. As things stand today, both players will need to return to the AHL next season and bid their time (while continuing their development). Spence exceeded all expectations as a first-year pro this past season and looks to be somebody who could be pushing for a spot sooner rather than later. Moverare, who was recently signed to a two-year contract extension, is out of waivers. So he’ll need to pass through before being sent down in October.

– Top prospect Brandt Clarke could certainly push for a spot roster during training camp. If he doesn’t make the NHL, he’ll have to go back to the OHL. On the flip side, securing an NHL roster spot (which theoretically would help the power play), only creates more problems on an already crowded blue line.

– Gabe Vilardi will enter the conversation at some point, as well. We currently don’t have him penciled onto the roster, yet he will be out of waivers. This could be an issue that needs to be addressed over the summer (ie create a roster spot or trade him). One possible scenario would be to send Kupari back to Ontario, as he still has one more year of waiver exemption, to make room for Vilardi on the NHL roster.

RELATED CONTENT:

VIDEO: Rob Blake Closing Media Session on Kings 2021-22 Season

Kings-Flyers Potential Trade on D, And It’s Not Ghost

What Would Jakob Chychrun Cost the Kings, and Should They Do It?

Instagram

Note to webmasters / reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com

Leave a Comment