The Kings re-signed defenseman Jeff Schultz to a new two-year contract Monday, keeping him from hitting the free-agent marketplace Tuesday. Schultz, 28, spent the regular season with the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H., but then played in seven playoff games. He’s likely to get a chance to become Willie Mitchell’s replacement next season. The Kings won’t re-sign Mitchell because of salary-cap concerns. Mitchell will become an unrestricted free agent Tuesday.
Schultz is the seventh defenseman the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings have under contract, joining Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, Robyn Regehr and Slava Voynov.
The Kings’ options are limited. They’re nearly hitting their heads on the NHL’s $69-million salary cap for next season, but since they’ve just won their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons, maybe the best move is keeping their roster relatively intact for 2014-15.
The Kings dealt forward LInden Vey to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, the second day of the NHL draft. Vey will get a chance to play with the Canucks, who have made a number of moves the last two days, including trading center Ryan Kesler to the Ducks. Vey, 22, spent the better part of the last three seasons with the Kings’ American Hockey League club in Manchester, N.H. He had five assists in 18 games with the Kings in 2013-14, however.
Here’s what Goran Stubb, the NHL’s director of European scouting, had to say about Swedish forward Adrian Kempe, the Kings’ first-round draft pick: “He’s a big, strong, bullish forward who can play center or wing. He likes to drive hard for the net, using his strength and skating to his advantage. He plays the body and is aggressive when forechecking. He has a good defensive game for a player with his offensive skills; mobile, solid and strong. He’s a power forward, strong along the boards with smooth hands and is a very speed skater. He’s a solid two-way forward.”
The Kings waited and waited and waited some more before selecting left wing Adrian Kempe with the 29th overall pick in the NHL draft Friday in Philadelphia. Kempe won’t attend training camp and it could be several years before he makes the Kings’ roster, but he could be one of the more intriguing first-round picks..
It seemed the minute the Kings announced Tuesday they agreed with Matt Greene on a new four-contract that Willie Mitchell’s days with the team were over. Mitchell is simply caught in a numbers game on defense. The Kings are up against the salary cap for starters, and they have plenty of options if they don’t re-sign Mitchell, a 37-year-old who helped them win two Stanley Cup championships. Mitchell wanted to re-sign with the Kings, preferring to remain in Southern California. He might get one of those wishes if he signs with the Ducks, who could use another veteran D-man.
Here’s a list of Kings defensemen under contract, with expiration dates: Greene (2017-18), Drew Doughty (2018-19), Alec Martinez (2014-15), Jake Muzzin (2014-15), Robyn Regehr (2014-15) and Slava Voynov (2018-19).
Here’s what Mitchell had to say recently about his future:
“I mean, there’s lots of moving parts. I get it. There’s Willie Mitchell the player. There’s the salary cap, and then there’s as a GM you structure your team so, hopefully, you can have success over a long period of time. So I get it. If you’re asking me if I want to play hockey, hell yeah, and to be honest, I think probably this playoffs is the best hockey I’ve played.”
The Ducks are expected to be active in trade discussions over the next few days at the NHL draft, trying to upgrade their roster in an attempt to match the Stanley Cup champion Kings. The Ducks want help at center and on defense. Here’s what Ducks general manager Bob Murray said about keeping up with the Kings, or trying to catch up to them, anyway:
“They won the Stanley Cup and they deserved to. They were the best team. They had a good series with Chicago after our series (a second-round win for the Kings) and the Rangers stepped up, too. So, we’re chasing a bunch of teams. That’s why we have to step up, (because) we’re behind a few teams.”
Here’s Murray on finding someone like Kings defenseman Drew Doughty:
You watch the Kings and you watched how Drew Doughty emerged as a superstar in the playoffs. Do we have someone who is that guy? Can you afford that guy if you find someone like that? It’s a huge decision, but how long do you wait?”
Marian Gaborik had this to say about his comfort level after joining Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and the rest of the Kings after a March 5 trade from the Columbus Blue Jackets: “The guys welcomed me warmly. Right away, I felt comfortable. That’s very important, to feel comfortable. To play along with ‘Kopi,’ he’s a great player … and then ‘Brownie,’ the way we clicked so quickly, it was great.”
Here’s what forward Marian Gaborik said Wednesday of agreeing to a new seven-year contract with the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings: “Hopefully, we can just keep this train rolling, … I knew I could get maybe more money if I had gone to free agency, but it wasn’t about money. I wanted to be part of a great team. … That was my No. 1 priority, to get a deal done here.”
The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings and veteran forward Marian Gaborik agreed Wednesday on a new seven-season contract that will pay him an average of $4.9 million and further cement a championship roster for years to come. Gaborik, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, MIke Richards, Jonathan Quick and Slava Voynov are all signed through 2019.