The Los Angeles Kings had been bracing for life without Milan Lucic, and on Friday it became a reality.
The division-rival Oilers — desperate just to get the franchise back into playoff contention — signed Lucic to a seven-year deal with an annual cap hit of $6 million. It’s a move that adds size to the Edmonton lineup and one that the organization hopes will ultimately translate to more wins in the standings.
But what about the Kings?
Many fans were hopeful that L.A. would be able to find a way to make a potential new Lucic contract fit under the salary cap and keep the Vancouver native in the fold, but talks broke down between the player and the team last week and those hopes were all but completely dashed.
But with Lucic now long gone, where does this leave the Kings? In order to best answer that, it’s best to first look at what exactly they lost and what they’ve gotten to help replace it.
Before you even look at any stats, the first thing you immediately notice is the loss of size in their lineup. This is magnified even more because the Kings’ calling card – especially during their championship run in recent seasons – has been a big, “heavy” style of play. Checking in at 6’3” and 233 pounds, Lucic’s size was a great fit for the Kings.
Looking at his numbers, he appeared in 81 games for L.A. last season and notched 55 points (20-35—55). He also registered a plus-minus rating of plus-26 and averaged 17:14 of ice time.
His value to the Kings also shined through in advanced metrics. He posted a career-high 59 percent Corsi for percentage, while his offensive zone start percentage was a career-high 57.9 percent.
So what did the Kings pick up when free agency started to fill the gap left by Lucic?
Enter a familiar face to L.A.: Teddy Purcell, who checks in at 6’2” and 195 pounds. The native of Newfoundland inked a one-year deal on Friday.
It features a reasonable cap hit of $1.6 million dollars, something that was important to General Manager Dean Lombardi, considering that by Friday night his team had 24 players on the roster with just $1.79 million in projected cap space left.
Purcell, who played the first 91 regular season games of his career in a Kings sweater, appeared in a total of 76 games last season for both Edmonton and Florida, where he recorded 43 points (14-29—43). He also posted a minus-11 plus-minus rating and averaged 16:50 of ice time.
Some of his advanced metrics show a drop-off from Lucic. He had a 51.2 percent Corsi for percentage and an offensive zone start percentage of 53.7 percent, which was a drop-off from his career high 58.8 percent number that he posted with Edmonton in 2014-15.
While Purcell is a solid player who should continue to play well under familiar circumstances in Los Angeles, it just goes to show what a large hole the Kings have to fill. But Purcell won’t be filling it alone.
Trevor Lewis was taken by the Kings with the 17th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and it’s a very real possibility that he’ll take another step forward in his career this season by trying to fill some of that void that Lucic leaves behind.
The Utah native signed a four-year extension with L.A. earlier this week that carries an average annual cap hit of $2 million. He played in 75 games for the Kings last season, recording 16 points (8-8—16). He also had a plus-minus rating of minus-10 and averaged 14:34 of ice time.
His Corsi for percentage was the highest it’s ever been as a full time NHL player at 55.7 percent, while he posted a 55.2 offensive zone start percentage.
Like Purcell, Lewis’ numbers are a bit of a drop-off from the production the Kings had in the lineup before, but at this point all Lombardi and his staff can do is look forward and hope that, like many of their decisions in recent years, they’ve pushed the right buttons once again.