The Kings must sign Imama to an NHL contract before June 1.

According to the NHL, Bokondji Imama, Tampa Bay’s 2015 6th-round pick, has had his rights acquired by the LA Kings in exchange for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft. The press release states that the trade “is conditioned on the Kings signing Imama to an NHL contract before Thursday’s (June 1) 2 p.m. PT signing deadline.”

Update: The Kings signed Imama before the 2 PM signing deadline.

Tampa Bay Lightning fans have been watching Imama’s contract with the team count down, and most recently wondered why he wasn’t on the list of black aces that were heading to Syracuse. The black aces included a stellar list of Junior hockey stars in Anthony Cirelli, Taylor Raddysh, Mathieu Joseph, and Erik Cernak, all recent competitors for the Memorial Cup. But not Imama.

Imama’s part in the Memorial Cup was not small. As a 20-year-old in the league, he was bigger and stronger than his opponents, but recently our writer El Seldo broke down his play:

When you take a deeper look, you find out that the change in his game was part of the plan, and something he was eager to jump into. When he was cut from Lightning camp in the fall, the message was clear: Show us your offensive game.

Imama outscored his entire QMJHL career this year. His play on a line with Matthew Highmore and fellow Lightning Prospect Mathieu Jospeh has been amazing, making them one of the most solid lines of the tournament.

Imama hasn’t shied away from the physical side of the game however, he had the second most penalty minutes this year with 105, up from 86 last year, but down from 137 two seasons ago. This is a product of his early years in Baie-Comeau, where he was a fourth liner expected to use his strength more than his skills.

It’s probable, as El Seldo has pointed out, that Imama’s goal scoring outbreak wasn’t indicative of an uptick in offensive skills. Imama’s assists did not improve, and that’s a flag that he was benefiting from being bigger and stronger than his competition. While his game has come a long way since being drafted, it did not come far enough for the Lightning to sign him.

Would Tampa Bay have found a place for Imama’s style of player in the NHL? There was more likelihood of him landing in the Syracuse Crunch, where his loyalty to teammates and physical play would have been assets to the team — except the Crunch are already stacked, and he would most likely have ended up with the Kalamazoo Wings.

Our assessment is that getting anything back for him is a win for Yzerman.


Article first appeared on www.draysbay.com