The resurrection of the Los Angeles Kings mailbag featured an array of topics, among them Pheonix Copley. While Cam Talbot has been tremendous in his first month-plus as the No. 1 goalie, Copley’s rough start in his few outings as the backup has generated a good amount of concern.
The 31-year-old’s start Monday was an important one. Copley was up to the task in Arizona and delivered a strong, 30-save performance as the Kings improved to 8-0-0 on the road with a 4-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. With that win, they became the fourth team in NHL history to win their first eight road games in a season.
There is a clear separation between the top three teams in the Pacific Division and the rest as American Thanksgiving approaches. You know what that means when it comes to teams in playoff position and those who aren’t. The Kings (11-3-3) are firmly on the right side of that.
You fine readers had a lot on your minds, so here is Part 2 of the mailbag. Happy to bring it back. (Some questions have been lightly edited for style and clarity.)
Hey Eric, thanks for doing this. With Jordan Spence’s play of late, do you think this shifts the thinking in management re-signing Matt Roy? I was pretty sure they’d let Viktor Arvidsson walk and try and re-sign Roy, but with the power play struggling and no real right-shot forwards, Arvidsson seems the logical player to keep on a short-term team-friendly deal, as we know Brandt Clarke will or should be up with the big club real soon. — David S.
Considering Matt Roy’s pending UFA status, the emergence of Jordan Spence as a legit RD2 or RD3, and Brandt Clarke being a potential generational talent stuck in Ontario, what’s the likelihood of Roy being moved at the deadline? The move would get some form of capital back for Roy while he is still under contract, free cap space to have a full 22-man roster and give Clarke an opportunity. — Jacob B.
Is it fair to assume that Matt Roy and Viktor Arvidsson are likely not on the team next year given their ages and the depth underneath them at the AHL level (Clarke for Roy for example)? — James S.
If the Kings were rebuilding or not at a point of contention, then it would surely make sense to see what Roy could bring back in a trade. He’ll have plenty of value on the market as a steady top-four defender who can eat minutes, kill penalties and add a dose of offense. But this club looks like one that could advance in the playoffs and Roy has a ton of value for them this season. I don’t think moving the 28-year-old would sit well in their room. With him, they have two high-quality shutdown pairings.
Maybe it would be different if Spence usurps Roy in terms of ice time and role, but Roy and Vladislav Gavrikov have been a fantastic partnership. Also, having Clarke take a regular role now means two youngsters behind Drew Doughty on the right side with a combined three NHL playoff games between them. As for Arvidsson, I think it might be tough to bring him back even if he was healthy given their cap issues. Tenacious player whose energy creates chemistry with linemates, but age and history of back issues make anything other than a short-term contract offer a risky bet.
When Quinton Byfield was being evaluated before and after the draft, scouts pointed to his lack of vision/playmaking skill as a weakness yet that’s turned out to be one of his biggest strengths. Do you think he can continue to set up opportunities for his linemates at his nearly point-per-game pace? — Don N.
What will QB’s next contract look like? Bridge deal or eight years? Curious what the other fans want to see happen here, too. IMO, the price never goes down so lock him up. — Elliot S.
What would a bridge deal for Quinton Byfield look like? I do think they might try to time his long-term extension with Anze Kopitar’s retirement. — Calwin T.
Before answering your question, Don, just look at this pass he made Monday to Kopitar. The reaction from him was priceless.
QUINTON BYFIELD! 😮💨
Sheesh, this was a nice move… pic.twitter.com/Hnp4iioByI
— NHL (@NHL) November 21, 2023
Yes. Byfield is a fixture on that line, becoming more than someone who wins puck battles and allows Kopitar and Adrian Kempe to spend more time creating and scoring. He has become an impact playmaker for them and is starting to generate chances for himself. Byfield hits RFA status this summer but won’t have much leverage as he isn’t eligible for salary arbitration. But he’ll be a full-fledged top-line forward who could have some good offensive numbers by season’s end. Maybe his improvement hasn’t been as rapid as many wanted but it’s been steady since he’s stayed healthy and now he’s taking off. I’m obviously not Rob Blake but I’d look to lock him down for eight because it feels like the best is yet to come and maybe you’re getting that at a more affordable rate.
I’ll dig more into potential comparables, but I wonder if Carolina’s Jesperi Kotkaniemi would be one. Kotkaniemi obviously was part of that crazy offer sheet Montreal tendered and Carolina matched. Eventually, the Hurricanes signed him to an eight-year deal with a $4.82 million salary cap hit ahead of his age-22 season. Byfield has a higher ceiling. It feels much higher now. Do you bet on him as a $5 million-or-more forward who could eventually move back to the middle? Or pay less on a bridge with a chance he severely outperforms that and sets up for a much larger payday in three or four years?
A tale of the two Alexes: Turcotte and Laferriere. So far Laferriere’s energy has been off the charts, but with little offensive totals. However, that energy seems to be fading a bit as of late. Turcotte has looked solid and consistent in the AHL. When will the team switch them? Is there a cap issue at play here? Are the Kings still testing Turcotte’s health? Turcotte can easily play wing to Pierre-Luc Dubois at center, or even try PLD at wing with Turcotte centering. A lot of options at play here. — Walt M.
