2012 Free Agency for the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions

Fellow puck fanatics, I am Andrew Elkins. I am an English Major at the University of Wisconsin, a hockey player, an impassioned supporter of our 2012 Stanley Cup Champions and a new blogger for Surly&Scribe. Thanks for the welcome. It’s a pleasure to be here. Forgive me if I gloss over the pleasantries, but I thought I’d jump right in. Now that we have squandered several hours of our lives observing the annual NHL Awards, and that we are a day away from a draft in which the Kings have only one(at most, barring trades) pick before the fourth round, I figured that I’d draw your attention to the impending free agency period. This is only the beginning, as I hope to engage, inspire, and occasionally enrage you during my tenure here. Let’s drop the puck.

“When we were doing this, we said that one of the benefits of maybe going slow, so to speak, was just that, that we wanted to be in a position not only to win but to keep it together.” This is Dean Lombardi on building a championship caliber team. The aim was, essentially, not to be, in the worst case scenario, Edmonton of 2006 or, in a less severe case, Chicago of 2010. Before signing free agents, our Kings have just over 16 million left in cap space, a succulent slab of which Lombardi, our ingenious architect, will attempt to dedicate to Jonathan Quick. It is too big a risk to assume that our MVP, Quick of Connecticut, will take a home town discount to stay with our 2012 Stanley Cup Champions, and so that must be taken into account if, as Dean Lombardi stated, he intends to keep this championship team together. With the defense set until at least the end of next season when Rob Scuderi becomes an unrestricted free agent, the focus of free agency in Los Angeles is on the forwards, and in particular the slots of second line left wing and third line center.

Dustin Penner spent the entirety of his regular season time with the Kings putting up numbers that only Kevin Westgarth would envy. In the playoffs, he  managed to develop some chemistry with Richards and Carter, putting up what would amount to a 45 point regular season if maintained. This loveable lumberjack would happily return to the Kings, saying that he would even take a pay cut from his $4.5 million cap hit in order to remain with the 2012 Stanley Cup Champions (Say it again). That’s good, because no team in their right mind is paying Dustin Penner $100,000 per point. With sweet, responsible, LA loving Simon Gagne back in the fold and fully recovered, in good shape, ready for some action, Penner must make good on this pay cut in order to remain with the team. Considering that Dustin Brown (Who wears the C, consistently puts up 20-30 goals, 55-60 points, is within the top 3 in the league in hits per season every season, and has drawn the most penalties in the league since the lockout) makes $3.175 million per season, Penner shouldn’t expect more than $2.75 million per season, or 3 if Lombardi is feeling generous.

Dustin Penner is a moot point if the Kings can pry Parise from New Jersey (Is there a better pitch than “Don’t you wish you were lifting that shiny cup over your head instead of watching?”?). Boy, a Parise-Richards-Carter line has me salivating. Seriously. And as a second line? Talk about a party. What this does is leave enough money for Quick with little left for other signings, forcing  Lombardi to part ways with both Penner and Stoll, who is also an unrestricted free agent. With Parise in the lineup, and if Lomardi chooses to resign Fraser, which would be a good idea, as he is a key component of the fourth line and could likely be resigned for cheap, the lineup would look something like this:

Brown – Kopitar – Williams

Parise – Richards – Carter

Gagne- Loktionov – Lewis (Or potentially Gagne – Lewis – Toffoli, which looks like a pretty sexy third line to me)

There would be a kind of logjam on the fourth line, as King and Clifford are left wingers who slot in lower than Gagne, Fraser and Richardson are both centers, though Fraser wins that battle every time in my mind, and Nolan pushes Westgarth and Richardson both out of the right wing slot. I think that a line with both King and Nolan is too heavy though and, strangely enough, I would keep Nolan in while sending King down to Manchester, as Clifford slots in better to the left wing slot than Westgarth or Richardson do to the right wing. In this case, the fourth line would look like this:

Clifford – Fraser – Nolan

This is as titillating a lineup as I’ve seen, though it relies on Lombardi being able to sign Parise. In the case that he can’t, (And it may just be the Kings fan in me, but I tend to expect Lombardi to go in full pursuit of the best free agent on the market and lose out. It doesn’t help that the Devils are involved) the Kings should resign Penner if he will sign for $2.75-3 million, even if only for a couple of years. If not, Gagne moves up to the second line and King gets third line duty.

