James O'Brien

Anze Kopitar

Los Angeles Kings ’15-16 Outlook

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It’s probably safe to say this about the rest of the NHL’s perception of the Los Angeles Kings: they don’t know exactly what to expect, but they’re scared.

After all, this is a two-time Stanley Cup champion team that hasn’t won a division title; opponents know not to disregard them at this point. The Kings have made a strange (and unintentional) habit of following underwhelming regular seasons with blistering playoff runs.

Of course, in 2014-15, they didn’t do enough to even limp into the postseason.

The Kings finished the regular season with 95 standings points, four short of the Winnipeg Jets at the final wild card spot.

That’s not a huge margin, yet it was still a shocking plummet for the defending champs.

GM Dean Lomabrdi seemed to hint that the Kings failed to find that extra gear, but getting a longer-than-expected rest might just have its perks.

“Well, this time there’s no excuse,” Lombardi said to NHL.com. “It’s a marvelous opportunity for our top players to take over that room, and they start by doing that, becoming the best they can be, and I think they will. There’s no doubt in my mind what guys like [Anze] Kopitar and [Jonathan] Quick and [Drew] Doughty stand for, and hopefully this is an awakening. It’s no fun watching the playoffs. In the long run, we could benefit from this.”

Greed could be good

If extra rest isn’t enough, one other thing shouldn’t be overlooked: important players are fighting for more than just pride.

At least a part of Anze Kopitar must see dollar signs when he notes the sort of money Jonathan Toews will pull in starting next season with his own deal just a year from expiring. Kopitar’s $6.8 million cap hit may very well look like a bargain compared to what he’ll start to make in 2016-17.

Milan Lucic is also fighting for a new contract, but he also hopes to restore his reputation as a top power forward in the NHL.

He struggled to score with David Krejci injured, and even if there are plenty of factors at play, it’s difficult to ignore that the Bruins are retaining $2.75 million of his cap hit this season.

Lucic – Kopitar – Marian Gaborik is a frightening combination of size and skill in any scenario, yet it’s downright terrifying with two-thirds of that group in contract years.

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Few would be brave enough to dismiss the Kings chances of making the playoffs in 2015-16. Could the same be said about anyone doubting their championship hopes, too?

(You can further discuss their window of contention here.)

My, Adidas: Company will reportedly design NHL jerseys in future

LA Kings/NHL Stadium Series jersey unveiling and Team LA Store Grand Opening
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It sounds like shoe company adidas will design NHL jerseys instead of Reebok in the near future.

The details get a little hazy beyond that, which makes sense, as the league and outfitter didn’t confirm anything to TSN’s Rick Westhead (who broke the news).

Westhead reports that the new deal will kick in during the 2016-17 season, but it might begin in 2017-18 instead, according to Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski.

adidas owns Reebok, the current designer of NHL sweaters, so you’d assume it would be a smooth transition. Instead, Westhead reports that there may be some pretty “radical” changes. Here are some of the key ways things might be different:

  • There are no details regarding how it might happen, but this may open the door for advertisements on jerseys.
  • Granted, sweaters already have a key “ad” on them beyond a team logo: the brand name for whoever makes the jersey. It sounds as though adidas may want to implement its iconic three-stripe trademark in some form. Westhead reports that the deal could double the NHL’s takeaway compared to its current agreement, so that would likely dull the sting of controversy over such an implementation for the league.

“If you’re already deciding on a major NHL jersey overhaul, maybe with adidas striping on the jerseys, then it seems like it would be a good time to introduce the ads, if you plan to do it anyway,” a league source told TSN.

  • It sounds as though Connor McDavid will be featured heavily in ads, while Sidney Crosby may transition from his Reebok pitching.

There are plenty of other interesting details in Westhead’s report, so give it a full look.

Please note that this hasn’t been confirmed by the league, even if there were some murmurs dating back to February. Even so, it may be wise to consider upcoming changes if you were originally planning on buying a bunch of sweaters for the holidays.

Side note: PHT isn’t alone in making Run DMC jokes.

Go ahead, listen to the song, you know you want to.

Ducks continue to load up with one-year deal for Santorelli

Mark Barberio, Mike Santorelli
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The team that made the 2015 Stanley Cup champions sweat the most just keeps getting better.

The Anaheim Ducks added another piece to their war chest on Monday, signing Mike Santorelli to a one-year contract. Anaheim didn’t provide financial details, but ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that it’s worth $875K.