It seems like Turcotte is staying healthy and having a great start to the season. Any chance we see him in action for the Kings this year? — Doug D.
As you might have seen Walt, Todd McLellan gave Laferriere a game off for a reset. On Saturday against St. Louis, it looked like he got back to what earned him a roster spot in the first place. It’s not like he wasn’t a determined skater in other recent games but there was that little extra that returned. He was making plays off his wheels and getting in better position to shoot the puck, which is what they want him to do. (And that was quite a nice pass to Phillip Danault for the center’s goal on Monday.)
It’s great to see Turcotte playing consistently. He has been terrific so far for the Reign. Let’s hope for his skate that good health holds up. I think it’s very possible he gets a call-up when it becomes necessary. I suspect Laferriere has the edge on a spot now because he’s a clear shot-first winger. And I believe they want to have Dubois succeed in the middle. Having tremendous depth there was the point of getting him, right?
Do you see any opportunity to go for a more elite goalie next summer with the cap raising? Juuse Saros would be the most obvious target now that Connor Hellebuyck got the new deal with Jets. — Janne N.
Hi, Janne. If you look at what Vegas did and how the Kings have kind of mirrored the Golden Knights’ approach of building a deep four-line team, one could argue that an elite goalie isn’t necessary. But that’s not as fun to speculate about, right? Trading for Dubois ended any thought of bringing in Hellebuyck and I’m not certain that was part of L.A.’s goalie plan. Saros has one more year left at a $5 million cap hit. Barry Trotz isn’t going to give him away even if he thinks moving him is possible with Yaroslav Askarov waiting in the wings. The Kings will have more cap space, but they’ve got quite a few players to address. Five regulars could become RFAs this summer.
Do you see a Wayne Gretzky repeat in the Kings putting together a massive package for either Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, if available? — Andrew G.
Fun to wonder but I’m not seeing it, Andrew. Anything is possible but I’ll look at this in a purely speculative manner from the Oilers’ standpoint. McDavid isn’t going anywhere unless he wants out. That’s even less likely with his former agent (Jeff Jackson) now CEO of hockey operations and, to a lesser extent, his former junior coach (Kris Knoblauch) behind the bench. I think they’ll try to keep both, but I see Draisaitl being more available if they’re forced to choose or Draisaitl doesn’t want to re-sign. To get him probably means a package that must include Byfield, Clarke and a first-round pick at the very minimum. And then the Kings would have to move salary just to create space to fit Draisaitl’s salary and next monster contract in. You’re carving out a lot of the roster for one player. A great player, though.
Hi Eric. Thanks for all the hard work you do covering two teams. With McLellan’s long working relationship with Jay Woodcroft, do you think the Kings would reach out to him and see if he would take an associate coaching position for the remainder of the season? I realize Woodcroft might prefer to wait for a head coaching job to come up, but I think there would be some poetic justice if we hired Woodcroft and he helped us eliminate Edmonton from the playoffs. Your thoughts? — Marc L.
Thank you, Marc. That would be a tasty development. But I think the Kings are pretty full as far as assistants go, with Derik Johnson being promoted from skills coach to join Trent Yawney and Jim Hiller. Now, it isn’t unheard of for teams to hire a consultant and give a fired coach a soft landing until their next gig. It’s a good question, though. I think Woodcroft’s standing in running an NHL bench remains fairly high after the fallout from the Oilers’ terrible start. It looked like something had to change to alter their dynamic, but most realize he wasn’t at the heart of most of their early issues.
I keep hearing the reason, or at least part of the reason the power play has declined is the loss of all the righties. Do you think they’ll eventually give Laferriere or Trevor Lewis a sniff on the PP? At least just to see how it works? — Daniel C.
The power play has scuffled a bit at times and isn’t as potent as last season, with McLellan acknowledging the impact of losing Arvidsson to injury and Gabriel Vilardi to trade. Balance, in my layman’s opinion, works because when a lefty has the puck, it’s natural for a righty on the other side to open himself up for potential reception to move it along or shoot and vice versa. Having a bunch of lefties often forces one to shift their body to make a play and that extra second or so is enough for a penalty killer or a goalie to disrupt or make a stop. I think Laferriere would be the choice among your suggestions, Daniel. If he was producing more, I think he may have gotten that shot.
It’s the 2026-27 season: Would you rather have the Kings’ or the Ducks’ roster if you have to win a Stanley Cup to save your job as a club exec? — Andrew C.
Hi, Andrew. Are you trying to get me in trouble with readers here? Yeah, you are. (Smile.) Win a Cup or else, huh? I’ll say this, with the way the timelines are lining up, we could have another shot at a Freeway Playoff by then. We need another one. It is rare for both to be good or great at the same time. Let’s see if the Kings can keep their contention window until then and if the Ducks start to enter theirs. How’s that for a non-answer?
Any chance you write for Seattle or Vegas soon? Are you planning on invading Canada or is Western Conference domination on your mind? — Scott M.
Between you and I, the entire hockey universe is my target. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.
(Photo of Quinton Byfield: Harry How / Getty Images)