Let’s roll, Insiders!
As we progress through exit interviews, more focused storylines become harder to find. With this particular trio, fewer of these questions asked are about team variety and most are directed at individual players. All players with at least one very direct storyline that impacted the team. As for Quinton Byfield, it was his recovery from injury and his move to the front row. For Joonas Korpisalo, it’s his quick integration into this team and his pending free agency. The same can be said of Vladislav Gavrikov, who conducted his exit interview yesterday.
All covered below, with full videos embedded for viewing in regards to issues not covered in these broader topics.
Quinton Byfield and Joonas Korpisalo
I was talking about it with Jesse Cohen on All The Kings Men, but I feel like Byfield’s illness and his subsequent AHL assignment date back to last season. Maybe longer ago.
It was, in fact, this year. October and November. We talk a lot about when Byfield was moved to the wing and propelled to the first line, but we talk a lot less about the fact that he was only back in the NHL for two games on the fourth line. before being moved up. in the range. He was originally in the AHL due to illness. It wasn’t necessarily your typical illness either. Byfield said he basically had a fever for “a month straight” and it cost him a lot of weight in the process.
“I’ve had quite a bit of injury and illness, which sucks at the start of my career, but it’s part of the process. I think at the start of the season I broke my ankle and missed 40 games in the first year. The second year I was sick for a month and lost 25 pounds, so I went down [to Ontario] just helped me get my game back and put the weight back on. So that was good for me, but I want to be with the Los Angeles Kings for a full season.
From that moment, Byfield certainly excelled.
Playing in the lineup for the first time in his career, Byfield had the opportunity to play on the front row, play alongside the team’s number one center and top scorer and contribute to their effectiveness. The numbers indicate that he did it unequivocally, wherever his personal production landed. His time on that front line, which lasted pretty much non-stop from late December through the first period of Game 5, helped boost his confidence and performance.
“It was an opportunity for me and I think I took advantage of it. Just getting more ice time, gaining a little more confidence from the coaches. I learned a lot of lessons from it, a lot of different experiences, I can play on the wing now. It was good for me and it helps my career to move forward.
His next steps, I assume, are unknown. The Kings expect Byfield to step forward in whatever role he carves out for himself in the lineup. Whether at center or on the wing, Byfield feels comfortable and ready to help the team.
“Honestly anywhere I can play, anywhere I can be effective and help the team. Naturally I’ll probably go back to the centre, I’ve played that all my life, haven’t played on the wing much , but wherever I can help the team and be effective, that’s where I want to play.
Korpisalo’s interview, as one of three unrestricted free agents on the roster, was one of the most unknown interviews in the group.
This is because Korpisalo’s future is unknown. Acquired at the trade deadline, Korpisalo came to Los Angeles for two months, settled in well with the squad and improved the team’s goaltending prospects. He was solid in Games 1 through 3 in the playoffs and was generally solid throughout the series, as he was in the regular season, although the team conceded significantly more goals in Games 4 through 6. First and foremost, he enjoyed his time with the Kings.
“First of all, we were so excited to get here and things went really well from the moment we got here. Just seeing how ambitious this group was was really uplifting for us. We’ve played some great games here and had a chance to make the playoffs. It was really exciting.
That doesn’t mean he’ll stay here, though. Korpisalo is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his professional career. He indicated that there hasn’t been a ton of conversation regarding an expansion in Los Angeles, which isn’t uncommon as gamers generally like to focus their attention on the game. After all, that’s his level. game which will determine its extension.
The Kings aren’t flush with the salary cap space either, and Korpisalo sticking around isn’t a guarantee. The Kings have already committed $6.5 million to the net and Korpisalo’s play likely deserved a raise from the $1.3 million cap hit on the books this season. The Kings have decisions to make, between keeping their own free agents, players currently under contract and possible external acquisitions. Korpisalo understands this side of the business, and whatever happens, happens.
“There hasn’t been much to do yet, we’ve been focused on the task at hand, which is the playoffs. Like I said, I’ve loved every minute here and can’t wait to see how the possible negotiations will go. I’m just very happy, first of all. They saw something in me, traded for me here and believed in me.
Time will tell, he added. Time will tell us.
The million dollar question with Gavrikov is the same as with Korpisalo. Will he re-sign with the Kings?
Gavrikov’s exit interview with the media came days after Korpisalo’s. His comments therefore came more than 12 hours after seeing the season come to an abrupt end. Still, it’s not like there was a flattened contract at that time, so his response was essentially the same as Korpisalo’s. He certainly hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to Los Angeles, but he hasn’t announced his terms either. A conversation will come and the Kings and Gavrikov will have that discussion in the weeks that follow.
“We’ll talk about it again, that’s for sure. For now, we’ll have more time to chat, but we’ll see what happens.
As he has said throughout his time here, Gavrikov has been extremely complimentary about how he and his family have been treated by the Kings organization from his arrival until his final exit interview.
When a player is traded, it’s more than a flight and a hotel. Gavirkov has complimented the Kings on several occasions for the smoothness and quality of the process. From an off-ice perspective, there could have been a lot better for him or his family.
“It was perfect, I would say. If it’s going to be short, I can talk a lot about it, but like I said before, the team and the organization were nice to us and not just me, but my family when we got here. It was perfect, everyone was so nice and kind, my family loved being here. Off the ice, it was pretty much all good.
On the ice, the form was certainly there too. Although he admitted he doesn’t look at the stats, calling them more of a representation of the team than him as an individual, the underlying metrics were great. With Gavrikov on the ice, the Kings controlled more than 62% of high-risk chances, which controlled 70% of the goals scored.
Most of Gavrikov’s time has been spent pairing up with Matt Roy, although he has also played matches with Sean Walker and Drew Doughty, depending on the situation. Gavrikov thought it took a bit of time to settle into a new team and new style of play, but once he did, the adjustment was good.
“I would say that in general it took me a bit of time to adjust to playing with the team. Playing with Matt or anyone else was more about me [adjusting] because we played differently here in LA as far as tactics go. It was those kinds of details, you have to work on them and try to make them clearer as soon as possible. As soon as I did, it was pretty easy to adapt to the roster and play with anyone on the team.
It’s all behind us now, though, and for Gavrikov, the process turns to his pending unrestricted free agency in less than two months. There is, at the very least, an interest in continuing the relationship here, but there are terms to be defined that must have meaning on both sides. Gavrikov’s two months with the Kings have been great. Now we wait and find out if they are the end or the beginning of his stay here.
Gavrikov joked that he was still waiting for Drew Doughty’s check to clear, playing on Doughty’s joke during his own exit interview. All joking aside, though, Gavrikov is the team’s highest-profile unrestricted free agent and we’ll be watching how the next two months go in regards to a potential extension.