Pacific division predictions

EDMONTON, CANADA - MAY 14: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93, Darnell Nurse #25, and Jack Campbell #36 of the Edmonton Oilers defend the net in the third period against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 14, 2023 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, CANADA - MAY 14: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93, Darnell Nurse #25, and Jack Campbell #36 of the Edmonton Oilers defend the net in the third period against the Las Vegas Golden Knights in Game Six of the Second Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 14, 2023 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Lawrence Scott/Getty Images) /
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Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /

3.  Los Angeles Kings

I’m giving the bronze medal position to the LA Kings, who over the last couple of years have shown to be playoff contenders but still have to work to do to become cup contenders.

The Kings are a fine team but there is a blemish they made this offseason that in my opinion is such a big blunder it may cost GM Rob Blake his job in the next couple of seasons.

They traded a huge haul to Winnipeg to acquire Pierre-Luc Dubois, then re-upped him for a maximum of eight years at $8.5 million per year.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the Kings made this move – not only did they give away a significant amount of their cap space to a guy they didn’t need because they already had a very good top-six forward group – in other words unnecessarily shoring up a position of strength – but they’ve kneecapped themselves financially now for the foreseeable future roster wise and cap space wise.

For you see, the entry of Dubois onto the roster then pushes Philip Danault down to the third line, which he doesn’t deserve because he put up 18-36-54 in 82 games last season for the Kings, good numbers for a top-six forward. Yeah he finished with a -8. but that’s the first time he’s been a minus player in seven seasons. This trade and sign just reeks of a panic move made for no reason.

Want an example of why this is a bad idea? Just look at how badly Toronto has performed ever since they signed John Tavares to a huge contract. That has been a self-inflicted wound on their cap space, and the team has struggled to improve ever since because they just don’t have the cap space to do anything other than go bargain basement shopping and hope prospects graduate and play.

Now I see LA in the same predicament. Yes, I know that Kopitar is 36 years old, but he’s still under contract for three more seasons and is surprisingly still an effective player. There was no need to replace him in the lineup now, which is the only reason I can think of for why the Kings made that deal.

Now not only are they forced to pay Danault $5.5 million annually to play on the third line – a huge waste of cap space – but they were forced to trade blueliner Sean Durzi – whose stock is only on the rise – to Arizona in a cap dump move because they didn’t have the cap space to re-sign him after this season.

Judging by their cap space they are hoping and praying that rookie Brandt Clarke is ready to replace him. For their sake, they better hope the gamble pays off.

It also took cap space from the goaltending corps and defence and allocated it to an area of need that wasn’t necessary – the forward group.

Now you can see the results of that bad decision when you look at the King’s goalies. Forced to go bargain basement shopping for goalies, they ended up signing a cooked 36-year-old Cam Talbot to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. He was terrible for Ottawa last season, in 36 games only putting up a .898 sv% and 2.93 GAA. That’s terrible. His backup is Pheonix Copley, a career backup who is signed for one year and $1,000,000. Not much better than Talbot, he put up a .903 sv% and a 2.64 GAA in 37 games for LA last season.

What really fries me is they had the opportunity to re-sign Joonas Korpisalo and they let him walk – ironically, he walked to Ottawa where Talbot had just finished up.

As a result of this bad decision, LA will be held back by their goaltending regardless of who is in net, and officially be relegated to third banana behind the Oilers and Vegas, and come playoff time one of those two teams will always eliminate them in either the first or second round until their goaltending gets better.

They shored up the wrong area of their team and failed to improve the area of their team that really needed improving. Yeah, I get that Jonathan Quick was completely cooked and needed to be replaced, but you replaced him with an over-the-hill guy on his last legs who was a failure in Ottawa last season. That’s not an upgrade, it’s a lateral move at best.

I would go so far as to say that LA now has arguably the worst goaltending of any playoff team in the NHL.

Nonetheless, I can’t see another team dethroning LA – on paper, at least – so for now the playoff contenders in LA will remain in third spot until someone else proves otherwise.

They still have a very solid team but their goaltending will hold them back until they can afford an upgrade.