After breaking out last year with a playoff scoring spree and then inking a six-year, $25 million extension, Slava Voynov knew he’d be facing big expectations for 2013-14.
So far, he hasn’t met them.
Voynov, the Kings’ 23-year-old defenseman, has struggled to start the season. While his offense has been OK — 1G, 1A through seven games — his defensive efforts haven’t been. He’s minus-2 on the year and was scrutinized during L.A.’s 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday for soft play on two Lightning goals.
“I think he knows that he can be better and that’s the most important thing,” Kings GM Dean Lombardi told the L.A. Times. “It’s a huge adjustment for a young player, to get a long-term deal that’s significant money. That’s just the reality of the way it is. It’s a huge adjustment for them and their life and life’s priorities.
“We tend to overlook that.”
Voynov finished last year’s playoffs with six goals and seven assists in 18 games. He also had 25 points — three more than the team’s top blue-liner, Drew Doughty — in 48 regular-season games, resulting in a huge raise that saw him go from earning $750,000 on his entry-level deal to $4.16 million annually on his new one.
As a result, there were whispers of complacency. Last week, Darryl Sutter called out Voynov’s lack of preparation, suggesting his offseason workouts were less than stellar.
“He could’ve done more work this summer,” Sutter told LA Kings Insider. “He’s going to have to do some more work to get his minutes back.”
On Tuesday, it looked like Voynov had done something to regain his time on ice. Sutter played the Russian rearguard over 25 minutes — a season high — and Voynov responded by scoring his first goal of the year.