New Kings forward Phillip Danault and his wife, Marie, are greeted by teammate Akil Thomas in the locker room of the El Segundo practice facility. Danault was the biggest free agent signing for the Kings this summer. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Sports

Aiming to make the Playoffs: The changes to the Los Angeles Kings

Taking a look at the newest members of the Los Angeles Kings as well as those who departed from the team.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/ellabilu/" target="_self">Ella B.</a>

Ella B.

October 14, 2021

The NHL’s offseason has come and gone. Now entering the 2021-22 season, teams prepare to once again fight for the Stanley Cup.

After an offseason of substantial additions to their roster, the Los Angeles Kings will aim to make the playoffs, which they haven’t achieved since 2018

“I think at this point, with adding those three guys, we’re past the rebuilding part,” long-time player Anze Kopitar said

In the Pacific Division, the consensus worst, Los Angeles’s hockey team has some reasonable odds to make the playoffs. 

The Additions and Subtractions

The New Guys: 

Phillip Danault: The biggest free agent to come to the coasts of Southern California since Ilya Kovalchuk in 2018, Phillip Danault, a center, signed with the team on the opening day of free agency. For what some may consider a high price of a $33 million, 6-year contract, the value he brings can’t be matched by many other players in the league.

Danault only finished with 24 points (5G, 19A) in 53 games last year, but he had limited power play time. The obvious reason the Kings signed him was not for his offense, but the elite defense he will provide.

This past season, the French-Canadian finished top-seven in Selke voting, the trophy that goes out to the best defensive forward. On the Canadiens cup run in the 2021 playoffs, the defensive center shut down top players such as Vegas Golden Knights right-winger, Mark Stone.

Adding Danault takes off some of the defensive responsibility from future Hockey Hall of Fame member and the Kings’ current 1st line center, Kopitar. 

Viktor Arvidsson: Acquired through a trade with the Nashville Predators, Swedish winger Viktor Arvidsson is ready to make an impact with his new linemate and center, Anže Kopitar. He’s only 2 seasons removed from his last 30-goal season and if Kopitar and him develop chemistry, he could very well reach the 30-goal mark for the third time in his career.

Struck by unfortunate injuries in previous seasons, he still averaged 0.5 points per game last season. During the 2021 season though, he only was shooting at a 6.6% success rate, almost 5% lower than his career average. With a change of scenery, the Kings hope for him to bounce back to the dynamic player he once was. If all goes right, the two picks they traded for him will be quickly forgotten.

Alexander Edler: Alexander Edler is a veteran defenseman, who like Danault signed with the Kings in free agency.

The 35-year-old Swede was drafted by and had played the entirety of his NHL career with the Vancouver Canucks. This year though, he said goodbye to his old home up north when he inked a 1 year, $3.5 million contract with Rob Blake and the Los Angeles Kings.

Edler, who could play with countryman, 20-year-old Tobias Björnfot, is going to be an excellent mentor. He certainly is not as dynamic offensively as fellow veteran blueliner Drew Doughty, but he is coming up on the 100-goal mark, currently tallying 99.

Worst case scenario is that he flops, doesn’t play too much, and leaves after his 1-year contract expires. The expectations are not nearly as high for him as Arvidsson and Danault. Fans just hope that he steadies the Kings’ sometimes shaky blueline and adds depth. 

Vladimir Tkachev: A player that was not known by many Kings fans before his signing, the Russian-winger, and former KHL player, Vladimir Tkachev has been watched by many teams in the NHL for some time now.

He first signed an NHL contract with the Edmonton Oilers in 2014, but the contract was later annulled by the league after it was determined that the signing broke CBA rules at the time. In the KHL, the forward consistently put up solid offensive numbers with 185 points in 254 games. In the few preseason games he has played with the club, he’s impressed and is projected to be a middle-6 forward in the regular season. Eligible for the Calder Memorial Trophy, Tkachev could be another prominent Russian to win the award.

Saying Goodbyes: 

Matt Luff: The Canadian winger that went undrafted and then signed a contract with the Kings after attending a training camp with the club leaves Los Angeles for the streets of Nashville. On day one of free agency, Luff inked a one-year, two-way contract with the Nashville Predators. Recently being placed on waivers by Nashville, Luff leaves the “City of Angels” playing in 64 NHL games tallying 17 points. He provided some needed depth for the Kings at the time, unfortunately for him, his presence was no longer necessary. 

Troy Grosenick: Nicknamed “Goose” by fans when he first debuted for the Kings, his two seasons spent in the organization have come to an end. Troy Grosenick signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Boston Bruins this free agency.

He’s only played in four NHL games throughout his career, but in them, he posted a 933 save percentage and a 2.27 goals allowed average. He most memorably made 34 saves for the LA Kings against the Anaheim Ducks when they lost their two main goalies. It was his first NHL win since the 2014-15 season. Read more about his feel-good story here.

Boko Imama: Although the fan-favorite never played a game with the big club, he was an integral part of the Kings’ AHL Team, the Ontario Reign. As a 220 pound enforcer, he had played with the Ontario Reign since 2017.

In his time in Ontario, his season-high point total was 14, which he achieved twice in back-to-back years. In late July, Imama, along with defensive prospect Cole Hults, was traded to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Tyler Steenbergen and Brayden Burke. On the rebuilding Coyotes, for the first time in his career, Imama now has a chance to play a game at NHL level. 

If they do not make the playoffs, the Kings will still hope that these new players will help them take a step forward. At least one of the new four is bound to be a star in Los Angeles, fans will just have to wait and see.

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