Los Angeles Trade Deadline Targets: Jeff Petry
If the Kings make a major acquisition this deadline, it will probably be for a defenseman. Now, they've had more success with recent deadline acquisitions at forward (Jeff Carter in 2012 and Marian Gaborik in 2014) than at defense (Robyn Regehr in 2013), but consider the blue line the Kings iced against the Avalanche on Wednesday:
Not ideal. Alec Martinez's return will help but can't fix everything. The Kings would like to keep Doughty and Muzzin paired while still having two viable depth pairings. Martinez can carry any pairing he's on, but it's difficult to assemble a viable pairing out of some mix of Greene, McNabb, and McBain. That's where a trade would help.
Many candidates have been bandied about, from Carolina's Andrej Sekera to Toronto's Roman Polak (!?!), but I think the best fit is Jeff Petry, the 27-year-old pending UFA who has toiled in obscurity in Edmonton for the past five seasons.
Petry is a right shot, which is helpful, and for those readers who share Dean Lombardi's obsession with huge defenseman, he's 6'3" and unafraid to hit people. Here's Petry's HERO Chart, which quantifies several aspects of his performance from 2012-13 to the present:
And for comparison, that of Slava Voynov:
So Petry can't replace Voynov's offensive skill. But the ability to drive play is the most important consideration in a defenseman and there Petry holds his own, while playing huge minutes in Edmonton. Historically both players drive play at the rate of an average second-pairing defenseman; for a team like the Kings who have their top guys in place but a shortage of depth, Petry can help.
If you're skeptical that Petry has really been good defensively on Oilers teams that have ranked 30th in goals against two years running, consider Petry's terrible quality of teammates. Over the last two years Petry has played almost half his 5v5 minutes with a washed-up Andrew Ference, who without Petry is at an ugly 42.6% Corsi (Petry bumps him up to 45.9%). When free from Ference, Petry's 49.2% Corsi is respectable given the low quality of his team. Tellingly, every Oilers blueliner who's spent significant minutes with Petry does better with than without him.
As a big, physical player Petry could presumably contribute on LA's rather disappointing penalty kill. Petry has actually played significant 5v4 minutes for the Oilers, too, but since Edmonton's power play has been poor in general and especially terrible with Petry out there, maybe the Kings shouldn't use him like that. Play to his strengths.
An especially attractive aspect of trading for Petry is the price. After refusing to talk to Petry's agent for months Edmonton has very recently made overtures about re-signing Petry, but that seems to me like a pretty transparent attempt to increase their trade leverage. He will almost certainly be traded and can probably be had for a second-round pick, maybe with another mid-round pick thrown in. If that is indeed the asking price, I think the Kings should make the trade. If the price rises to a first-round pick, it's hard for me to see the upgrade in defensive depth being quite worth that.
Of course, the Kings can only make this trade if their cap situation permits it. Here things get complicated. The Kings do have the cap space to trade for Petry right now, but ESPN's Pierre Lebrun suggested that the Kings need to keep about 4M of cap space open, in the unlikely event that Slava Voynov is reinstated post deadline. If this is correct, then the Kings cannot trade for Petry without first dumping salary elsewhere. The team does have several contracts that could be removed without weakening the team, Mike Richards being the most obvious example.
If it helps, compare Petry to, say, the half-Vandal Roman general Stilicho, whose nationality prevented him from holding the title of emperor but who nonetheless was the clear authority in the Western provinces from 395 to 408. Stilicho will rarely make a list of the best Roman leaders, because the political situation he inherited was so dire (what with hordes of Goths already running loose in the empire when he took over, and hordes of Vandals, Alamanni, and Franks set to join them soon) that no one, however talented, could have fixed everything. Yet Stilicho did a good job with what he had, and for 13 years showed considerable military acumen in holding the western empire together. After his death things fell apart with alarming speed.
Petry has been by far Edmonton's best blueliner over the past few years. He is also, as we have seen, nothing more than a competent second pairing defenseman, so that says something about Edmonton. I recommend not holding Petry's teammates against him and focusing on what he can do for the Kings. He's not a star player, but he is a reasonably-priced defenseman who could nicely round out LA's roster as they embark on their latest cup push.