One of the most memorable postseason runs in recent history gave the Los Angeles Kings their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons. After playing three consecutive seven-game series to reach the NHL finals, the Kings dispatched the New York Rangers in five games for the title. General Manager Dean Lombardi has built an impressive core of talent, one that should contend for the next several years. In the era of the NHL salary cap the Kings will still have some roster decisions to make in the offseason. Their overall depth and stable of young players should offset any major veteran losses.
Here’s a look at what the Kings need to do in the offseason to continue their potential dynasty:
Bring Back Gaborik: The Kings Trade deadline acquisition of Marian Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets turned out to be a masterstroke, especially in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. The dynamic forward scored several big postseason goals, forming a winning combination with Anze Kopitar. Gaborik led the NHL in postseason goals with fourteen, winning his first Stanley Cup in the process. He’ll be a coveted free agent but all signs indicate that the Kings have the interest and ability to re-sign the Slovakian forward. This postseason the Kings became a much more dynamic offensive team, and Gaborik’s presence was a big factor in that evolution.
Sign either Willie Mitchell or Matt Greene: Lombardi has done a fantastic job locking up the core of the roster in long-term deals. Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez, the team’s top defensive combo, are signed through next season. Two veteran blue-liners, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene are unrestricted free agents. Both have battled injuries the past couple of seasons, but are key contributors when healthy, as well as a veteran presence. Mitchell in particular played a massive role this postseason. The Kings don’t need to re-sign both veterans but should look to bring one of them back for the veteran presence and overall depth of the defense.
Continue the youth movement: In the new NHL salary cap era it’s incredible how adeptly Dean Lombardi has built the roster and managed the salary cap. Core players Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter, Slava Voynov and Mike Richards are all signed for the next five seasons while Anze Kopitar, Alec Martinez and Jarett Stoll are all signed through at least next season. The long-term deals have given the Kings stability while their young players have developed. This past postseason the Kings received massive contributions from the exciting young talent of Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson and Kyle Clifford. All three played big roles and should play even bigger roles next season. The offensive spark provided by the three, along with Gaborik, played a role in the Kings offensive evolution from a defensive and puck possession team to the highest scoring team in the past postseason.
Along with the Chicago Blackhawks the Kings will be the favorites to represent the Western Conference in the NHL finals next season. They are a potential dynasty, a franchise built for the long haul. The key now is health and the continued evolution of the young talent the organization has built. In the last twenty seasons dynasties in the NHL have been few and far between. In an era of competitive balance created by the salary cap the Kings have a real opportunity to win consecutive titles.