Analyzing the LA Kings’ Salary Cap Options Part 2: Trade Targets

Would trading for a scoring winger make sense given the team’s current cap situation?

In part one of this series, we looked at free agency for any potential scoring help the Los Angeles Kings could add. But with only one or two big names, neither of which the team can afford, does a trade make sense?

Following the draft, news emerged that the Kings and the Montreal Canadiens were very close to a deal on prized left-winger Max Pacioretty. The deal fell through for a variety of reasons, one of which was supposedly the contract extension. But Bob McKenzie brings hope anew!

“So anyways, all of that aside, the deal didn’t get done but apparently was close and perhaps could still be revived. You never know.”

It could still happen! “You never know.” Does a deal for Pacioretty even make sense for Los Angeles at this point in time? Supposing, as the rumor goes, the demand for the Habs’ captain is a first round pick, a roster player, and a top prospect, all dependent, of course, on Pacioretty signing an extension. It’s hard to say, exactly, what this deal would look like but let’s hypothesize:

  • A first round pick, probably in next year’s draft, in which center Jack Hughes is expected to be one of the top selections.
  • A roster player. If the Alex Galchenyuk - Max Domi trade is any indication, Marc Bergevin is probably looking for a young, cost-controlled player in return. On the Kings that would most likely be one of Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo, Sheldon Rempal, or Daniel Brickley, possibly even Derek Forbort who is on a low-cost deal until 2021.
  • A top prospect. This one is a little tougher. What exactly defines a “top prospect.” Is it someone in the AHL, someone in juniors? Who is an untouchable? For LA, that’s probably Paul LaDue, Michael Amadio, Gabriel Vilardi, or Jaret Anderson-Dolan. (None of the aforementioned players are currently considered “roster” according to CapFriendly). /

Jared Book is the Deputy Managing Editor at fellow sister blog Habs Eyes on the Prize. He believes that a Pacioretty trade would likely involve a left-handed defenseman and a center. Ideally for him, it would be Jake Muzzin and perhaps Vilardi, though it’s hard to say what Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin is willing to accept. Bergevin may take a lesser deal of Forbort and a center, though, recently has shown that there is no pattern to his behavior. Regardless, the team would like to have someone to play with Shea Weber and a top-six potential forward with scoring upside.

Is all that worth it for the 29-year-old Connecticut native? Depends on if you think a five-season 30+ goal-scorer to play alongside Anze Kopitar would be worth the price. Vilardi is almost definitely a no-go. He’s a very highly prized prospect that (rumor has it) could’ve even made the team last year if not for his back injury. But, in a highly-unlikely-probably-never-going-to-happen scenario, Kempe and Forbort would be a decent package to send.

All of this is, of course, would be dependent on whether or not the Kings can sign Pacioretty to an extension. The rumor is that Pacioretty wants somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million, which isn’t super unreasonable, especially for someone of his caliber. Now the question becomes, with Ilya Kovalchuk already hanging out for three years, can they even afford to sign him given Drew Doughty’s lucrative new contract?

LA Kings Salary Cap

FORWARDS (8 - $39,347,727)TERMSPOSAGE2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Kopitar, Anze "C"NMCC30$10,000,000$10,000,000$10,000,000$10,000,000$10,000,000UFA
Kovalchuk, Ilya35+NMCRW35$6,250,000$6,250,000UFA
Brown, DustinM-NTCRW, LW33$5,875,000$5,875,000$5,875,000UFA
Carter, Jeff "A"C, RW33$5,272,727$5,272,727$5,272,727UFA
Toffoli, TylerRW, LW26$4,600,000UFA
Pearson, TannerLW25$3,750,000$3,750,000UFA
Lewis, TrevorC, RW, LW31$2,000,000UFA
Thompson, NateM-NTCC33UFA
Clifford, KyleLW27$1,600,000UFA
Rempal, SheldonELCLW, RW22RFA
Iafallo, AlexELCLW, C24RFA
Kempe, AdrianELCC, LW21RFA
DEFENSE (5 - $26,775,000)TERMSPOSAGE2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Doughty, Drew "A"NMCRD28$11,000,000$11,000,000$11,000,000$11,000,000$11,000,000$11,000,000
Phaneuf, DionRSM-NTCNMCLD33$5,250,000$5,250,000UFA
Martinez, AlecRD30$4,000,000$4,000,000UFA
Muzzin, JakeLD29$4,000,000UFA
Forbort, DerekLD26$2,525,000UFA
Brickley, DanielELCLD23RFA
GOALTENDERS (3 - $7,500,000)TERMSPOSAGE2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Quick, JonathanG32$5,800,000$5,800,000$5,800,000$5,800,000UFA
Campbell, JackG26$675,000UFA
RECAPTURE PENALTY (1)2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Richards, Mike$1,320,000
TERMINATED (1)2019-202020-212021-222022-232023-242024-25
Richards, Mike$250,000$700,000$900,000$900,000$700,000$700,000
GRAND TOTAL$75,192,727
Current Cap$79.5M
2019 Roster5 Defensemen8 forwards2 goalies13 skaters

Now, with a completely flat cap, it will not be possible to sign all of the above players since they still have three players to sign and only $3 million with which to do it. If the cap rises only $5 million, it will still be feasible, but a tight squeeze. Unfortunately, they are priced out of trading for a scoring winger unless they find a willing partner to take on one of their less desirable contracts (more on that later). Now, if the cap goes up quite a bit more than $5 million (don’t hold your breath), then, of course, the Kings would have plenty of room for Pacioretty and his extension.

