According to reports, the LA Kings are close to bringing Austin Wagner back on a two or three-year deal. Could a three-year deal make him more attractive for Seattle?
Austin Wagner is one of two restricted free agents on the LA Kings roster, and the early reports indicate the team is close to re-signing the 23-year-old, whose three-year entry level-contract is set to expire. Wagner was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft, after scoring 20 goals with 19 assists for 39 points in 61 games for the Regina Pats of the WHL.
And per John Hoven, the Kings are getting some of their housekeeping out of the way well ahead of the projected October 9 free agency opening period. “From what I understand,” Hoven said, via Kings of the Podcast, “They are finalizing (Austin) Wagner’s contract. A two-year deal on the RFAs seems to have been the sweet spot that Rob Blake has been operating in over the last two summers. From what I’m hearing, they’re trying to get a third year on this deal.”
Wagner is easily the fastest player on the Kings roster, tallying six goals with five assists for 11 points in a COVID-19 shortened 65-game sample size. The previous year, he scored 12 goals with nine assists for 21 points, and he complements his speed with physicality, logging 140+ hits in both years.
And while he’s a natural left-handed shot, Wagner saw a fair amount of time at the right-winger position on the team’s bottom-six lines, primarily playing alongside Blake Lizotte. Going forward, Wagner is likely best suited for the fourth-line, playing with Michael Amadio as his center.
Last year, the two played 187 minutes together and had a 53.85 percent goal share together, broken down into seven goals scored and six goals allowed. With Lizotte, the two combined for a 40.00 percent goal share, leaving a lot to be desired defensively.
The key for Wagner this season will be to force more shots on net, as he had a significant drop from 17.9 percent shots on goals in 2018-2019 to only 4.8 percent this past season. Luck certainly wasn’t on his side, but he’ll need to increase his production if he doesn’t want to be passed over by someone in the prospect pool.
And while he joked about it on the podcast, Dennis Bernstein suggested that signing Wagner to a three-year deal could make him more attractive for Seattle to select him in their expansion draft.
Assuming they leave him exposed, Seattle would love to grab a speedy forward to ignite their inaugural year. For the time being, Wagner’s contract projection was at an $800K AAV, so we’ll see how close the Kings come to that number.