Originally written on NHL Hot Stove  |  Last updated 9/30/11

Kings’ fan can collectively sigh and catch their breath.  Amid rumors of impending offer sheets and their star defenseman’s desire to resume his career in another city, Drew Doughty will continue to play his home games at the Staples Center.  Late last night, Doughty agreed to an eight-year deal worth $56 million.  In addition, the Kings signed free agent forward Trent Hunter to a one-year, $600,000 contract.  These moves push the Kings to within $1.7 million of the salary cap limit.

Doughty, a 212-pound defenseman from London, Ontario, clearly represents the present and future of the Los Angeles Kings.  After being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Doughty produced an effective 27 point season although he did struggle defensively, ending the season with a -17 rating.  He improved both offensively and defensively into his second season with 59 points and a +20 rating.  Last season was somewhat of a disappointment for Doughty and the Kings as his point production dropped to 40 although he took care of his own end well while averaging a team high 25:39 per game.

The Kings currently have 15 forwards, 7 defensemen, and 2 goaltenders on their active roster.  This most likely means that the Kings will need to cut 2 forwards by opening night next week.  Amongst the youngsters, Kyle Clifford and Kevin Westgarth provide toughness, and Scott Parse and Trevor Lewis will be counted on to provide depth scoring.  Parse has been skating on the Kings’ top unit with Simon Gagne and Anze Kopitar, but LA Kings’ beat writer Matthew Barry believes his seat may be hottest amongst the forwards.  Parse has been rather pedestrian early on as he hasn’t hurt the Kings, but he has generated very little offense (1 assist) and no shots on goal in 3 pre-season games.  If the Kings feel that they need to afford themselves a more significant amount of cap space, they could do so via the trade route. 21 year old defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov has impressed thus far.  He has 2 goals and 1 assist in 4 games while staying out of the penalty box and out of minus rating territory in all 4 games.  If Voynov were to make the team, the Kings could opt to deal veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi ($3.4 million cap hit for 2 more seasons).

Veteran Trent Hunter has earned a spot on the Kings’ bottom 6 (3rd/4th line role) after a tryout with the club.  The New York Islanders were hoping that Hunter would develop a consistent scoring touch, but that didn’t happen.  Hunter put up very respectable 25, 16, and 20 goal seasons in his first 3 full seasons in the NHL, but he hasn’t reached the 15 goal mark over the last 4 seasons.  Hunter has had an interesting offseason as the Islanders traded his rights to the New Jersey Devils on July 28th, then, on August 1st, the Devils waived the 31 year old Red Deer, Alberta-native.  The Kings are hoping that Hunter can put up 15 goals in a supporting role this season.

The Kings are a team that needs to score more goals.  They finished 25th in goal scoring last season (219) and responded by acquiring Mike Richards and Gagne in the offseason.  There is no reason to believe that their goaltending or defense will take a step backwards as those positions remain strong and intact.  They will need to score more goals in the 2011-2012 campaign in order to advance past the first round of the playoffs.  Although cliche’, their best players need to be their best players, particularly in the playoffs.  In the 2011 postseaon, Kyle Clifford co-lead the team in goals.  Teams need production from all parts of their lineup, but when a 4th liner leads your team in goal scoring, you get what the 2011 Kings got – time to reserve tee times while eight other clubs advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Cross-checks, slashes, and nifty cross ice passes will be accepted on Twitter @Gordsie.

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