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More Answers Than Questions

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings

For perhaps the first time in the Dean Lombardi era, the Kings will wake up on July 1 with more answers than questions, in terms of roster construction.

Starting goalie and backup goalie? Set. Defense? Seven strong, if not more. Centers? Three of them, nicely lined up. So while there are a couple holes to fill, and while surprises can always pop up, July 1 doesn’t figure to be a rowdy day for the Kings.

Starting at 9 a.m. Pacific time on Friday, NHL teams can begin negotiating with unrestricted free agents. Teams will get into bidding wars, looking to dramatically change their fortunes, but there doesn’t figure to be much drama with the Kings.

The biggest contract the Kings need to sign is in-house. Top defenseman Drew Doughty  becomes a restricted free agent on Friday, and the Kings have been negotiating terms of a multi-year deal with Doughty’s agent over the past six weeks.

Doughty’s status leaves open the possibility that another team could sign Doughty to an offer sheet, but the Kings would have the right to match those terms and retain Doughty.

The Kings’ group of forwards went through a mild shakeup this month when two separate trades brought in center Mike Richards and sent out fowards Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Ryan Smyth, so the Kings do have a couple holes to fill.

With centers Anze Kopitar and Richards and wingers Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams, the Kings arguably have five parts of their top six in place. Smyth’s spot, that of a second-line left winger, needs to be filled, and will need to be addressed starting today.

In an interview this week, Lombardi said the Kings would seek a "mid-level move" replacement for Smyth, who totaled 23 goals and 24 assists in 82 games last season.

At the moment, the Kings’ projected opening-night roster leaves Lombardi with approximately $15 million of salary-cap space, but included in that is the need to sign Doughty -- who figures to sign a hefty, mult-year contract -- and other restricted free agents such as Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez and Brad Richardson.

It would be surprising to see the Kings make any moves on the back end. On defense, Jack Johnson, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene and Davis Drewiske are under contract, as are a number of prospects, and goalies Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier are also signed.

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