It will be interesting to see how the team’s goaltending picture evolves over the next couple of seasons. Gone is Dan Cloutier, who did not play nearly as well as expected and was hurt a lot during his two seasons in Los Angeles. Erik Ersberg and Jason LaBarbera are sharing the load at present but three talented prospects Jonathan Bernier, Jon Quick and Jeff Zatkoff are on the horizon.
The Kings struggle to score as they rank 23rd in goals per game (2.56). In the short-term Murray is stressing to his team to shoot more. But come the 2009 draft it would not be surprising for Lombardi to focus on adding scoring centers and wingers.
Besides having so much promising young talent in the pipeline, another huge factor in the expected transformation of the Kings into one of the league’s elite teams is they have the most salary cap flexibility of any team in the NHL. This season they have about $13 million in cap space. And beyond the 2010-11 season, they’ll have only three players under contract: center Anze Kopitar, who is an absolute blue-chipper, winger Dustin Brown, who is their captain and a young, tough defenseman, Matt Greene.
So with cap flexibility and no financial burden of long-term contracts, Lombardi has put the Kings in great position to fill any needs they might have in what will be a belt tightening stretch by NHL clubs as they weather the storm economically. With the economy in bad shape not only will a lot of teams not be willing to re-sign some of their players who are coming up for free agency in the next couple of years but there’s also likely to be less competition for the services of these free agents as clubs closely watch their bottom lines. That means not only will Los Angeles (providing ownership gives the green light) be able to get help on the open market, it might well get that help at discount prices.
For Los Angeles this season will have its growing pains for sure. But with the youthful blueprint put in place by Lombardi, Kings fans have something to look forward to and it could well be something real good real soon.
PHT: Tuukka Rask has frustrated the Blackhawks to the tune of a 1.22 GAA and .959 save percentage in the Stanley Cup Final. Can Chicago find any luck in Game 4?
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Rask credits a team effort on defense
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