After getting ousted in the first round of the playoffs by their California rivals in San Jose, the L.A. Kings have embarked on an off-season of change, and some controversy, too.
The Kings finished second in the Pacific Division, which was dominated by the California teams, with 102 points. But they ran into a Sharks team that put the historic seven-game series collapse of two years ago behind it and eventually powered its way to the Stanley Cup Final.
This year, the Kings were eliminated in five games.
Following their playoff defeat, the Kings and head coach Darryl Sutter agreed to a three-year contract extension. They brought back defenseman Brayden McNabb on a two-year contract extension and Trevor Lewis for four more years. When the free agent market opened up last month, L.A. added defenseman Tom Gilbert and forward Teddy Purcell.
But the club’s relationship with former captain Dustin Brown sure hit a rough patch.
The Kings stripped Brown of his captaincy and later gave the ‘C’ to Anze Kopitar. Remember, Brown has six years remaining on an eight-year deal with an annual cap hit of $5.875 million, while his offensive production (11 goals and 28 points in 82 games last season) has dipped significantly since the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign.
“We had pretty candid conversations. From my perspective, I think they’ve tried to trade me and have been unable to come to a deal – whether that was last week, three months ago, five months ago, or a year ago, I couldn’t tell you,” said Brown, as he opened up about having the captaincy taken from him.
“My job is to be a better hockey player for my teammates,” Brown continued. “And, as a result, help this team win. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s a business and I understand all of that. I think it’s my job just to come in ready to go in September.”