With NHL free agency settling, have the L.A. Kings improved much at all?

When it comes to the three notable moves the Los Angeles Kings made this week to address a roster that keeps coming up short in the playoffs, they shouldn’t be labeled as the good, the bad and the ugly.

More like the decent, the ho-hum and the frightening.

Plenty of summer remains for general manger Rob Blake to do more tinkering and pull off a bargain find. But as it stands now, the only way the Kings will be better than last season — or the two before — is if their young players provide more support for their aging leaders and their collection of solid-to-(sub-)elite performers who usually are at the front of their pack.

It will help if Quinton Byfield takes as big of a leap as he did last season and becomes a regular threat to be the best player on the ice, as he showed at times last season. Or if Brandt Clarke’s defensive play improves enough to earn the trust of coaches, so that the Kings can take advantage of his offensive gifts from the blue line. Or if Jordan Spence shows that he can be the quality, well-rounded minutes-muncher that Matt Roy was. Or if Alex Laferriere adds production to his effort, if Alex Turcotte stays healthy enough to hustle every night and if Akil Thomas builds on his impressive late-season audition.

The Kings need all of that in order to make an upward move in the Western Conference. Warren Foegele, Tanner Jeannot and Joel Edmundson alone aren’t going to cut it.

Blake often seems to confound with his moves. He’s only added to that of late. For starters, Jim Hiller was promoted from interim head coach, even though more accomplished options were available.

The miraculous escape from the Pierre-Luc Dubois blunder bought Blake some momentary goodwill. Additional cap space was created with a trade, the goaltending position was taken care of (in theory) with the addition of Darcy Kuemper, and a massive contract was jettisoned. With the first bit of salary-cap space the Kings have had since last summer, they ate up half of it with the trade for Jeannot and the signings of Foegele and Edmundson.

Roy, Viktor Arvidsson, Blake Lizotte and Carl Grundstrom have departed, but the Kings didn’t win a playoff round with them. There’s no problem with changing things up. They tried it last summer with Dubois. That blew up in their faces, obviously, but they’re trying again, and there’s something to be said for that. But does anyone think they’ll take down a West contender with these new additions?

Of course, 82 games must be played out, and seasons have their twists and turns. The unexpected often pops up. All we can go by for now is how these players have performed in the past, and then envision what kind of fits they might be in L.A. But if these are the primary moves designed to take this group to a higher level … well, good luck.

Foegele, who’s on a three-year deal for $10.5 million, should be a solid addition. He plays a north-south game and is more than a crash-and-bang forward. He has the speed to work effectively with highly skilled players, the size to win puck battles and the kind of persistent work ethic that will please his linemates.

It is fair to question whether the 28-year-old winger will duplicate the career-best 20 goals and 41 points he had with Edmonton last season, especially given that he spent lots of five-on-five time next to Leon Draisaitl. He’ll give the Kings effort, even if he may not score as much as they would hope. Kings faithful will appreciate that after watching Dubois float way too often.

Blake traded a fourth-round pick and a 2025 second-round choice for Jeannot, which looks like a high price to pay for someone whose offense virtually disappeared in Tampa Bay and who essentially morphed into a fourth-line grinder.

Jeannot, 27, burst into NHL in 2021-22, when he scored 24 goals and added 17 assists in 81 games with the Predators. The Lightning acquired him in an infamous 2023 trade for five draft picks and defenseman Cal Foote. He hits — he had 211 of them in just 55 games last season, and has 872 across his four seasons — but he scored only six times in 75 games with the Bolts after struggling in his follow-up year with the Preds.

The idea of Jeannot being an upgrade over the departed Grundstrom must be the thought here, which is fine. But for a $2.665 million cap hit, Jeannot must do more than bang bodies and fight. The saving grace with this move is that his contract ends after this coming season. It needs to work, but if it doesn’t, there’s no lasting damage.

The signing of Edmundson is … something.

There are prisms to consider when assessing the 31-year-old defenseman. Solely from the standpoint of him being a better option than Andreas Englund on the left-side third pairing, you can entertain that argument. Edmundson is far more accomplished. He’s got playoff pedigree as a Stanley Cup winner with St. Louis and as a Cup finalist with Montreal. He’s also facetiously (or accurately) been tagged as a cross-checking monster, but you know he’ll battle in front of the net and be a stay-at-home complement to either Spence or Clarke. Basically, he’s a mean SOB on the ice.

There is the matter of Edmundson’s health. Chances are, he will miss some games. His healthiest period came in the COVID-19-impacted 2019-20 and 2020-21 shortened seasons, when he missed only one of 124 regular-season contests. Otherwise, Edmundson suited up in only 53 games between Washington and Toronto last season and has played in no more than 69 games in any of his nine years. The Kings do have Englund and Jacob Moverare signed for this season, so they’ve got fill-ins if Edmundson is banged-up.

But if you look at it through the frame of having a defense that had a strong and underrated Roy behind Drew Doughty on the right side, and the group possibly being completed by Edmundson and depth piece Kyle Burroughs, it’s an underwhelming re-shaping. Clearly, the Kings weren’t going to pay Roy the six years and $5.75 AAV he got from Washington, and Clarke seems ready to step in for a full-time run. That’s fine, but is this blue line any better right now?

And when you look at Edmundson through the frame of his four-year deal with a $3.8 million cap hit … yikes. Don’t hate the player for getting the bag when he can. He has a career to look after, and he deserves to maximize his earning potential. Multiple reports had Edmundson’s services being sought by several teams, so it’s possible that Blake had to up the ante to land him.

Edmundson got four years and $3.8 million on average. Another player who fits his profile, Ian Cole, signed with Utah for one year and $3.1 million. That type of money for a third-pairing defender might not be as alarming with the cap ceiling rising. That type of money for four years, given to someone who has been sidelined often over his career — by a team whose future as a consistent playoff team now appears questionable — is alarming.

Think back to that 2025 second-round pick surrendered in the Jeannot deal. What if this season really goes sideways for the Kings? That’ll become a pretty good pick for the Lightning. And what if Edmundson is dogged by injuries? It wasn’t so long ago that Blake was fishing for Jakob Chychrun. Blake could be faced with trading Plan B pivot Vladislav Gavrikov at the 2025 trade deadline, while the once-possible partnership of Chychrun and Roy is together in Washington. If that happens, the Kings are back where they started in their search for a top-four left-side defender.

Irony, huh?

(Easy now, we haven’t forgotten about Arizona’s role in the Chychrun trade to Ottawa happening, and not L.A.).

The most damning part of Blake’s comments this offseason was his pointed summation that the Kings lacked the desire necessary to win in the postseason, and that they must be willing to get “uncomfortable” when battling for space in the toughest parts of the ice. The foursome of Foegele, Jeannot, Edmundson and even the sandpaper-laden Burroughs — if he winds up plays more than expected — are the Kings’ response to that.

There is still $10 million of cap space remaining, but new contracts for Byfield and Spence – and Arthur Kaliyev, if they don’t trade him – still must be worked out. And they still haven’t added any scoring.

The Kings got bigger. They’re brawnier. But are they any better?

At this point, no.

(Photo of Tanner Jeannot: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

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