For many people, the Los Angeles Kings will seem like “losers” because they didn’t land Ilya Kovalchuk today. Some might say that they weren’t willing to pay enough to get him, others will say that their history of losing factored in. Optimistic folks will point out that this will make it much easier for them to keep their young talent in place, particularly defensive star Drew Doughty.
To me, though, the Kings should feel sour when you consider just how little the Tampa Bay Lightning gave up for Simon Gagne. Surely the Kings could have coughed up a marginal sixth defenseman and a fourth round pick for a legitimate sniper whose risk is limited considerably by the fact that his $5.25 million cap hit dries up after the 2010-11 season, right?
Instead, the Kings will have to depend on a solid group of forwards who won’t look very different from the squad that eventually succumbed to a superior Vancouver Canucks team in the playoffs. Their fortunes would improve greatly if Justin Williams and Ryan Smyth have better luck with injuries, but Williams is Pavol Demitra-like when it comes to ailments while Smyth’s years of taking abuse in front of the net are catching up to him.
Even though Gagne clearly struggles with injuries himself, you have to think that the Kings would have been better off with him. Especially at that liquidation price of Matt Walker and a fourth round pick.
So, what now for Los Angeles? Will they give estranged left winger Alex Frolov a chance to redeem himself in LA? Perhaps they’ll roll the dice on a true gamble in the form of Lee Stempniak? Or maybe just rely on their current prospects and holdovers?
While most people think that Kings should regret missing out on Kovalchuk, I think balking on a lower-risk move in Gagne will be the thing that really comes back to haunt them.