Stoll is stuck in a sort of limbo. He is not good enough to be a second line center, but is better than a third line center. With the limited ice time that the role of third line center offers, Stoll won’t put up many points. Additionally, he is not much of a playmaker, and, if Penner signs, Gagne’s talents might be wasted on his line. Stoll, on this Kings team, acted as a prime face-off winner and penalty killer. These are not roles to be belittled, but the Kings are also stacked at center, both the first and second lines are magnificent defensively, and the Kings have a rare opportunity to create three scoring lines. I would drop Stoll and sign Kyle Wellwood. He proved this year that he is more skilled than your average bottom six forward, putting up 47 points. Like Stoll, he is in a kind of limbo, where he is more talented than a third line center, but not good enough to be a second line center. Unlike Stoll, he is a playmaker and would likely sign for cheap. Like really cheap. Like $1.5 mil/season. This would leave plenty of cap space to sign Quick, to make Bernier a piece of a trade for a player with a reasonably large cap hit, and to maneuver in any one of the many unpredictable, nimble, supple ways that Lombardi likes to.

Brown – Kopitar – Williams

Penner – Richards – Carter

Gagne – Wellwood – Lewis

Clifford – Fraser – Nolan

Damn, that’s beautiful.

Oh, and Scott Parse is gone. Bye bye. The majority of the team stays the same. The parts that don’t, get better. Sounds good to me.

Categories: L.A. Kings News

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36 replies

  1. i wanna see what toffoli can do in the nhl

  2. I love everything about the words in this article. Welcome!

  3. In an ideal world, Fraser and Penner would sign one year deals for below market value. As the story goes with cup teams, their players typically become overvalued and someone will be drawn to their cup experience. Neither player IMO has earned “enough” in their careers to ignore financial motivations. Despite the championship selling point, I don’t believe the kings have any comparative advantages in signing any of their free agents. I see Penner, Stoll, and even Fraser getting offers Lombardi would balk at.

    I understand positions need to be filled and there’s no easy answer. Hanging onto Bernier, at least until the trade deadline, would give the Kings flexibility down the road to fill a position that may be lacking.

    Can anybody speculate on whether or not Columbus is likely to exercise the conditional pick this year? Common sense would say no given the Kings undesirable slot, but a year of player progression has value. I guess it comes down to the draft depth and whether the player they want/need is still there. It sucks they have until the 28th pick to decide the Kings draft fate.

  4. I think going after Parise is too expensive. It would create cap issues in the near future. I’m not sure about Gagne’s future, after winning the cup I think he is going to look after his long term health. I would like to have Stoll stay, but he could be too expensive. It will be interesting to see who (rookies) steps up in September and October.

    • Don’t resign Gagne next year so we have that money for Scuds replacement or re-upping Brown.

  5. You had me at “numbers that only Kevin Westgarth would envy.” Well done.

  6. What about Dwight King?

    • I like King as much as the next guy, but there is a logjam on left wing on this team. It is a good problem to have, but I think that on a line that already has Nolan and Fraser on it, you choose Clifford over King. The Richards line is a prototypical successful line and the Kopitar line is built in a similar way. You have your power forward in Penner, your play-maker in Richards, and your sniper in Carter. On the Kopitar line you have your power forward/sniper in Brown, and two versatile play-makers/goal scorers in Kopitar and Williams. This is to say that Sutter likes a balance of play-making, goal scoring, and a player that can clear space on each line. On the fourth line, Nolan is the play-maker, Fraser creates space, and King would be another space-clearer. While King can likely score as many goals as Clifford given a full season, Clifford sacrifices King’s ability to clear space for an abundance of speed. This balances out the line, placing each member in a natural slot, and preventing players from needing to change their roles or develop along a different path than they should. No longer do you have King and Fraser clearing space for Nolan to try to find an open man who is not there. You have Fraser clearing space so that Nolan can make a play to Clifford. Ideally.

      • King brings size, courage and soft hands. He is not fast but he has a nice stride and good mid range speed. He now also has playoff experience. King is a keeper. He fits in Sutter’s system.

        I want the same lines as the playoffs and I would prefer Gagne traded. Injuries are inevitable with him and he is one concussion away from a career end.

        • Bobby I feel the same way Gagne, let’s try trading him. King is too good of a player to be traded, and keep in mind this was his rookie season. Hopefully he will continue to flourish!

