General Manager Dean Lombardi made a bold move last summer, sending Wayne Simmonds along with the highly-sought after prospect Brayden Schenn to Philadelphia in exchange for Mike Richards.
With that, the Kings became immediate favourites in the Western Conference, but a slow start to the year and a lack of goal-scoring led to the dismissal
of head coach Terry Murray in December, and Darryl Sutter was brought in as his replacement.
After the coaching change, the pressure switched to Lombardi, who put it all on the table this year for a team that was supposed to be a contender right out of the gate.
Doughty's early season struggles hardly lived up to the $7 million contract he was given in a long off-season dispute
that saw the former-Norris candidate miss part of training camp. Richards dealt with injuries and a reduced role saw him record his lowest point-total since his rookie year with the Flyers.
Lombardi's off-season intrepidity was beginning to bite him back, and the Kings jumped in-and-out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
With the NHL Trade Deadline approaching, the Kings had the least Goals For in the entire league - yet also sported the third-best Goals Against thanks to the heroics of Jonathan Quick.
It was clear some sort of move had to be made, if anything to preserve Lombardi's job. A week before the deadline, that move came in the form of Jeff Carter, who was dealt from Columbus in exchange for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick.
While Carter's personal impact wasn't the goal-scoring onslaught Kings fans had hoped for, his arrival saw the team begin scoring at a much better pace, scoring three or more goals in all but two of their final 13 wins of the season.
Now the team is considered a favourite to win the Stanley Cup, getting contributions from all four lines and Conn Smythe-worthy goaltending from Quick.
Whether the Kings continue their bulldozing of the 2012 playoffs or not, the team looks more than capable of carrying this momentum into the next season, and competing for years to come.
Kopitar, Doughty, Richards, and Carter are all signed for at least the next four years (Doughty, Richards, and Carter's contracts actually go far beyond that), and even captain Dustin Brown, who has also emerged as one of the premier power forwards in the league, is under contract until 2014.
Over the summer, the Kings will need to work on getting Jarret Stoll re-signed, who might see a slight increase in the $3.5 million he's being paid now. Depending on the outcome of the Cup Final, it's not impossible that Stoll would return for the same kind of money, and to his credit Stoll has never been the type to put himself before the team.
The Kings will happily take Dustin Penner's $4.25 million salary off the books as he heads for unrestricted free agency this summer, but Penner has shown he can be a valuable player and could re-sign at a price that wouldn't haunt him like his previous contract has for the past five years.
With that, the only UFA's left unsigned are the likes of Scott Parse, Colin Fraser, and Dwight King, who can all be easily fit under the cap - and according to CapGeek.com
, the Kings will have about $10 million in space heading into the summer.
The Kings' biggest challenge may come in signing Quick to a long-term extension (his current deal sees him paid a very reasonable $1.8 million for the next year), but they also have a budding young backup in Jonathan Bernier, who can be dealt along with some salary (say - Simon Gagne or Justin Williams) to shore up the Kings' financial needs.
The core is signed on long-term, and the pieces are there for a very successful hockey club.
This had to be the plan in the beginning for Lombardi, who has invested so much in this roller-coaster of a season, and it's nice to see he's been kept around to see the team he built finally coming to fruition. If the Kings can become champions, and stay together for years to come, Lombardi will be lauded for the moves he made to bring this team from competitor to contender.