Stoll, who spent seven seasons with the Kings in a trade that brought him, along with defenseman Matt Greene to L.A. from Edmonton, signed a one-year, $800,000 contract with the Rangers. It was a foregone conclusion in this tight salary cap era that the Kings would lose several key players who became unrestricted free agents at the 2014-15 season’s end and Stoll was among those mentioned in the discussions, along with fan favorite, Justin Williams, aka “Mr. Game 7” who was picked up earlier this summer by the Washington Capitals.
But to make matters dicier, Stoll was arrested back in mid-April in Las Vegas for possession of cocaine, so while it was already presumed he wouldn’t re-sign with the Kings, it was unknown whether he’d find a team to call home at all. New York came calling and Stoll will suit up as a Ranger, the team the Kings defeated in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final to win the Cup.
While the book is closed on Stoll and Williams, other matters still loom large for the Kings and must be resolved before their future is certain. While they made a notable acquisition, gaining Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins to shore up their top line, the Kings ability to resign franchise player and top two-way centerman, Anze Kopitar whose contract is up in 2016, still hinges on two critical financial issues:
1) The Kings surprisingly terminated the contract of Mike Richards on June 29th and as of August 10th, as expected, the NHL Player’s Association (NHLPA) has filed a grievance with the team. To date, no information is available from the Kings beyond their initial explanation that Richards was terminated due to a “material breach of the requirements of his Standard Player’s Contract.” The termination seems to be related to an investigation by the Canadian Mounted Police of an incident that took place at the Canadian-U.S. border earlier this year. Richards was purportedly found to be in possession of Oxycontin, but again, no charges have been filed at this time. Regardless, the Kings are in for a long and arduous legal battle and it’s still unclear how much of the original $5.75 million cap hit Richards would have carried into this season they’ll have to deal with.
2) The ongoing saga of Slava Voynov still hangs over the Kings like an albatross. Voynov pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of corporal injury to spouse and looks to serve up to 90 days in jail, undergo three years of probation and 52 weeks of domestic-violence counseling, and serve eight hours of community service. The big question still remains: will the NHL lift his suspension and, if they do, will the Kings take him back?
At this juncture, it appears the Kings are planning for a reunion on the ice with Voynov at some point this season, assuming the NHL determines that the courts have spoken and lift his suspension. But to complicate matters, it is still unknown how the misdemeanor will affect his immigration status or ability to travel to Canada with the team. And finally, on top of this, Voynov remains suspended by the Kings due to a torn achilles suffered during non-hockey activities.
Suffice to say that many questions remain for the Kings before they can head down the road to reclaim their crown. Rumors still abound that Dustin Brown is in danger of being traded, that the fact that the Kings haven’t yet locked down Kopitar means the process may be more difficult than originally thought, and that the off-ice issues and potential return of Voynov – who in pleading no contest, admits some degree of guilt – will keep some fans from the rink. Let’s hope these rumors remain exactly that and that the Kings quickly find their way back to success both on and off the ice.