Getty ImagesWhile his players are already underway with their Stanley Cup celebrations, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi quickly went back to work ahead of this weekend's NHL Draft and the opening of the free agency period on July 1.
In a chat with Rich Hammond, Lombardi talked about the decision to either bring back a near-identical Kings team next season or feel the need to make tweaks to the lineup in hopes of another Cup run.
From LA Kings Insider:
"Then, as you said, there is a school of thought that says you've got to make changes and not get stale. I'm not sure about that. On one hand I could say maybe, but we're a young team. It's not like there's old guys that need to go, who had a last hurrah. Secondly, it's a very tight group. You can say, 'Well, chemistry changes when you've had success,' and that's true. I don't think these are things we could sit down and analyze and come up with a definitive answer.
"You're right. These are things that have to be discussed. I don't have those answers now, but I've already done some surveying and I intend to do a lot more. Clearly I've been around a little while now, and I'm getting old, but I'm learning things I never thought of before."
The new CBA could throw a monkey wrench into Lombardi's, and every other NHL team's, summer plans; should, you know, a new CBA be agreed upon, but barring drastic salary cap rules and regulation changes the Kings' won't be much different than the team lifting the Cup just over a week ago, even if new bodies are brought in.
Lombardi said that the biggest name free agents aren't always the one that fit with a team and that's certainly true. Now comes the question of chemistry or change.
According to Cap Geek, the Kings currently have just over $54 million tied up among 20 players heading into next season. Other than Scott Parse, they have one restricted free agent and three unrestricted free agents. Along with Jonathan Quick needing to be extended before going UFA in Summer 2013, here are the players who will have to be decided on by the Kings.
Dwight King (RFA, 27 GP, 5 G, 14 PTS) - King was called up in early February and didn't look back. After spending some time with Mike Richards, King settled into the third line with Trevor Lewis and Jarret Stoll. He made his presence known in the postseason scoring five times in a six-game span over the second and third rounds. You don't win Stanley Cups without having good depth players and King proved himself to be one.
Dustin Penner (UFA, 65 GP, 7 G, 17 PTS) - Last summer started off with Lombardi questioning whether Penner could be a useful member of the Kings or a dominant hitter in a local softball league. The deal that brought him to LA during the 2011 trade deadline resulted in 6 points in 19 games at the end of 2010-11. The struggles continued into this year with the "Penner Point" problem. But whatever it was, Penner found his stride in the postseason finishing with 3 goals and 11 points, including the overtime winner that sent the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final. He made $4.25 million last season and you'd expect a decent pay cut whether he returns to LA or ventures elsewhere.
Jarret Stoll (UFA, 78 GP, 6 G, 21 PTS) - Stoll's production decreased after being a 40-plus point player the last three seasons, but he's always been money in the dot having won more than 55-percent of faceoffs every season since 2005-06. He made $3.6 million this season and will turn 30 on Sunday. Will a team overpay for Stoll as he looks for a last big deal and will Lombardi let him walk with Andrei Loktionov waiting in the wings?
Colin Fraser (UFA, 67 GP, 2 G, 8 PTS) - Fraser was at the center of the Lombardi/Edmonton Oilers feud last summer when he was sent to LA in place of an injured Gilbert Brule for Ryan Smyth. Lombardi knew about a foot injury Fraser was close to recovering from, but it was discovered he also had a cyst and blood disorder that would keep him out until November. It led to another Lombardi gem of a quote: "The bottom line for me, I would have rather invested my money with Bernie Madoff then invest in Edmonton's word." Once healthy, Fraser was a fourth liner making $825K. Should Lombardi bring him back, you can bet it'll be a full examination before the contract is signed.
So if you're the Kings, do you stick with an identical roster that fit into Sutter's blueprint to win or is there need for fresh blood as to not allow for complacency?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy