As the 2016-17 season reaches its halfway point, it appears that the Kings have all but given up on the idea of acquiring a goaltender. That’s partially due to the play of Peter Budaj, who has filled in ably for Jonathan Quick, but it’s also because LA has realized that they have a more pressing issue: scoring. Even with a recent offensive explosion, the Kings’ goal-scoring rate is in the bottom ten. There are never more than a handful of legitimate scoring threats on the trade market in any given season, though.
The good news: Colorado is selling. Cody McLeod was the first to go today, but the Avs aren’t just offering up spare parts. In fact, aside from Nathan MacKinnon and 2015 first-rounder Mikko Rantanen, pretty much everyone is a potential target for teams that would like to improve now, please. So this trade rumor is worth considering:
LA Kings with heavy interest in Landeskog, I'm told— Adrian Dater (@adater) January 7, 2017
With Milan Lucic gone, the Kings hoped that they could squeeze some more offense out of their other wingers. Beyond Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, though, the Kings have gotten nothing. Kopitar’s most frequent linemates are Trevor Lewis, Dwight King, Dustin Brown, and Marian Gaborik. Those four players have seven goals at 5-on-5 play with Kopitar this season, and four of them are by Lewis. For the sake of comparison, Jeff Carter has eleven by himself.
So the question of whether a Gabriel Landeskog trade would help the forwards is kind of a useless one. He’d be a significant upgrade to LA’s top six. As ever, the real question about this trade is whether it would help the team, overall. We seem to know what Colorado is looking for, and that’s defense, which leaves us one of three options.
- Jake Muzzin. Fans of the Avalanche don’t think that Jake Muzzin alone is enough to land Gabriel Landeskog, at least if the Cap Friendly armchair GM tool is to be believed. TSN’s Insider Trading noted that the initial asking price was much higher (transcript via FanRag Sports):
“It’s a lot, and you can understand why it would be a high price,” noted Darren Dreger. “We’re talking about a top-level defenseman, a first-round draft pick, plus.
“Now, to some around the National Hockey League who have interest, primarily from the Eastern Conference, it’s a bit outrageous. You’re talking about a 24-year-old hockey player here, questionably a second-line type of player, and he’s only had a couple of seasons where he’s had 60 points or more.
“So the asking price right now is high, but if you’re Joe Sakic it’s early enough that you can command that type of ask.”
For a rebuilding team, Muzzin and a first-round or second-round pick absolutely ought to get the deal done. Is Colorado willing to trade for a defenseman who’s actually older than Landeskog, though? And is LA willing to trade a pillar of their top four while fighting for a playoff spot? Depends on whether you think Doughty-Martinez-Forbort-McNabb is a solid top four. Maybe visions of a (Johnson+first)-for-Carter swap are dancing in Dean Lombardi’s head, but Jack Johnson is not Jake Muzzin.
- Alec Martinez. To all of you who irrationally love Martinez as much as I do.... I think we should be safer here. Martinez fits the salary requirement and is having a better year than Muzzin, but he’s 29 years old and has never been a top pairing player. It’s hard to see Colorado asking for Martinez instead of Muzzin, given the way Muzzin’s stock has risen over the last couple years. If they did, you assume they’d also ask for a first-round pick and a younger roster player.
- Kale Clague and a roster player (or two). If the Avs seek a high-end defensive prospect rather than a roster player, Clague is the obvious choice after an excellent showing at World Junior Championships. (It does sound like they’re willing to look beyond the NHL level.) The trick here is giving some salary back to Colorado. Unless the Kings can turn around and trade Gaborik or Brown for pennies on the dollar, this Landeskog swap needs to have some dollars in it. Even Pearson, who’s probably the most attractive asset up front aside from the untradeable Toffoli, is making only $1.4 million this year.
The final note comes courtesy of Elliotte Friedman (transcribed, again, by FanRag).
Every conversation I have now about defensemen comes back to what the Edmonton Oilers did – Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. And that is what the cost is to get a good defenseman in this league now.
Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez are both good defensemen. Older than Larsson, of course, but enough to be the centerpiece of a trade for Colorado’s captain. The question is how much LA is willing to push into the middle.