Jonathan Toews said the Ducks were the toughest team his champion Chicago Blackhawks faced during the 2015 postseason, and it seems like the Ducks are trying to cover every conceivable reason why they fell short of beating the ‘Hawks.

By adding Carl Hagelin and now Santorelli, 29, to the mix, Anaheim is a much faster team; they also boast a fleet-footed defense and fellow speedster Andrew Cogliano.

The Ducks’ mix now boasts a little extra beef and experience in bringing in Chris Stewart, Kevin Bieksa and Shawn Horcoff.

Remarkably, the franchise still boasts a ton of cap space, so they can make a splash at the trade deadline next season if they identify a missing piece.

Speaking of trade deadline pickups, Santorelli was part of a deal that didn’t really work out for his most recent team. The Nashville Predators gave up a boatload of assets for Santorelli and current UFA Cody Franson, yet neither really fit the bill.

Getting acquainted with linemates during training camp could be a big difference-maker for a quality depth forward like Santorelli, however, and it’s a pretty low-risk move for the Ducks.

Many are quite excited about the work GM Bob Murray has done this summer, by the way:

Indeed, it’s a pretty intriguing mix in Anaheim:

Would you pencil the Ducks in as the Cup favorites at this point? If not, where would they belong?

Looking to make the leap: Jordan Weal

2010 NHL Draft Portraits
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Fighting to eventually win two Stanley Cups is worth the cost of taking risks, but the Los Angeles Kings’ farm system has seen consequences from regular trade deadline moves.

Jewels From the Crown took a look at how much shallower the Kings’ prospect pool has become, something that seems clearer after the very clear graduations of scorers Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.

That said, there are still a couple prime-age players looking to make a dent on the NHL roster, including forward Jordan Weal.

It’s about that time for Weal. The 23-year-old was a third-rounder (70th overall) back in 2010, and he’s shown a solid knack for putting up points at the AHL level.

After scoring 70 points for the Manchester Monarchs in 2013-14, he nearly matched that output last season with 69 points. He really took off during the 2015 Calder Cup playoffs, scoring 22 points in 19 postseason games.

Weal thinks he has what it takes to take the next step, as NHL.com noted during his strong AHL playoff run.

“They have a great team up there and it’s really a great organization,” Weal said. “I can’t ask for more. They’ve given me lots of opportunity to play pro and get drafted and I think I’m ready to take the next step and play with them. But you never know. It’s tough to crack a team like that.”

Unlike Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff, Weal has yet to get his first taste of NHL action. The 2015-16 season represents his best chance to change that, especially after a strong finish with the Monarchs.

It’s Los Angeles Kings day at PHT

Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar
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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The Los Angeles Kings.

Two consistent contenders – the Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings – missed the playoffs last season, and while both underwent changes, they practiced very different philosophies.

The Bruins blew much of what they built up while, to some extent, the Kings are going all-in. It seems fitting that the two franchises can also be linked in the trade that sent Milan Lucic to L.A.

In attempting to assess how rattled the Kings should be by missing the playoffs, it’s key to ask why they fell short.

Plenty of outlets pondered what went wrong, spotlighting Slava Voynov’s legal issues, misplaced money in fading figures such as Dustin Brown and some shaky luck. Let’s not forget that, as dominant as this franchise has been puck possession-wise, they haven’t won a Pacific Division title during this span and often struggled to make the postseason. Maybe they merely need to accept the fact that they’ll frequently deal with a small margin for error?

The West is as rugged as ever, so it won’t be easy, but many will likely peg the Kings as a team that should bounce back to the 2016 postseason.

Off-season recap

The Kings stuck with the architect in GM Dean Lombardi and the director in head coach Darryl Sutter. The cast of characters did change in some significant ways, however.

“Mr. Game 7” Justin Williams helped the Kings win the 2014 Stanley Cup, but now he’s a member of the Washington Capitals, and not at an exorbitant price either.

However the contract-termination grievance situation works out, Mike Richards is gone; Jarret Stoll left as a free agent, yet he’s out of Los Angeles amid controversy as well. Andrej Sekera’s short time with the Kings is already over after he signed with the Edmonton Oilers.

It’s not all about subtractions, though, as the Kings added Milan Lucic to the mix. Lucic and potential linemate Anze Kopitar both enter contract years, so it should be intriguing to see how that motivation propels a top line that may also include Marian Gaborik.

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The Kings are a fascinating team to forecast, so we’ll get down to business in that regard on Monday.