        • Agree gagne is the odd man out on LW. Don’t think he has enough gas in the tank to play the way Sutter wants his forwards to play. He was in sutters dog house before his injury. He’s one hit away from being out again. Since they probably won’t resign him given his injury history and age I say trade him.

      • Screw that, Buy Gagne out, don’t re-sign Penner, go after Parise and set it like this:

        1st Line: Brown/Kopitar/Williams
        2nd Line: Parise/Richards/Carter
        3rd Line: King/Stoll/Lewis
        4th Line: Clifford/Fraser/ Nolan or Fill in the Blank

        D is set and so are our Goaltenders !

        Sorry Andrew, and welcome by the way ……. my lines blow your away !

  7. Just remember what Penner and Clifford did during the regular season. My bonor is still on blast from the Cup, but thinking of those two during the regular season makes my wang dwindle quicker than walking in on Fergie during her yearly brazilian waxing.

    • By the way, nice article.

    • Whoa. I think we found a complement to Tuan Jim.

      • I agree that King is valuable. I think that he deserves to find a permanent spot on the roster in the near future. Gagne is valuable too though, even if he is injury prone. Also, trading away free agent signings a year after they signed is bad business. In a town with such bad luck being able to sign big fish free agents, trading away one of those few free agents that we do manage to sign would be terrible when trying to sway new free agents to come to LA. Until Gagne is out of the lineup, one of either Clifford or King is the odd man out. I personally prefer Clifford on the fourth line. Like I said, this is a good problem to have. I think think that Clifford brings more balance to a fourth line with Fraser as the center and Nolan as the right wing, and Gagne makes the third line more of a scoring threat then King does.

  8. Enjoyed the GM/Coach game. Much better than playing monopoly, scramble, or Angry Birds. But not as stimulating than strip poker.

    I subscribe to the school of reward production on the ice. I would worry about King regressing if sent down. He is showing character, heart, and youthful lift to the team. He needs a spot until proven otherwise.

    Gagne is a big question mark given that long layoff. I am skeptical he can match up to the Kings power impacting aggression the team finally discovered and landed the SC.

    I don’t want the team physics and DNA to mutate now. During the playoffs I was buying less Viagra and so far so good the old lady tells me.

    Keep blogging away with all that food for thought. But please tell that us you don’t wear any of those silly cheese heads. Calif has great cheese but we don’t wear them, as we dig backward skewed cool looking caps. Honestly SoCal has the best caps world renown. Anything LA is really coveted now.

  9. i would rather have richardson then fraiser. he has better hands and is quick, hes just not as fiesty as fraiser, but with clifford and nolan on your wings im pretty sure thats taken care of.

  10. Great read. My thoughts: Dean has to bring back Penner. This team has had too much trouble at left wing, and having that extra left wing depth and logjam is a really good thing to have. Given Gagne’s injury history makes signing Penner even more important. If Gagne stays healthy, give King and Clifford rotating spots on that fourth lines. If Gagne (or any other left winger), you have the extra depth. Also, I think Penner would take a discount to stay. To me, the bigger question then is Stoll. Although I am on the fence, I would probably not re-sign him given what we will want, and instead look within the Kings own system for a third line center. Lokti, Lewis, Fraser, Cliche, etc. You have the extra options because Richardson is there to fill in if necessary on the fourth line. If that does not work out, you can always make a trade at the deadline to fill the gap. But by not bringing back Stoll, you keep your cap hit down and free up plenty of money for Quick, as well as some in reserve to keep your options open at the trade deadline.

  11. Brown – Kopitar – Williams
    Parise – Richards – Penner
    Gagne – Carter – Toffoli
    King – Fraser – Clifford

    I think I like this better: you get to move Carter down to a center line position and try out Toffoli while keeping a sick first and fourth line. (I’d let Stoll walk and sign Penner at 3 mil/year)

  12. Andrew, nice article and I admire your pluck. But a few points: wrt Parise, it’s not just the Kings fan in us…. but I’ve seen virtually no indication whatsoever that he would move west. He’s an east coast boy, with his roots back here. It isn’t (imo) at all like Marion Hossa where he went from one team to another in search of winning the cup. Yes, winning a cup would be a huge part… but I just don’t see his reasoning being that LA won it against us and they’re really good and the money is good so I’ll go there. Just don’t see that happening whatsoever. Just a feeling that I have. I can think of seven teams he’d go to before the Kings.