If all goes well, do you think the Kings should trade for Pacioretty?

No, the price is too much209
Heck yes130
Maybe / undecided84

Pacioretty is one potential trade target. Another target could be Artemi Panarin.

At $6 million, his cap hit does technically price the Kings out of the running. Then again, it was reported that Panarin’s preferred destinations include Los Angeles, New York or Florida. Despite denials from his agent, it could give Los Angeles a leg up. Or mean simply nothing as he is still under contract for one more year. Now, “testing the market” doesn’t necessarily mean a trade is imminent, but it’s worth exploring the possibility of acquiring him.

If Pacioretty is going to command a first, a player, and a prospect, then the slightly younger Russian, on the verge of unrestricted free agency, should fetch about the same. He’s been very consistent in all three years of his NHL career, scoring 30, 31, and 27 goals. An elite winger, he’s proven that he isn’t just riding the coattails of talented teammates.

According to Eric Seeds, writer at sister SBN blog Jackets Cannon, “His short NHL history shouldn’t work against him. Not only was he a stellar playmaker in Chicago, but he put up better than a point per game last season while playing next to a 19 year old rookie for much of the season. Panarin showed that he can produce next to any player last year.”

Similar to the Habs, the Columbus Blue Jackets could also use a top-six center. (Yeah, right, who couldn’t?) That doesn't leave much for LA in the way of potential trade pieces to send back to Columbus.

Seeds notes, “Columbus needs to upgrade its goal scoring abilities and at center. Trading Panarin obviously hurts this, so Columbus would likely be looking for two high end players (or a high end player and a prospect) who can fill those needs sooner rather than later. Columbus is not in a position of strength, obviously, but needs to maximize what they can get back.”

Keeping with the assumption that Vilardi is untouchable, perhaps the Kings might be able to swing the Kempe-as-center experiment along with the first round pick. The team is rather thin on high-end prospects (at least the kind that would be appealing in return for such a big name as Panarin), so Kempe and a prospect-to-be-named-who-isn’t-Vilardi could be a tough sell.

The hardest part for the Kings in any hypothetical trade would be trying to work the salary under the current cap in which they only have $3 million in available space and still three players to sign. There's no way that either Bergevin or Kekalainen would hold back salary for LA when trading such a high-demand player. The Kings would need to find a way to shed money, preferably a Dustin Brown or even a Dion Phaneuf contract. Trading Forbort and Kempe is like finding $5 and thinking that'll solve debt issues. It's a start, but nowhere near enough. The problem is that neither Phaneuf nor Brown are good enough that a team would be willing to take on their albatross contracts. There is the possibility that perhaps Jeff Carter, who has remained a highly effective player (when healthy) even at 33, but then you're essentially creating a hole just to fill one.

There's always the possibility that Rob Blake could involve a third team as Tampa Bay is reportedly doing in attempting to trade for Erik Karlsson, but unlike the Lightning, the Kings do not boast such a boon of talent that teams would so eagerly line up to take on a terrible contract.

Perhaps Muzzin or Alec Martinez could sweeten the deal. The Kings, who had the league's stingiest defense last year, winning their second Jennings Trophy in four years, may suffer without Muzzin. Is Paul LaDue enough to replace either defenseman? It's hard to say. In 12 NHL games, he scored two goals, picked up one assist, and had a sparkling 57.48% corsi. Let’s compare the three defensemen.

Corsi Comparison

Alec Martinez3545583.982719173663460.
Jake Muzzin3906558.92230366688520.20.270.330.60.810.48141112.911.569118.332.416325.783.4822.360.22.457937-420.720.34260552.380.57608096.957.44323.95
Paul Ladue34451.952235740.

Muzzin and Martinez’s seasons have been aggregated since 2013-14 to show any trends in their on-ice performances. All data is at 5v5 unless otherwise noted.

At first glance, it appears that Martinez and Muzzin are pretty similar to each other, with Martinez having scored five more goals in 36 fewer games, though Muzzin has more assists. But let’s take a closer look. Muzzin has been a work horse for this team since 2014. Among the three of them, he’s aggregated the best individual chances-for, has the best primary points per 60, and the best individual expected goals-for percentage and to top it all off, he also plays heavy minutes in all situations. LaDue’s points per 60 look pretty good, but he comes with a cautionary sample size warning.

None of this necessarily makes Martinez expendable. All things considered, LaDue could be an excellent replacement for the d-man who will forever be known as “Jazz Hands.” Is the unknown worth the trade-off for a high scoring winger? If either GM is willing to accept Martinez in a trade, the answer is more than likely yes. The team’s defense will still be stellar with or without Martinez, especially with one of the best defensive minds in the game behind the bench. A healthy Jonathan Quick would only serve to further boost the Kings’ playoff potential and keep their overall goals against average on the low side.

Should the Kings trade for Panarin?

Maybe / Undecided53

So you tell us: Should the Kings trade for either of these wingers? Someone else? Or just hold off and see what shakes out at the trade deadline? Sound off in the comments below!