Analyzing Trade Rumors: Should the Kings Look to Acquire Thomas Vanek?
He'd look awfully nice on the first line, but there's a lot to consider with the most dynamic player on the trade block.
Nick mentioned this in his roundup of the Kings' various trade pieces and again on Wednesday, but the Kings seem to often look at certain types of players. We covered the "stabilizing top-4 defenseman" in Andrew MacDonald, and the "solid depth forward" in Ryan Callahan. But neither fits their type perfectly. MacDonald is probably not a great choice to be a top-four defenseman in Los Angeles, while Callahan's potential output and asking price are well above that of a depth forward. However, the third type mentioned was a "real scoring threat." In Thomas Vanek, we have someone who does fit the bill perfectly.
(First, block out all memories of Vanek's performance against Slovenia at the Olympics. Done? Good.)
Let's start with the most straightforward reason to sign Thomas Vanek: he scores goals. Vanek hasn't been in top form this season, but he's still averaging right around one goal per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time. On the Kings, only Tyler Toffoli exceeds that number; even Jeff Carter only scores at 0.92 goals/60 minutes. Vanek does even better when measured against the league in points/60 minutes, ranking above all other Kings in that regard. This is a consistent pattern for Vanek, who for the last five seasons has dropped off very slightly in goalscoring but maintained his shooting totals and point production.
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What about possession numbers? Those don't quite support Vanek as well as we'd like. His Corsi numbers are middling at best, and actually below average compared to the rest of his team. Possible reasons? As Scott Cullen mentioned in his trade deadline roundup, Vanek is usually skating against the other team's top competition, as he is on a line with the Isles' other big scoring threats. John Tavares, of course, is a transcendent talent who is unfortunately hurt, while Kyle Okposo probably should have made the US Olympic Team. (Brock Nelson replaced Tavares on the first line last night with Tavares out.)
Two-thirds of Vanek's overall ice time has come with Tavares and Okposo. When he's separated from those two, the numbers aren't pretty. Vanek is carrying an ugly 41% Corsi For at even strength without Tavares and/or Okposo on the ice. Vanek has been boosted by good goaltending when he's on the ice; his PDO is 104.6, which is way above any other Islander's PDO. Vanek's offense is sustainable, but the fact that he's been on the ice for 12 more goals scored than goals against points to some good fortune. (Note: he had worse overall possession numbers in 2012-13, but you can blame that on the Sabres.)
The possession numbers are not fantastic, sure, but does that matter all that much? Goals are the problem for LA, and a few months of Vanek could provide a payoff which would outweigh shooting differentials. We've mentioned countless times that the Kings' scoring totals should bounce back simply due to luck, but the production the Kings have gotten from the left wing position has been weak all season. Dwight King had a good stretch, Dustin Brown finally is looking ready to contribute offensively, and Tyler Toffoli is now spending time on the left, but Sutter and Lombardi may not be satisfied with their winger depth. Reminder: the two forwards who sat last night are both more than capable of playing on the left side, but Tanner Pearson and Matt Frattin haven't gotten the job done.
So that brings us to trade pieces. I promise not to get all HF Boards on you and throw out trade proposals ("Clifford and a third! And throw Vey in there!"), but the fact of the matter is, the Kings need to send at least $2.6 million or so in salary the other way for this deal to even be possible. Garth Snow's preferred package has been documented: a first-round pick, a young NHL forward, and a prospect. The Kings probably don't want to do that, but it's starting to look like no one else wants to do that either.
They will eventually, but Isles yet to get a strong offer for Thomas Vanek. Might help if he played better, and like he cared.— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) February 28, 2014
That works out nicely for LA, who have experience with acquiring disinterested players below market value. Vanek is a rental, plain and simple, and the Kings do have plenty of young forwards (not named Tyler Toffoli) and a first round pick to give. The best shot LA has to acquire Vanek is to hope that no other GM goes over the top with Snow's desired offer. However, as we'll cover in the coming days, there are cheaper rentals out there which should address the same needs. Plus, acquiring Vanek probably won't dramatically increase the chances of him signing in LA long-term. Because Vanek will get a huge deal from someone, and if the Kings don't match it, loyalty isn't coming into play.
TSN has reported that up to six teams have inquired about Vanek's services at the deadline. Vanek can and would help the Kings on the offensive end, but the high price tag and all-around concerns will drive LA to look at cheaper options if too many other teams are interested.