    As for Gagne, although even Scribe mentioned that possible line combo above (Gagne on LW2 slot) I don’t care for that even a little. He isn’t a ‘corner type of player’ and especially with his injury history. Just no way. So you put him w Carter and Richards and no one (other than Richie) is really doing the corner work as I see it, so don’t care much for that at all. I’m inclined to side w Scribe in that King is a keeper. Absolutely. Many journalists signaled the importance of the big bodies of King and Nolan as ingredients in the Kings success.
    But, as I said before……. just my opinions. In fact, right now it seems that even if one of Penner or Stoll doesn’t return, they still have a forward or two fighting for a spot, to say nothing of potential rookies. But I can’t see any rookie forward making the team unless Toffoli scores like ten goals in six pre season games.

  13. What I’m actually quite interested to see is if the Kings get to keep their first round pick. I read an article where they proposed the idea that, as Columbus has the 31st pick and the Kings the 30th, that CBJ might want to take the two picks together and package them in order to move up in the first round.
    Would sort of be a bummer to watch hours of the first round just to hear that Columbus decided to take the Kings pick this year. But we’ll see.

  14. The bottom line… For once the Kings are in a great spot.

  15. For those who are interested, Dustin Brown is having a meet and sign event at Living Spaces in Van Nuys this Saturday From 10-12

  16. King to MCH? Are you serious? if dude keeps developing, I’d like to see his ass planted in front of the opposite goalie on the PP. Besides, he can also fight if needed. IMO he has the potential to become a perennial 20 goal scorer for us, and we must not forget he’s already one of our best players along the boards.

    I liked your article, but sending King down would just be absurd.

  17. Upon your first post, I’ll make my first comment.

    First, King is not going anywhere. I think Fraser signs above his pay grade with another team. I’d love to have him back, but it’s sort of the way things work with role players on Stanley Cup champs (I love saying those three words). From everything I’ve read, Nolan is a natural center so he can step into Fraser’s spot. King will be our 3rd or 4th line winger.

    I think Lombardi lets all our UFAs walk (not for lack of trying but other teams will pay handsomely for them), signs Quick long term (#1 priority), and holds on to his chips until next summer with the exception of a depth signing or two. Lombardi’s philosophy is building from the backend and next summer Shea Weber will more than likely be a UFA. Scuderi and Gagne come off the books, freeing up another 7 million, which seems about right for a Norris trophy finalist. He tried to sign Chara when he was available but had a pretty pathetic team to lure him with. Things are different this time. Thoughts?

    • After the 2011 playoffs, Clifford was the talk of the town. Everybody was saying how Clifford had so much upside, how he was going to score 20 goals next season and potentially be a top 6 guy in the future. Lo and behold, Clifford’s second season was worse than his first. I’m not saying that King will have the same experience, but I’m just saying that Clifford has been in the NHL longer, has shown that same promise in the playoffs that King showed this last season, and it’s hard for me to picture him being sent down. I also think that Gagne takes King’s 3LW spot.

      Here’s food for thought. The Kings have one of, if not the best room in the NHL. Lombardi learned from San Jose that great teams without leadership don’t win cups. As a result of this lesson, he packed the room of his new team with character and created a community of players that are incredibly close and respectful. This Kings team has had trouble wooing free agents, but has not had any trouble keeping players once they are here. There is a reason for that, and it is not just that they feel that they can win here. I think Fraser really enjoys being here and stays. The only way he leaves is if another team makes him an offer he can’t refuse and, while I think there will be higher offers than Lombardi’s, I think that there won’t be crazy offers. Those offers tend to go to the players on the cup winner who had a strong playoffs. To the players who really stepped up their game and showed promise that they are “playoff performers.” Think Joel Ward from the 2011 Nashville Predators.

      I think that Penner takes a pay cut to stay. I think that Fraser signs. I think that Stoll walks to a team that can offer him 2C duty and will pay him more. I hope that Quick signs. This is the time to sign him, while he is high on winning the cup. He is an east coast guy. He brings his family out every time that the Kings play the Rangers, the Islanders, the Devils etc.

      Lombardi’s philosophy of building from the back end is not adding defense whenever possible. By “starting from the net out” he meant making sure that the net is stable, then that the defense corp is stable, and then focusing on the group of forwards. Once Quick and Bernier were in place, he drafted Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, and Alec Martinez, traded for Jack Johnson and Matt Greene, and signed Mitchell and Scuderi. Once this was in place, he focused on the forwards, trading for Richards, Carter, etc. That is to say that right now, while every position is important, Lombardi is fine tuning his group of forwards. This isn’t to say that he wouldn’t jump at the chance to sign Weber. Who wouldn’t? Lombardi is also unpredictable. But that is also dedicating money to more defense which could otherwise be used for a big name forward. Plus Rob Scuderi is instrumental to this team, as well as a stay at home D. Weber is a two way force and cannot replace the defense of Scuderi.

