The Los Angeles Kings have signed a grand total of zero free agents this off-season. This is the most quiet free agent season the Kings have had in a long time, and that is not all bad.
The Kings have elected to go the route of building their team with a strong system and a wise trading strategy. This approach has worked in cities like New Jersey and there is no reason to think it won’t work in L.A. As long as the Kings spend the money to keep their core players who are invaluable to their team, as they did with Jason Allison, then the next step is bringing along prospect talent. They appear to be doing just that.
With that approach in mind, signing the Bill Guerins of the world ruins the strategy. The King would basically be driving up the price of their own market – paying Guerin or overpaying Boucher would make the re-signing of Palffy, Miller and the like more expensive. Again, dedicating themselves to this philosophy works if they keep their key players in the fold, or receive better compensation via a trade. That is how championships are built.
As for not re-signing veterans who are fringe players, this is a compliment to the re-built system. Phillippe Boucher would have been great to re-sign, but with prospects like Andreas Lilja and Joe Corvo, it’s not money well spent. The formula holds true- Boucher leaves and Corvo is signed. That is the benefit of having prospects, and that extra money can pay other necessary players. Kelly Buchberger was a great member of the Kings, but one that the Kings have prospects like Adam Mair and Kip Brennan to replace. Money again saved with and the opportunities to play young, promising players without significant performance drop-offs.
The Kings have basically kept themselves on an even level to last season, when they were a very good hockey team. They have also freed up a few million dollars by letting Cliff Ronning, Nelson Emerson, Phillippe Boucher and Kelly Buchberger go. These are all players who played positions where the Kings have youngsters ready to step in. That is smart management.
The Kings have also begun signing prospects, like goalie Cristobel Huet, which gives them depth to trade assets they have to acquire assets they need. That is yet another product of a solid farm system that pays off on the NHL level.
This off-season is not a bad one – it is the sign of an organization that may finally be getting it right.
The Kings are conducting their prospect camp this week. Noticeably absent are Jens Karlsson and David Steckel, who were both excused. Jason Crain is at the camp. Reports to come…