The Kings weren’t expected to be among the most active teams on the first day of NHL free agency as the elapsing of the first 12 hours of the league’s free-spending period was more notable for who left the organization than for who joined.

Due to the salary cap’s descent to 64.3 million dollars, the need to re-sign restricted free agents and the presumed eventual contract negotiations to lengthen Dustin Brown’s stay in Los Angeles beyond 2014, amongst other factors, the Kings were not expected to agree upon anything more significant than a hypothetical extension for defenseman Rob Scuderi on the first day of free agency.

As the day developed, Scuderi signed a four-year, 13.5 million dollar contract to return to Pittsburgh, Brad Richardson signed a two-year, 2.3 million dollar contract to join Vancouver, and Los Angeles added a low-cost option by signing defenseman Jeff Schultz for one year at a friendly $700,000.

Scuderi was the Kings’ unquestioned top target among their unrestricted free agents – really, he was the top defensive target league-wide – and his departure does some shift some weight onto the need for defenseman Willie Mitchell to return in good health. Mitchell, another left-shooting defenseman, was paired extensively with 2012-13 Scuderi partner Slava Voynov during 2011-12 and has recently skated at Toyota Sports Center in attempts to test the knee that became inflamed and required a pair of surgeries that sidelined him for the entirety of the lockout-shortened season.

Should Mitchell not be able to play, his placement on Long Term Injured Reserve would free up 3.5 million dollars of cap space that could be used to address any lack of confidence in the defense.

A strong Mitchell return would be a significant benefit for the team’s blue line, though there are still plenty of options within a pool that grew to nine skaters (Doughty, Regehr, Voynov, Mitchell, Greene, Ellerby, Schultz, Muzzin-RFA, Martinez-RFA) with Schultz’s addition. Realistically, at one point one of the depth defensemen is likely to be moved, with Martinez a possible candidate due to his age, puck-advancing ability and a[n] [eventual] favorable cap-hit that has been silhouetted by intermittent usage under Darryl Sutter in 2012-13.

Though Pierre LeBrun described the team as “disappointed” in the decision, it isn’t exactly a completely unexpected surprise to see Scuderi depart Los Angeles. When the Kings and his representation never came to an agreement on an extension during the season or in the lead-up to free agency and Scuderi remained polite yet brief on the subject in interviews, the possibility of him returning to the Eastern Conference always lurked. As an intangible, geography did not play in Los Angeles’ favor as the tenured veteran cited family considerations in the explanation of his decision to return to the Eastern Time Zone.

“I didn’t really know who would be interested,” Scuderi said in a live interview with TSN. “I had an inkling…before free agency, and you try not to get too involved in it, because you’re not really sure. But I thought L.A. tabled a very fair offer, and I wasn’t going to leave Los Angeles to play for another team in the Western Conference. So it had to be an east coast team, and it wasn’t a very long list.”

Good luck to you, Rob Scuderi. Aside from winning the 2012 Stanley Cup, reaching the 2013 Western Conference Final and qualifying for the playoffs in all four seasons as a King, Scuderi received a first place Lady Byng vote this year and has been well appreciated by the contingent of writers, reporters and broadcasters who appreciate his approachability and sincerity following practices, wins and losses. Several players have referenced Scuderi as potential coach following the conclusion of his playing career; given his high hockey intelligence and level demeanor, there certainly appears to be an open-ended future within the sport should his interests align with those who speak so highly of him.

Though Schultz wasn’t favored by the last two coaching staffs in Washington, he’s still a 6-foot-6 defenseman who provides additional depth from the left side and will be looking to create momentum in a career that has not trended in a favorable direction over the last two years. He’s also an important insurance piece should Mitchell be unable to play or return to his previously established levels. At $700,000, he’s an inexpensive, experienced option, and given that he’s 27-years-old and at one point posted a 23-point, plus-50 season in the NHL, there appears to be a ceiling to Schultz’s game that hasn’t been reached recently.

The Kings’ evolution from rebuilding to respectability and the route towards their ascension as Stanley Cup champions was marked by Brad Richardson’s blood and sweat. Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll were the only current Kings in the lineup on October 11, 2008, the night that Richardson made his Los Angeles debut.

His speed and forechecking tendencies should allow him to slot in favorably with Vancouver under new head coach John Tortorella. Never easy to play against, his feistiness will be an interesting addition on the opposite side of the frequent extracurricular activities that accompany Kings-Canucks games.

Dustin Penner, the team’s lone unrestricted free agent following the signings of Scuderi and Richardson, is still at large and unsigned.

Jonathan Bernier, on the other hand, has reached an agreement with Toronto.

Free agency coverage will continue as it develops, and once player movement appears mostly settled, LAKI will take a look at what the realigned division will look like and general trends of the Western-based teams. Lots more to come.

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Alec martinez

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 210 lb | Age: 29

Born: July 26, 1987
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, MI, USA
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Martinez was drafted by the LA Kings in the 2007 Draft, while playing for Miami University. He has since become a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the 17th man in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

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Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

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Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

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Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
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Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

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Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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