As great as it see so many of their prospects getting signed to contracts, I can't help but wonder what, if anything, is happening will the soon-to-be restricted free agents of the Los Angeles Kings.
In terms of unrestricted free agents, with all due respect to Alexei Ponikarovsky, Peter Harrold and John Zeiler, Michal Handzus is the only one of the four whom Kings fans have an interest in seeing back with their team next season. What is happening with Handzus, if anything, is unknown but I personally see that the list of restricted free agents would be much more of a priority considering that they represent the future of the Los Angeles Kings. Handzus may represent another year or two in the future of the team but, unlike the younger players, his contributions may not go well beyond that.
The Kings have fifteen restricted free agents to deal with this summer. One of which, Oscar Moller, has already signed a contract in his native Sweden that will allow him to return to the NHL (not necessarily with the Kings) if he wants to. Five of those players played full-time with the Kings this past season, including Wayne Simmonds and 2010 Norris-nominee Drew Doughty.
Now, I know the restricted free agents are more secure than those of the unrestricted variety because RFAs don't have the luxury of choosing to sign with any team they wish. Whichever team wants the services of an RFA, they'd have to send the team an offer sheet and give the team seven days to match that offer. Having said that, though, why aren't some of these players locked up already?
For all I know, there's no need for panic or to be frustrated in the Kings' front office. After all, general manager Dean Lombardi may just be waiting for the playoffs to wrap up before getting into serious negotiations with any of his players. Then again, no one has really heard anything about Drew Doughty's contract or that of Wayne Simmonds or even Alec Martinez. Is there cause for concern? Should there be?
By his standards, Doughty didn't have the greatest season last year but considering his talent and how much he means to not only the organization but to the fans, one would think that signing Drew Doughty to a long-term deal before the summer would be a top priority. It doesn't seem to look that way.
Putting the full-time Kings aside for the moment, what about players like Bud Holloway, Johan Fransson, Patrick Mullen and even Jeff Zatkoff? One would argue that the latter is expandable considering how deep Los Angeles' depth chart is in goal but for this argument, it's not really the point.
Don't get me wrong, as I said, it's great that the Kings are signing many of their prospects to deals and that's fantastic for the future of this team. But what about right now? Fans of the Los Angeles Kings are up in the air as to what (and where) the futures of the aforementioned Doughty, Simmonds and Martinez lie. For many, the attitude is simple: it's no big deal as Doughty et al will get signed. But how do we know that if we haven't heard anything from the front office?
It may be still too early to press the panic button but I would like to see some progress involving some of the soon-to-be RFAs and their contract negotiations. If the Kings can sign all fifteen of their RFAs, great, but I'm really not expecting that to happen. All I care is that the Kings re-sign the most important pieces of their puzzle and, in the process, show their fans that they know what they're doing.