When the 2014 NHL Free Agency window opened at High Noon on July 1, teams were throwing money around like it was going out of fashion. A mere 18 months after a lockout, based on “inflating player salaries,” wiped out more than half of the 2012-13 season owners, and general managers were right back to where they were. The Los Angeles Kings, however, were not part of that frenzy, and they are better off for staying away.
For what it’s worth, the Kings took care of business before July 1, signing their own free agents in Marian Gaborik, Matt Greene and Jeff Schultz before they could reach the market. Taking care of business ahead of time is the mark of a smart organization, as all three players took less than they would have made on the open market. Gaborik looks like the best bargain in hockey right now after signing a seven-year deal worth $4.5 million a year. In comparison, the Florida Panthers gave Dave Bolland (whose career high in points is 47) $5.5 million a year over five years (and yet the Panthers still cry “small market” and “poverty” when things don’t go their way financially). Even with Gaborik’s history of health issues, it’s also not like Bolland’s health is great, he only played 23 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last year due to an ankle injury.
Dean Lombardi and the Kings should take a victory lap, as they have kept their team together and avoided overpaying for mediocrity. Despite the improvements, other teams have made they are still the team to beat in the Western Conference and in the NHL. With Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll needing new deals after next season, the Kings can focus all their attention on keeping both in the fold beyond 2015. It is this sort of long range vision that will keep the Kings an elite team for a long time.