      I agree that Lombardi probably doesn’t do too much this summer. Why tinker with what works? I think he will do what he can to keep the core together for the longest period of time, and if this means letting certain players go, then that’s what must happen. This is how you keep a team successful. When players that are less instrumental become too expensive, you let them go and bring in prospects with promise on entry level contracts or players who fit and will take less money. As has been repeated by analysts constantly since the Kings won the cup, this team is looking strong for a long time to come.

      • Weber can easily replace Scuderi and then some. Don’t get me wrong, I love Scuderi, but Weber faced a higher quality of competition and came out with a higher Corsi rating in the end. Like Doughty, Weber drives play. Would you rather have two Doughty’s or Doughty and Scuderi? I’d take the former every day of the week and I’m sure every GM in the NHL would too. On second thought, how about we sign Weber and re-sign Scuderi. I’m happy with that!

  18. I would sign Quick then go after Nash for Bernier and Gagne or, if we have to Williams. If Columbus doesn’t take that then throw in a pick. We would then bring up Martin Jones to develop behind Quick. If Quick signs for $6.8m a year or less, we sign Penner at $2.8m, sign Stoll at $2.8m, and sign Fraser at $1m, for 2013 we’ll have:

    Brown – Kopi – Williams
    Nash – Richards – Carter (awesome)
    Penner – Stoll – Lewis
    Clifford – Fraser – Nolan
    *Same defense as 2012

    We would be right at the cap but have an awesome core together for a number of seasons. In 2014, if we can sign Voynov at $3m and Martinez at $1.25m, we would be left with $2m to sign Scuds. Sadly, that won’t work so we would need Hickey or Muzzin to step up and backfill Mitchell on the second defense corp. Alternatively, we could move Williams and put Brown back on Kopi’s right with Nash on the left then pull Penner up and backfill the 3rd line with Lokti, Toffoli or King/Nolan. In 2015 we would sign Brown for $5.2m and have another $6.7 to split between Mitchell and Greene (or get Muzzin/Hickey in the mix).

    So, really, the gamble is will Lokti/Toffoli be good enough to replace Penner on the 3rd line and can Penner play on the 2nd line OR can Muzzin/Hickey/Forbort fill in on the 2nd defense pair?

    I like Stoll as a key PK/faceoff role-player for the right price and, obviously, think very highly of Rick Nash. I see Kopi signing in 2017 for (hopefully) $7.6-$7.8m. By then we would be done with Stoll and Penner and have the cap space as some of our prospect forwards develop. Personally, I think Toffoli will be great.

  19. So much for all those of you that thought Stoll was expendable, or Lokti would take his place, or Stoll would sign elsewhere for more. Stoll is signed for three years, Fraser is signed for two.

    I have written extensively on how valuable Stoll is to this team. People that lamented his drop in offensive production after he was assigned a checking role and given the likes of Trevor Lewis as “finishers” completely miss Stoll’s actual value.

    When Stoll had good scoring wingers, 2010-2011, his offense was among the top 5 in the league for second centers. He is not incapable of scoring, just ask Cory Schneider or any of his shootout victims, but his game is far more rounded. Stoll can “specialize” in any area of the game, but his job is to be versatile and “matchup proof.”

    Put your top line against him, and he shuts them down. Put your bottom lines against him and he will provide a scoring threat. The man is a Ron Francis type; he is a wild card, the joker in the deck, and he dominates top 5 on the league in faceoffs. He is also incredibly durable, a leader, and terrificly passionate and experienced.

    Thinking Stoll is anything less than pure gold, and appreciating his loyalty and commitment to this team, seems foolish to me. It is counter to everything that the guy with the most important opinion believes, and that is why Dean Lombardi signed him damn near immediately after winning the Stanley Cup.

    • 100% agree. Stoll has huge value. He wins all his faceoffs and serves on the PK allowing us to come back full strength with a full complement of top-6 forwards because we can trust him to hold down the fort shorthanded. This come-back/momentum changing surge is huge particularly when you have a very successful PK unit. Stoll is key in that formula.


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