The Los Angeles Kings had a relatively quiet trade deadline compared to recent years. In each of the last four years, the Kings have dealt a second round pick or greater at the deadline. That has netted them winners like Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik. It's also got them veteran defensemen like Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera. Those have been a mixed bag. This year, the Kings struck early with a third round pick and prospect Jordan Weal to Philadelphia for Luke Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier.
Headed into the trade deadline, LA had two more moves to make. They had been rumored as wanting a second defenseman for a long time, and the waiving of Christian Ehrhoff only solidified that logic. The rumor culminated in the swap of Rob Scuderi for Christian Ehrhoff, with a mixture of salary retention on both sides due to years remaining. Scuderi is a very familiar face to fans. He was Drew Doughty's partner in the 2012 Stanley Cup run, and he was also part of the team that lost in the Western Conference Final in five games to the Chicago Blackhawks the following year. He would depart that summer, and it was rumored that general manager Dean Lombardi wanted to keep him, but couldn't make it work.
The second deadline addition was more of a recent need. The injury and return timeline of Marian Gaborik necessitated acquiring another forward capable of playing in the top nine. He was a part of the Blackhawks' 2010 and 2015 Stanley Cup campaigns, and the Kings encountered him in the 2013-2014 playoffs when they triumphed over the Blackhawks in seven games. His trade to Los Angeles is Versteeg's seventh, and he's had success on every NHL roster he's been on.
Now that we've familiarized, or re-familiarized as it were, ourselves with the new faces, let's see what the Kings' players and management had to say about the players.
Rob Scuderi is a player the Kings feel that they know exactly what they are getting. That's true in two senses. First, Rob Scuderi played for the Kings on their way to their first cup. Minus a few players and staff, the Kings are essentially the same team that Scuderi departed in 2013. Scuderi is also seen as consistent and reliable. He's the type of player that Sutter seems to want in high stakes situations, for better or worse. Still, the decision wasn't automatic. Lombardi detailed their thought process in a conference call on deadline day.
But the way that is now structured, it was almost like you’re not going to get a better player than that for what we’re going to end up playing, and then it becomes the issue of, OK, before we did it, we went back and Darryl and the coaches and I and Blakey, we sat and watched Rob’s game in Pittsburgh and Chicago, and then we put in the games that he played in the conference finals with us before he left and then tried to make a decision on ‘was the drop-off,’ so-to-speak, an issue of his slower or whatever, or maybe the role and the fit not being right and him being caught in between...
Dean also went into detail about the process of ensuring he could talk to Scuderi before the deal was made to be certain that he wanted to come back and that it was the right move for his family. Of course, we can all think back to the last time the Kings' management focused on video to understand the decline of a player. Scuderi's situation is different, though. He has only one year remaining on his deal, and the amount paid by the Kings is barely above the value of a contract that can be completely buried in the AHL.
Head coach, Darryl Sutter, was predictably succinct when asked about Scuderi after the game against the Buffalo Sabres.
He slid right in. I said the same thing yesterday and I said the same thing this morning and I said the same thing after the game. He can play on our team.
Rob also had a reputation for being a valued locker room presence, and he was well liked among the team. Comments from his teammates reiterated that belief, and it also revealed that they saw him slotting into the bottom pair- something that doesn't match with his usage so far.
Kris Versteeg's name began to be rumored a few days prior to the trade deadline, and he was one of a group of skilled wingers that could slot into LA's system. We covered several of the possible adds for LA at the wing position, but he wasn't one of them. I will be making note of which players we'd like LA to get next year to ensure we don't write about them.
As Lombardi detailed in his conference call posted above, championship pedigree was important when they looked to acquire players. Versteeg's two cups with Chicago certainly fit that bill. At only 5'11" and 176 pounds, he's certainly smaller than your prototypical King, but he's known to play a physical style that matches the Kings rather well. That was also the thought of one of the current Kings.
I'd like that. He can make plays and has a bit of an edge
The acquisition of Versteeg wasn't just about his pedigree, though. Just like the coaching staff's familiarity with former trade acquisition of Andrej Sekera, there was some history there. Specifically, there was a connection to the Sutter family, as Dean outlines.
The other thing too is, Darryl is very familiar with Versteeg. So even though we’re not as familiar with him as maybe like a Scuderi, having been here, there’s also a history with Versteeg with the Sutter family, if you go back to his time in Alberta.
Darryl Sutter was also asked about his thoughts on Versteeg following the loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
I think he gives us some depth and the ability to finish and play all positions for us. It’s important. Gabby’s out, and I think that it showed up even tonight where we’ve been using three and a half lines, basically, when you look at minutes played. Especially in back-to-backs, you need four lines, four good lines.
Certainly, Versteeg's ability to play both left and right wing should give the Kings some more flexibility in the top nine before and when Gaborik returns. Lastly, how does Kris Versteeg himself feel about the Kings? He did a short radio interview to share his thoughts about the Kings' style and how he'd fit into that. You can listen at the link here.