Kings sign Danault to six-year, $33 million contract
By DAN GREENSPAN
LOS ANGELES (AP) As Phillip Danault established himself as a reliable contributor at both ends of the ice, he rarely got to play against the modern standard for two-way centers in Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.
When Danault was presented with the chance to play with Kopitar, he couldn't pass it up.
Danault signed a six-year, $33 million contract with the Kings on Wednesday, giving them one of the strongest pairs of two-way centers in hockey.
"I think it was a pretty obvious choice, to be honest," Danault said on a video conference.
Danault established himself as a defensive stalwart, especially on the penalty kill, and a standout in the faceoff circle in six seasons with Montreal, traits that were on display as he helped the Canadiens reach the Stanley Cup Final this year. He had one goal and three assists in 22 postseason games.
With Kopitar going into his 16th season and having led Kings forwards in ice time in every campaign dating back to 2007-08, Danault expects to help reduce that heavy workload.
"It's great to be behind a guy like Anze Kopitar," Danault said. "He's been a Selke winner last couple of years and Selke nominee as well a couple of times, so it's a really good model for me. Obviously, can release a little bit of pressure off his shoulder in checking some big lines and big players every night so he can focus more on his ... offense."
A lack of goals has been a glaring issue for the Kings in missing the playoffs three straight seasons. Los Angeles scored 2.54 goals per game this past season, 27th in the league.
Although Danault has never scored more than 13 goals in seven seasons with Chicago and Montreal, general manager Rob Blake cited his even-strength point production as a sign he can be a catalyst for the Kings.
Danault said Blake, coach Todd McLellan and team president Luc Robitaille pitched him on being a more expansive contributor, which was another key factor in signing with the team.
"Sometimes you're getting put in a situation that you can't create too much offense," Danault said. "I never played power play in Montreal also, so I tried to create as much as I could, even taking draws only defensively. Sometimes, it doesn't happen that way or a team doesn't see you that way, and I think LA showed me the right exact role that I wanted."
"And if I don't score, I can deny a couple of goals as well, so I can be useful on both sides," he added.
While Danault has previously shown a limited offensive game, the Kings have a deep crop of prospects at center they will expect to provide scoring in the future. That group includes first-round picks Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari, and Quinton Byfield, the second overall selection in the 2020 draft, and Danault said he was excited to be a mentor.
After pivoting into rebuilding mode during the 2018-19 season to stockpile draft picks and young players, the Kings have spent this offseason focused on adding established NHL players that can both assist in the development of the next generation and help the remaining players from their 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup-winning teams get back into the postseason.
To meet both aims, the Kings traded for top-six forward Viktor Arvidsson earlier this month and signed veteran defenseman Alex Edler to a one-year, $3.5 million contract Wednesday. They also re-signed forward Andreas Athanasiou to a one-year, $2.7 million contract.
Blake said there was no mandate from ownership to reach the playoffs this season, which could be feasible in a weak Pacific Division.
"No, that's our own mandate," Blake said. "We haven't made it the last few years and we want to get better and we want to push and we want to have a legitimate chance of getting in there, and these were a couple of steps in the direction to go that way."
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Updated July 28, 2021