Flipping the calendar to the first day of the NHL Draft, there are still a few odds and ends to catch up on as we wrap up one of the busiest weeks of the off-season.
Looking back one final time at the expansion draft, it was clear throughout the second half of the season that the Kings had put their list together. There was still the question of whether the management changes atop the organization affected the team’s protection list, or whether they’d trade a defenseman to be able to go the 7-3-1 protection route, but barring any movement, the team had more or less finalized its protection list roughly midway through the season. That was, of course, when Derek Forbort’s emergence and ability to log 20 minutes a night made him an easy choice to protect. That came at the expense of Brayden McNabb, who was claimed by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.
“We were fairly consistent throughout the later part of the year on what we were doing, and then obviously in the summer leading up into expansion, it didn’t really change that much,” Rob Blake said. “I think the emergence of Derek Forbort obviously on the defense combined with Muzzin and Martinez and Doughty and kind of set what we were doing from the back end first, allowing us to have four forwards there with Quickie. I don’t think it changed a whole bunch. It’s unfortunate you lose a player. Every team’s in that position. Brayden McNabb was a good defenseman for us. He suffered a little bit of an injury early in the season, had a little bit of a setback, but I think he’s excited about that opportunity to go to a franchise and keep his career progressing, but as far as where we were set, we’ve been pretty set in that position [leading to expansion].”In conversations throughout the second half of the season with those in the front office, there was some worry that the Kings could lose Nic Dowd to expansion. Dowd showed some promising playmaking ability as a 26-year-old and was effective on the power play, but like many first-year players, had to adjust to playing a demanding role against a much bigger, stronger and faster player pool while pushed by a demanding coach who hadn’t been known for treating young players with kid gloves. The former NCHC Defensive Player of the Year may be poised to find better success in all zones in 2017-18 with one six-goal, 22-point season under his belt.
But for Vegas, which has interesting depth if not necessarily proven production at the center position, perhaps a combination of Vadim Shipachyov, Cody Eakin, William Karlsson, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare and potentially the versatile Erik Haula fills the needs of the most important forward position. The Golden Knights will also sign free agents as their roster continues to fill out.
“Oh, yeah, they’ve got some very good players, and they’ve got some assets that they’re continually moving here and looking to adjust, and the draft picks and everything,” Blake said. “We haven’t gone over the exact list in order just yet. We’re working on some other things this morning. We’re going to kind of look at that at a glance later on this afternoon, but obviously George McPhee’s been around a long time and is a very quality person and a quality general manager, and he’s put a lot of thought in that process.”
The Kings confirmed on Friday what was first reported by LA Kings Insider on June 13: Matt Greene will be bought out of the final year of his contract. The full details, including what this means for the team’s financials, are available here, but in a nutshell, Greene’s $2.5-million cap hit for 2017-18 would be replaced by an $833,333 cap hit for both 2017-18 and 2018-19.
A popular, engaging figure who served as a pillar of the team’s emotional drive, Greene, acquired with Jarret Stoll in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky on June 29, 2008, served as a conduit towards the construction of a team culture out of the ashes of mid-2000’s disorder.
“Matt has made incredible contributions to our hockey club and we are very grateful for everything he has done since joining our organization including his outstanding leadership,” Kings President Luc Robitaille said in a statement. “Upon his arrival to Los Angeles he played a significant role in helping change the culture of the Kings and his contributions to our two Stanley Cups in particular is immeasurable.”
In 464 games with Los Angeles, Greene totaled 16 goals, 67 points, a plus-21 rating and 458 penalty minutes. In 615 career games, he has 17 goals and 80 points. While there is no official statistic for Blunt Force Pain/60, Greene would certainly be among the franchise’s all-time leaders.
We thank Greener for his many, many contributions to our organization on and off the ice over the years. pic.twitter.com/Vlkyvu3RSE
— LAKingsPR (@LAKingsPR) June 23, 2017
One additional bit from Rob Blake’s conference call includes an interesting observation on Dustin Brown, who may not have returned to his halcyon days as a premier scoring and bruising power forward, but raised his production to 14 goals and 36 points while serving as a consistent net-front presence and commendably shaking off or sublimating any perceived slights of the transfer of the captaincy to Anze Kopitar. All in all, it was probably his best regular season since 2012-13.
“I still consider him in that leadership group, obviously,” Blake said. “I think he provides us a net-front presence that I’m not sure we have a lot of through our lineup. We’re encouraged with Brownie. He had a good year last year, he was excited about it, and the one thing I heard constantly throughout the year is how good he is to some of the other guys on the team who are taking over leadership roles in Drew and Kopi, and how supportive Brownie is. I don’t think that changes. He’s a player that can kind of play up and down the lineup. He can play with Kopitar if he has to, he can come down and play a different role. He’s a durable player, and he still plays hard. You have to know when he’s on the ice, so we’re excited to have Dustin there.”