The last two trade deadlines have been a mixed bag for Dean Lombardi. I think some of you probably would call them unmitigated failures. Jeff Halpern (2010 deadline acquisition) sucked, that's true. And it doesn't help that we gave up Teddy Purcell to get him, only to see Purcell thrive in Tampa Bay last season. Last year's model, Dustin Penner, was good for a couple of games before Justin Williams and then Anze Kopitar went down with injuries, after which Penner all but disappeared. Fredrik Modin, though, was good in his few short weeks as a King back in 2010. And Penner has shown flashes of excellence (and comic brilliance) lately. So, I'm sticking with my "mixed bag" verdict.
Two years ago, the idea was to bring in depth. Last year, it was to add goals. And here we are again, with scoring once again at the top of the trade deadline wish list. A top-six left-winger. How many times have we heard that?
Simon Gagne was supposed to address this, as was Scott Parse, but they're both out, and I presume neither one is coming back this season. That means the Kings' depth at left wing starts with Penner and ends with Kyle Clifford, with nothing in between. We went through this in some detail before Terry Murray was fired, and I said something to the effect of "is there any point in pulling off a blockbuster for a player like Zach Parise if he's just going to flounder like everyone else in Terry Murray's system?"
Well, Murray is no more. He has ceased to be. And now the question is, what's Lombardi's next move? Is it:
- Stand pat, with the expectation that the team has the tools it needs to be successful?
- Make a depth trade, a minor deal or two for role players or veterans?
- Bring in a legitimate but aging (or hobbled) top-six forward who is maybe past his prime or else recovering from recent surgery and therefore doesn't cost Lombardi much?
- Bring in an elite sniper, possibly at significant cost?
I think there's just about zero chance of #1 and #2. I'm afraid we'll end up with #3. #4 is naturally everyone's (including the fans of 29 other teams) ideal choice, in the abstract, the abstract part being that you don't have to give up your favorite players when you make trades in your own mind. Who are the armchair GMs willing to part with?
Let's make a list.
- Not going anywhere: Drew Doughty, Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown.
- Almost certainly not going anywhere: Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell, Williams.
- Probably not going anywhere: Matt Greene.
- Hopefully not going anywhere: Slava Voynov, Andrei Loktionov, Jonathan Bernier, Clifford.
- Available: Penner, Jarret Stoll, Alec Martinez.
- My own personal question mark: Jack Johnson.
I think it's reasonable to assume that the whole Simon Gagne experiment is in jeopardy at this point. I hope I'm wrong and he comes back at 100% next season, but I think it would be foolish to count on that. Which means the Kings (looking ahead to 2012-13) have four top-six forwards (Brown, Kopitar, Williams, Richards) and two openings. Next year, I expect Tyler Toffoli to make the team, but that's a conversation for another post. For today, the situation is that those two openings are being filled by Penner and Stoll, and neither one is getting it done. Since Penner has been coming around lately, and since he's actually a left-winger (not a center like Stoll), I think it makes sense to give the edge to Penner and deal Stoll.
But Stoll by himself isn't going to bring in an elite sniper. Oh, maybe Lombardi can work some magic and get a deal done for Stoll plus picks and prospects, but I think it's more realistic to look at the possibility of Stoll plus another roster player or two.
The Kings have an excess of depth on defense. Doughty, Johnson, Voynov, Martinez -- that's four offensive defensemen. There isn't room for all of them. As a trade asset, Martinez isn't going to get us much. (That's kind of a classic message-board type trade proposal, right? Something like "Stoll, Martinez and Hickey for Parise".) That leaves Johnson or Voynov.
Okay, that's Stoll, and maybe Voynov or Johnson. Who else means anything? Loktionov (please god do not trade this player) and Bernier. I think it's pretty obvious that Andrei Loktionov will be something to behold when he has some wingers who can finish (Toffoli and/or Moller come to mind -- even poor luckless Scott Parse, who I don't expect to see in a Kings uniform ever again). I can see Lombardi parting with Bernier, the way he parted with Brayden Schenn -- in service of bringing an elite player to LA.
Would it be worth it to lose Bernier if it meant bringing in a truly elite top-three sniper? Oh, hell, I have to say yes. There's an additional issue, which is that the Kings need to shed salary in order to fit a mega-salary this season. Which I guess is where Stoll comes in. That's a salary that makes room, and doesn't create a huge hole. I don't want to lose any of Bernier, Johnson or Voynov; but I will learn to live with it, for a spectacular return.
I do think something like that is going to happen. Stoll plus Bernier, Stoll plus Voynov, Stoll plus Johnson, something like that. Between now and the deadline.
In the next post, we'll look at who the Kings might target. And they aren't all Zach Parise.