The Los Angeles Kings have bought out Dion Phaneuf´s contract. This move saves the Kings some salary cap space, but not that much in the 2020-21 season. For the Kings, it was worth taking a risk. Los Angeles believes that more than a risk it means an opportunity. How does the Dion Phaneuf buyout fully affect the Los Angeles Kings defence?
What´s Next for Los Angeles Kings Defence?
Though Dion Phaneuf, 34-years-old, was the oldest and most experienced defenceman on the Kings roster, he wasn’t such a presence last season. He definitely is loved in the locker room for his great leadership. Through the veteran experience is purchased a given price. That price is the games missed. The Kings refused to watch Phaneuf regularly sitting in the press box. During the past season, the Canadian blueliner missed 15 games. He averaged only 15 minutes of ice-time per game, which is more than eight minutes less than his career average ice-time per game.
The Kings seemingly didn’t believe as much in his abilities anymore. The Kings acquired Phaneuf in a trade with the Ottawa Senators two years ago in exchange for Marian Gaborik. Gaborik himself hasn’t played a single game in Ottawa and is doubtful to play any more NHL games. With Gaborik on the same contract length as Phaneuf, it was probably right that the Kings pulled the trigger and changed problematic players to make room under the salary cap.
After trading Jake Muzzin to the Toronto Maple Leafs last January, the Kings management sent a clear message. This message, in not so many words, was delivered by the general manager Rob Blake. The Kings want to get younger and are willing to grow young talent. Looking back at the championship roster built in Los Angeles a few seasons ago, the most important parts of the Kings defence were “home-made”. The development of young talent is crucial to the Kings success.
Kings Focus After Dion Phaneuf Buyout
If there are not any bigger changes or free agent signings the Kings defence is set. Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez might be considered veterans. Doughty is the Kings defensive leader with his contract signed until 2027 with the salary cap hit of $11 million per campaign. On the other hand, Martinez, the Stanley Cup hero from five years back, is signed for two more seasons for $4 million per campaign.
Martinez is the oldest Kings defenceman at 31, Doughty is 29-years-old. All the other components on the Kings blue line are younger. Derek Forbort, the 27-year-old left-handed defenceman, scored with a contract worth $2.5 million per season. But his play during the past season wasn’t as convincing as his contract suggests. He played in 81 games during the regular season collecting two goals and 12 assists for 14 points. He had a CF% set at 45.4, which is below his career average.
Forbort has a deal until the end of the upcoming season. After a sloppy year for him as well for his teammates, it´s a “prove yourself year” for Forbort. Paul Ladue, the 26-year-old right-handed blueliner, has a contract worth $825,000 per season until 2020. He has been getting his looks over the past three seasons. The highest number of games played came for the former sixth-round draft pick last year. He played in 33 games, collecting two goals and three assists for five points. He has a solid 54% of the CF% over his 67 career games in the NHL, all with Los Angeles.
Youth Movement Promising For Los Angeles
Another defenceman getting his chances and looks over the past two seasons has been Kurtis MacDermid. MacDermid played in 45 NHL games with the Kings registering one goal and four assists for five points. During the past season, the 25-year-old blueliner averaged just 9:21 of the ice time in only 11 games.
Another very good-looking candidate for the Kings is Sean Walker. The 24-year-old right-handed defenceman made it to the NHL action last season. He made the most of the opportunity with a stellar showing. Walker combined for three goals and seven assists for 10 total points in 39 games. He averaged 15:26 of the ice time and 49.6 CF%. Both MacDermid and Walker will finish their entry-level contract next summer.
Those six skaters are signed and the Kings should have no restrictions using them on their blue line. Another player in the mix should be the 24-year-old right-handed defenceman, Matt Roy. Roy is a restricted free agent. In the past season, he registered two goals and four assists for six points in 25 games while averaging 17:08 of the time on the ice and 44.9 CF%.
From now on, the Kings have to take a look at defencemen without NHL experience. The former second-round draft pick Alex Lintuniemi is a restricted free agent. Meanwhile, the Kings signed Sean Durzi, whom they acquired in Muzzin´s trade with Toronto this year. Durzi is a second-round draft choice from the 2018 NHL Draft and might get a look on the Kings defence.
The Dion Phaneuf Buyout Effect
The Kings didn’t hesitate a lot. When they had a chance to get a good return for Jake Muzzin, they traded him. When the Dion Phaneuf buyout was on the table from earlier this year, they pulled the trigger. During the 2019-20 season, the Los Angeles Kings defence will look very different than the blue line which played the past two seasons.
When the 2021 offseason clicks in, the only Kings defenceman with a contract, as of now, will be Drew Doughty. All the other defencemen will find themselves fighting for a spot next season. If they can steal the roster spot, the Kings will have no problems locking them up. If they don’t accomplish that, the roster spot will be opened for someone else. Don´t forget about many of the Kings draft choices and how they might affect their future.
There will be plenty of opportunity for the Kings defencemen during the upcoming season. Sorting out the players should prove to be a big test for the new head coach Todd McLellan.