Capitals’ 2022 Offseason Free Agent Targets: Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings’ rebuild is heading in the right direction. Despite the team’s first-round playoff exit against the Edmonton Oilers, general manager Rob Blake’s team has made significant progress lately and is well-positioned for a deep run next postseason.

However, the Kings are still likely to alter their roster this offseason, paving the way for their prospects to grab a spot in head coach Todd McLellan’s line-up. As a result, many of LA’s pending unrestricted free agents (UFAs) are expected to hit the market, with the Washington Capitals as a possible landing spot.

After watching his team crash out of the postseason early for the fourth straight season, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan is on the lookout for bargain UFAs who can add quality to head coach Peter Laviolette’s lineup.

Head coach Peter Laviolette, Washington Capitals (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With that in mind, here are four pending UFAs on the Kings that Washington should target this offseason. There are plenty of quality depth options available, including a prolific minor-league scorer.

Andreas Athanasiou, Left Wing, UFA

If the Capitals want to add a speedy, offensive-minded forward to their third or fourth line, Andreas Athanasiou fits the bill. He notched 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 28 regular-season appearances this season, upholding a 57.8 percent on-ice expected goals share.

Andreas Athanasiou LA Kings
Andreas Athanasiou, Los Angeles Kings (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images),

The 27-year-old is recognizable at this point in his career, putting up steady numbers for the Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, and Kings since entering the league in 2015-16. He’s set to earn a slight pay rise on his one-year, $2.7 million contract and could attract a bidding war due to his positional versatility.

Athanasiou would inject pace into the bottom half of the Capitals’ aging roster, an asset they lacked in their playoff elimination against the Florida Panthers. He’s got the size, speed, and scoring touch to fit in D.C. – keep an eye on him as free agency approaches.

Troy Stecher, Right-Handed Defenceman, UFA

Troy Stecher’s postseason performances will bump up the value of his next contract. He registered four points (two goals, two assists) in four playoff games in the final weeks of his $1.7 million/year contract.

Even so, the 28-year-old will be a budget-friendly pickup for his next team. He can operate anywhere in the lineup and has experience on both the power play and penalty kill.

Stecher is known as a positive locker room personality and is credited with having an impressive work ethic. He’s undersized, at 5-foot-10, but would improve Washington’s roster if signed this summer. Make no mistake, the Canadian will make a splash in free agency if he isn’t re-signed by LA.

Olli Maatta, Left-Handed Defenceman, UFA

After earning $4 million against the salary cap for the past six seasons, Olli Maatta is set to take a pay cut this summer. The two-time Stanley Cup champion played 66 games this season, registering eight points (one goal, seven assists) while averaging 18:17 in ice time.

However, the 27-year-old’s overall play has dipped recently. He made several high-profile mistakes on the Kings’ blue line this season, including against the Tampa Bay Lightning back in January:

Maatta shouldn’t be high on MacLellan’s list of defensive targets but could become an interesting option if a lack of interest forces him to accept a large salary reduction. Food for thought: he’ll be useful to his next club if he rebounds next season.

Martin Frk, Right Wing, UFA

Making a move for Martin Frk could make a lot of sense for the Capitals. He’s coming off a prolific season in the American Hockey League, putting up 73 points (40 goals, 33 assists) in 58 outings for the Ontario Reign, and will be relatively inexpensive to sign this summer.

Frk is an incomplete player with a so-so track record in the NHL. He doesn’t excel defensively and hasn’t been a regular in the majors since 2017-18. However, the Czech winger has a lethal shot and would be the perfect injury cover for an aging squad.

The 28-year-old will earn a marginal pay raise this summer, although it is likely to stay below the $1 million mark. Could there be a place for him in Washington?

Signing Strength in Depth Key for the Capitals in 2022-23

Despite starting 2021-22 on the front foot thanks to a burst of depth scoring, Washington’s form dipped around the league’s COVID-19 shutdown, and they never really recovered. MacLellan’s task this offseason is therefore clear-cut: he must sign quality depth options that are flexible enough to contribute higher up the lineup when needed.

Related: Capitals’ 2022 Offseason Free Agent Targets: New York Rangers

As noted, there are many players on the Kings who fit the bill. Athanasiou’s footspeed and size are attractive qualities, while Stetcher’s appeal on the blue line mustn’t be discounted. If they hit the market, there will be a battle for their signatures – and the Capitals should be involved.

MacLellan faces a make-or-break offseason and must scoop up the right free agents who can play a key role on the Kings next season. It’s all to play for in 2022-23.

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