Disclaimer: This is about the trade deadline, which is impossible to predict. I wrote this at 3 AM Pacific on February 24. In a few short hours, this article can be inaccurate. But it was still fun to write.
The Los Angeles Kings have made a splash with two trades already—the first for Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson, and the second for Tobias Rieder. In both trades, the Kings deftly addressed stated needs by trading away parts that they won’t have for much longer—the injured, unproductive Marian Gaborik, and the soon-to-walk Darcy Kuemper. General manager Rob Blake has indicated that he will not mortgage the future of the team. ”If it’s a rental, no,” he said. However, the loss against the Dallas Stars on February 22 nakedly exposed Los Angeles—the Kings are still slow, and still struggle to score.
But the Kings are not in complete rebuild mode—the addition of former All-Star Phaneuf indicates that the Kings are indeed going for a deep playoff run this year. The team is aware that its Stanley Cup window is this year and next—the remaining length of the contract of Drew Doughty. With the audacious Doughty not-so-indirectly stating that he wishes to test free agency, with annual salaries rising above $10 million, and with the brazen Doughty also saying he does not want a rebuild:
They’re trying to go for it. I’ve been through the rebuild before. I don’t really ever want to have to go through that again, along with the rest of my teammates.
The Kings will have to find ways to keep their team competitive without letting their insolent, bratty All-Star push them around.
Here is the Jewels From The Crown Trade Special analysis for the Los Angeles Kings.
First, a look at free agents.
Pending UFAs: Christian Folin, Torrey Mitchell. And that’s it.
Pending RFAs: Tobias Rieder, Kevin Gravel. And that’s it.
The rest of the team is locked up for quite a while, except for 2019 UFAs Drew Doughty, Andy Andreoff, and Nate Thompson. RFAs in 2019 will be Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Michael Amadio, and Jonny Brodzinski.
Second, some assumptions, otherwise I’ll be spending forever writing this article.
1) The Kings will not trade to a rival. Not just Anaheim and San Jose, but those they are competing against in the playoff race, like Calgary, St. Louis, Dallas, Minnesota, and Colorado.
2) The Kings have already traded with Edmonton, Ottawa, and Arizona this year. Therefore I assume they will not trade with those teams again. Sorry, no chance for Erik Karlsson, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (all great players who have been linked to trade possibilities). I imagine if the Kings wanted to seek more from these three teams, it would have been discussed already.
3) Vegas, which is overflowing with success that even it did not anticipate, will go for the Cup and not blow up its roster. This means no James Neal trade.
4) If you believe Jeff Carter will be the Messiah and the equivalent of our big-name deadline acquisition, not so fast. We must hold our breath, as there is no guarantee that he will ever come back to his previous All-Star form again, with such a damaging injury. Alas.
Third, we can now determine who the likely trade partners are.
The last-in-the-Central Blackhawks never expected to be cellar dwellers this year. They are the Kings’ alter ego, as they too had their heyday from 2010-2015 and are desperate to keep open a fast-shutting window.
The Brandon Saad experiment has failed. Bringing back the former 30-goal scorer was supposed to re-energize the Blackhawks, who are saddled with not one, but two $10 million/year contracts in Patrick Kane and the aging Jonathan Toews. Alas, Saad has underperformed this season, and now Chicago is stuck with a $6M+ contract until 2021.
Trading the struggling Tanner Pearson with a first rounder saves the Blackhawks money, and gives Chicago a fast, cheap secondary player who will be a nice complementary piece for Toews and Kane. I also thought Kuemper was a perfect player to dangle to Chicago, but that ship has sailed.
Let’s talk about the other Kane. Look, I understand Evander Kane is not a saint. He has started some ruckuses at bars, walked out on restaurants, and he is a little too active on social media. But at least he did not beat up his wife, and he does not struggle with drug addictions. Let’s put it this way. If this was the NBA, would he really be considered that bad? Unfortunately, hockey still has an uppity image which expects players to devalue their individuality and conform to norms. Evander Kane and others, like P.K. Subban, challenge those cultural norms by acting more expressively—a breath of fresh air that brings new fans, as hockey still remains fringe in much of the world. That includes the nonwhite world. Sorry this sounds shockingly rhetorical, but are Kane and Subban treated differently because they are black? After all, Hockey is for Everyone, right?
Los Angeles will humble him. As a hockey player, he will not be the big ticket in a town of Hollywood celebrities and basketball players. Kane will fit in beautifully in LA, with its forgiving, diverse fans. We forgave Kobe, right?
Buffalo needs a little bit of everything. LA needs the proven talent and athleticism of Kane, who is a perennial threat to score 30 each season. Let’s make a deal.
With their overpaid goalie Carey Price out indefinitely with a concussion, this is now officially a failed campaign for the Habs, who are asking for a first, second, roster player and a prospect for the prolific Max Pacioretty, a perennial 30-goal, 30-assist threat. “We believe [Montreal will] settle for a first-rounder and a prospect who projects to be a top centre,” writes Eric Engels of Sportsnet.
We have that guy. Gabe Vilardi.
Listen, I know you readers are aiming tomatoes at me. But the time is now. Vilardi represents the future of the team, but what kind of future will that be? By then, the core of Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, and Jeff Carter will be well past their primes. And there is no guarantee Doughty will re-sign. Toffoli and Pearson have proven to be intermittent at best, and are not the ones to carry the Kings into the future. The star will likely be Adrian Kempe, but who will consistenly work with him?
Yes, Pacioretty will be expensive next season. But if the Kings do not make the playoffs even with Pacioretty, Doughty has already tipped his hand with his big mouth, and will likely want out of the Kings. Doughty can then be traded for several assets in return, further balancing the Kings who will have been enriched with one of the game’s most exciting players.
Let’s get Pacioretty. And this same analysis applies to Evander Kane, mentioned above.
All I’m gonna say is, Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin are 37. If they are interested in adding “Stanley Cup” to their resume, they will waive their no-movement clauses. They have slowed down, but they will easily provide the Kings the best third line in the NHL and we won’t have to wait for the development of Brodzinski, Iafallo, Andreoff, or Amadio. Enough said.
Other teams have beaten the Kings to the New York sweepstakes. Rick Nash is way too expensive, so forget it.
Okay, I lied. But if we can get a young, legit right-handed shooting defenseman like Cody Ceci, then finally Alec Martinez can return to the left side and reach his full potential as a player, providing extra insurance for the Kings in case Doughty walks. Fans have dangled with the question of whether Martinez should be traded. The answer changes daily with the status of the team and with what areas it struggles with most. Right now, however, Martinez is needed for his defensive depth, as the Doughty contract question looms over the horizon.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have shocked the NHL. They stacked up their roster, and are now Finals material for the third time in a row, with the addition of Derick Brassard. In that same trade, Vegas acquired some toughness for their own playoff run, in Ryan Reaves.
Let’s make trades to remain in the game before our competitors do it and leave us behind.