UFA Options is a continuing series that gives a brief run-down of the unrestricted free agent market this summer, team-by-team. Our next team for consideration is the Los Angeles Kings .
Dean Lombardi’s Los Angeles Kings are a team on the rise. 2008-09 marked the sixth consecutive season for the team without a playoff appearance, and they haven’t gone on a lengthy run since the days of Wayne Gretzky and Kelly Hrudey.
Right now though they have a wealth of young talent, most of it under contract long-term, and there are only three players on the team entering unrestricted free ageny, with none of them being vital cogs.
Kyle Calder twice topped the fifty-point mark in Chicago, recording career highs in 2005-06 (79GP – 26G – 33A – 59PTS) but he’s struggled ever since, and this past season was no exception. He played second-line opposition and had a reasonable split in terms of offensive/defensive zone work, but he couldn’t quite hit the 10-goal or 30-point plateaus. He isn’t much of a physical presence, although occasionally he can chip in there, he doesn’t block shots (recorded only 7 blocks in 74 games last season – team low numbers) and he’s not the world’s most fluid skater, either.
He’s a good utility player who can occasionally step up into a top-six role (particularly as a playmaker) but doesn’t provide enough offense to stay there season-to-season and probably isn’t reliable enough defensively to anchor a shut-down line.
This past season was brutal for Armstrong. Armstrong bounced around the AHL for years before signing on with Los Angeles at the tender age of 29, when he unexpectedly emerged as a decent support player. Over the past five seasons he’s generally played around 60 games and chipped in between 35 and 45 points, but this last year the wheels fell off; he managed 9 points in 56 games despite playing a sheltered role and bled goals against. Armstrong’s never been quick but at 36 he’s only getting slower, so despite decent offensive talent and a relatively chippy game it’s fair to ask if he’ll be in the NHL next season.
It was a little surprising to see Denis Gauthier return to the NHL after being exiled to the Philadelphia Phantoms for 2007-08; it was less surprising that he struggled. Los Angeles basically agreed to take a second round pick in exchange for taking Gauthier’s salary off of the Flyers’ hands.
Gauthier’s never been quick, and he plays a physical – even dirty – game; he was twice suspended by the NHL this past season (in the span of a single month) for a blow to the head of Montreal’s Josh Gorges and then for boarding Sharks’ captain Patrick Marleau. He hits and blocks shots, every so often he fights, but at this point he shouldn’t be in the top-six on a decent team.