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Kings Trade Rumors: Are the Sabres and Kings Preparing to Deal Again?

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And if Evander Kane isn’t the target, who is?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now less than a month from the trade deadline, and as always, two important sources are fueling trade rumors left and right. Those sources: (1) the bottom few rows of the standings and (2) the list of scouts at each game. These two combined to give us a notable bit of scuttlebutt (fun word) from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News:

Why is there a Los Angeles scout at pretty much every Buffalo game or a Sabres scout at just about every Kings game of late? As hot as he is right now, the Kings could certainly use Evander Kane in their lineup on the wing.

LA and Buffalo have swapped before, of course; Robyn Regehr (2013) and Brayden McNabb (2014) were both acquired from the Sabres. So it’s not difficult to see these familiar trade partners re-acquainting themselves. We’ll tackle Evander Kane first, as he got the name-drop. Let’s start with reasons why that deal might happen.

  • Evander Kane has been on fire as of late. In 27 games in December and January, Kane scored 14 goals.
  • He’s young and reasonably priced. The Kings have cap room, sure, but it’s probably in their interest to avoid contracts that are either too long or too expensive. Kane is signed for one more year after this, and his salary is $5.25 million, which fits for the Kings this year. Again: reasonable, although it would force LA to go cheap on their bottom six next year.
  • He’s a left winger! Dustin Brown and Tanner Pearson have been good, but LA has found success and balance in the past with Brown on the third line. Acquiring a definite top-six LW would be quite helpful, to say the least.
  • The Kings can offer young defensemen in return. The price for Kane would be lower than the price for Gabriel Landeskog, but Buffalo would still look for an NHL-ready young defenseman. Derek Forbort? And LA isn’t afraid to trade high picks, something Buffalo would certainly ask for in a return package.

Reasons why not? One, really, but it outweighs the others by a significant margin.

You’ll see it referred to as “off-ice issues,” but let’s be totally clear: Kane was charged with criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and harassment stemming from his behavior at a Buffalo bar in June, and he was investigated for sexual assault (though not charged) after a woman was treated for an injury in Buffalo last December. A civil suit was filed in the wake of the latter incident along with a counterclaim filed by Kane, while the set of charges are being dismissed if Kane avoids legal issues through April.

Acquiring Kane would be a remarkably tone-deaf move for the Kings, whose handling of Slava Voynov’s arrest and suspension fell short in a number of ways. Forget the tracksuit incident or the sleeping through practice; maybe the Kings will avoid Kane based on those so-called issues alone. But if the Kings wish to stand by their post-Voynov statement and to “not tolerate domestic violence,” trading for someone who’s been accused — by multiple women — of assault and harassment sends the wrong message.

(Oh, and if you’re asking about Mike Ribeiro, who was waived by Nashville today: please don’t.)

This all raises a question, though: if the Kings don’t want to acquire Evander Kane, who do they want to acquire? Here are three possibilities.

Matt Moulson

Oh, the stories we could write about Matt Moulson if he returned to Los Angeles. Moulson is making ten times more money than he did the last time he signed with the Kings, almost nine years ago. Moulson also isn’t quite the player he was earlier in this decade, but he’s been effective in spurts this season. His most common linemates are Kyle Okposo and Ryan O’Reilly, so perhaps he’s getting a boost, but the left winger could probably find success on Anze Kopitar’s line. Moulson isn’t a rental, though; he’s signed through 2018-19, and that $5 million cap hit simply won’t work for LA after this year. Even acquiring Moulson for next to nothing would tie Dean Lombardi’s hands.

[EDIT: Moulson also has a list of 17 teams to which he wouldn’t accept a trade.]

Dmitry Kulikov

Kulikov is a weird one. On the one hand: he had a very rough first couple months. On the other: he’s a rental at $4.3 million, which LA could stomach for this season, and he’s a very useful defenseman when he’s on his game. Like he was... say... last night.

LA doesn’t need another left-shot defenseman, though, unless they see this as a chance to make a straight upgrade by sending Gravel or (less likely) Forbort out with a draft pick. Kulikov is only 18 months older than those two, after all. But LA might prefer a right-hander, as only Doughty and LaDue fit that bill on the active roster. Which brings us to...

Cody Franson

Is Franson ever not in the rumor mill? If you search “Franson trade” on Twitter, it’s filled with Sabres fans begging the team to trade him for a bag of pucks. Franson does make sense for the Kings, though, especially if they’re looking for a true right-shot defenseman to play behind Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez on the third pairing. The 6’5” Franson has seen his scoring drop off in his two seasons with Buffalo, but his possession numbers are typically strong by team standards, and he can be had for a draft pick or a non-slam-dunk prospect. It’s a value move, but given how all of LA’s value moves worked out in July, it’s yet to be determined if the Kings are willing to make another one.

Rapid-fire! Marcus Foligno is in the final year of his contract and is a big body on left wing who’s good for ten goals a year, but do the Kings really need another Dwight King? Ryan O’Reilly is way too good. Former LA prospect Nicolas Deslauriers, bless his heart, is not. Also-former LA prospect Hudson Fasching is around but he wouldn’t crack the Kings’ lineup right now. 23-year-old Zemgus Girgensons fell out of favor earlier this season, but I don’t see the Sabres getting rid of him. Josh Gorges is Luke Schenn, but worse.

Who do you think the Kings should target?