In their quest to become one of hockey’s first dynasties in the salary cap era, these Los Angeles Kings are not about to go away.
While most Stanley Cup contenders need to rebuild or retool from season to season, Los Angeles general manager Dean Lombardi finds himself in the enviable position of only requiring to tweak his roster entering the 2014-15 campaign.
When Lombardi finally gets the chance to take a deep breath and look ahead to the off-season, he’ll find a team that is pretty much already signed, sealed and delivered.
Other than getting pending unrestricted free agent forward Marian Gaborik re-signed — something team management already has said it would like to pursue — the core of the Kings squad is under contract for the 14-15 campaign.
Adding to the optimism surrounding the Kings future is the number of players who are still in their 20s.
Indeed, of the Kings players who laced up the blades for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup final against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, only three forwards — Gaborik (32), Justin Williams (32), Jarret Stoll (32) — and three defencemen — pending UFA Willie Mitchell (37), Robyn Regehr (34) and Matt Greene (31) — would be 30 or older when training camp opens in September.
Meanwhile, how’s this for a foundation of youth: Defencemen Drew Doughty (24), Slava Voynov (24), Jake Muzzin (25), Alec Martinez (26); forwards Tanner Pearson (22), Tyler Toffoli (22), Dwight King (25), Anze Kopitar (27), Mike Richards (29), Dustin Brown (29) and Jeff Carter (29); and goalies Jonathan Quick (28) and Martin Jones (24).
According to nhlnumbers.com, the Kings, at their current makeup, would have the 13th youngest team in the NHL next season. In other words, a team that is right in the midst of its prime.
Here is a look at the pending free agents — both restricted and unrestricted — on the rosters of both participating teams in the 2014 Stanley Cup final:
Los Angeles Kings
UFAs: F Marian Gaborik, D Matt Greene, D Willie Mitchell.
RFAs: F Dwight King.
New York Rangers
UFAs: F Benoit Pouliot, F Dominic Moore, F Brian Boyle, F Daniel Carcillo, D Anton Stralman, F Rafael Diaz.
RFAs: F Chris Kreider, F Derick Brassard, F Mats Zuccarello. D Justin Falk, D John Moore.
RICHARDS' ROCKY ROADS?
Nornally it wouldn’t be such a rare sight to see opposing fourth-line centres face off against each other in the first period of a Stanley Cup game as was the case on Wednesday night.
Except this time it was different.
This time the combatants taking the draw: Richards versus Richards.
As in the Rangers’ Brad Richards, who has a cap hit of $6.667 million US through 2019-20.
And as in the Kings’ Mike Richards, who has a cap hit of $5.75 million US through 2019-20.
That’s a lot of coin for guys playing that far down in the lineup.
To be fair, Brad Richards did see duty on the point on the power play. And Mike Richards, along with killing penalties, saw some time on a line with Jeff Carter.
Either way, there has been a lot of speculation during the final about the possible buyouts of both of the Richards by their respective teams.
If nothing else, it should be an, um, interesting summer for both, to say the least.
Interesting idea being kicked around concerning faceoffs of the future. During a recent phone interview with Mike Murphy, the league’s senior vice-president of hockey operations said there was a concept being floated in which pucks shot by the attacking team in the offensive zone that deflected out of play off a teammate — or the net or glass — would result in the faceoff being held in the offensive zone rather than outside the blue line. Such a rule change would reward teams for attempting to create offence, Murphy said ... Scene (or is that “seen?) and heard at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, at least from a celebrity point of view: Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, Californication star David Duchovny; New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin and his son-in-law, Giants guard Chris Snee; former tennis star John McEnroe, a buddy of Henrik Lundqvist; and, of course, Robert De Niro — a man who needs no introduction.
LAST MINUTE OF PLAY
While the Kings aren’t the first organization to do it, it still was a classy move by Los Angeles to hire a charter to fly about 200 friends and family of the players to New York for Game 4 at Madison Square Garden.
By doing so, it gives the players a chance to be surrounded by those they care about in the event they were able to clinch the Stanley Cup.
It’s hardly an original concept. A year ago, the Blackhawks did the same thing, jetting family and friends to Boston’s TD Garden for Game 6 against the Bruins.
It proved to be a good luck charm for Chicago. Down 2-1, Bryan Bickell and David Bolland scored 17 seconds apart within the final two minutes to give the Hawks a Cup-clinching 3-2 victory, much to the glee of their entourage up in the stands.
Win or lose, good on the Kings for doing it.