“Mayor” John Hoven tweeted something interesting on the 5th, defending the idea of trading Alec Martinez.
Assuming Kings protect 7 fwds, 3 D and 1 G, likely looking at:— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) February 5, 2017
Given that Jeff Zatkoff was signed with an eye towards the expansion draft this summer, trading Martinez might be a move to get something instead of nothing. But before we get into that, let’s talk numbers.
The Los Angeles Kings have six unrestricted free agents (UFAs) coming off the books this summer in Dwight King, Devin Setoguchi, Teddy Purcell, Tom Gilbert, Rob Scuderi and Peter Budaj. The following six restricted free agents (RFAs) will need new contracts: Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Nick Shore, Andy Andreoff, Paul LaDue and Kevin Gravel.
With a stagnating salary cap, it’s hard to imagine that the ceiling will rise significantly above the current $73.0 million. Keeping that number in mind, it’s time to play a little Armchair GM. Dean Lombardi and Jeff Solomon have been wizards over the last several years at squeezing in key players to keep the team competitive but this might be their toughest challenge yet. Most notably due for a large raise is Toffoli and to a lesser extent, Pearson. To complicate things even further, there are nine additional RFAs in Ontario who are nearing the end of their entry level contracts (ELCs). Should the Kings extend a Qualifying Offer to them, all would be waiver eligible -- that is, they’ll have to pass through waivers in order to be assigned to the AHL. The biggest question mark surrounds Michael Mersch, who finds himself on the bubble between the two leagues.
Theoretically, if LA decides to part ways with all of their UFAs, that should give them around $7.4 million in cap space (the sum of their combined contracts is about $65.6 million). At the moment, with Matt Greene on injured reserve (IR), the Kings are carrying eight defensemen after recalling Paul LaDue. Greene has one more year left on his contract so it stands to reason he’ll be on the roster next year — unless the team feels that he can’t play given all his previous injuries and he’s be placed on LTIR a la Chris Chelios.
Now, before we go on, Jon Rosen’s position on whether Martinez could be traded is, and I quote, “he won’t.” So: read this not as an analysis of whether the Kings will trade Martinez, but whether they should consider the possibility.
At 29-years-old, with an annual average value of $4 million, Martinez isn’t exactly a “bargain,” but he’s also not severely overpaid. He’s a good, mobile defenseman who would be an asset to any team looking to bolster their blue line. Among Kings defensemen with at least 500 minutes played since 2013-14, he is eighth in score, zone, and venue adjusted corsi-for percent; fifth in scoring chances-against per 60; third in individual chances-for and first in defensive zone starts.
Per Corsica, a couple of similarities to Martinez include Cody Ceci and Jakub Kindl. Money-wise, Justin Braun, who makes $3.8 million is a decent comparable. Martinez is indicatively better than all three mentioned, though Ceci and Kindl both make less than $3 million.
Throughout the majority of his career, he’s been a third-pairing defenseman, but took on a more significant role in 2014 after Slava Voynov eventually went back to Russia. In the two and a half seasons since, the Michigan native seems to be thriving under the increased workload and has maintained a consistent even-strength shooting percentage between 6% and 7%. His total ES points over the last two and a half seasons ranks 11th on the team.
Martinez isn’t good enough to play on the first-pairing, but he can log heavy minutes, has a decent shot, can quarterback a power play, and kill penalties. He’s also been pretty money in 3v3 overtime—Or, at least, he’s been on the ice for the majority of the wins, which may or may not be coincidental.
Given all that, should the Kings consider trading him?
Cap Space. With only about $7 million or so in available space, $4 million can go a long way towards re-signing some of their many restricted free agents.
Roster spot. Unless LA pulls a Philadelphia Flyers, they’re going to need to trade someone on the backend to make room for Gravel and LaDue, who both need new contracts this summer.
Value. Drew Doughty is untouchable and Jake Muzzin, despite his many ups and downs, is arguably better than Martinez. There’s bound to be a team that needs a good, fairly inexpensive defenseman to upgrade their blue line. Since they seem to be at a premium, there’s a decent chance they may be able to get someone desperate to fill a hole to overpay.
Vegas. Every fan of every team seems to think they’re going to lose a good player in the expansion draft. The rules state that each team is required to expose “at least two forwards and one defenseman that have played at least 40 games in the 2016–17 season or more than 70 games in the 2015–16 and 2016–17 seasons combined and must still be contracted for the 2017–18 season.” So, in theory, if management is worried about Martinez being drafted, then they might as well trade him while they can still get something in return.
Offense. By no means is Martinez blowing anyone away with his scoring prowess, but it’s still enough that one should pause given how much trouble the Kings as a whole have when it comes to putting pucks in the net.
Depth. While it seems that Derek Forbort has finally found his way and looks comfortable, he’s still not a first pairing defenseman. Doughty and Muzzin are capable of anchoring their own pairings, but so is Martinez—plus, he can play on the left and right sides. In very limited samples, Gravel and Forbort have not looked good together.
Minute Muncher. Martinez is averaging between 20 and 25 minutes on ice per game. That’s up from the 17-18 minutes he was averaging in 2014-15. Kings coach Darryl Sutter has come to trust Martinez in all situations, especially when he wants to rest Doughty or Muzzin. Spreading around ice time also ensures that Sutter isn’t burning out his best players while simultaneously allowing him to ease in the rookies until they’ve earned his trust.
Bonus: Jazz Hands. This is more for nostalgia than anything, but arguably the greatest goal celebration in Kings’ history came off a three-on-two when this kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan clinched the Stanley Cup on home ice.
You tell us, Kings fans. Should LA trade Martinez or keep him and hope for the best?