Should the Kings Trade Viktor Arvidsson?
Rob Blake has some big holes to fill and very little cap space in which to do it. Would trading away Viktor Arvidsson's $4.25 million salary help?
After a disappointing first round exit to the NHL's hottest team down the stretch, General Manager Rob Blake must now turn his attention to dreaded, but necessary off-season matters. More specifically, he needs to deal with that pesky salary cap which is keeping the Los Angeles Kings from improving (or even re-signing some players at their current rates).
According to CapFriendly, the Kings have 18 players signed next year for $75,213,334. Included in that $75 million are Pheonix Copley's, Mikey Anderson's, and Thousand Oaks Native Trevor Moore's extensions. With a hard ceiling of $83.5m, Blake must now find a way to squeeze blood from a stone as Zack MacEwen, Rasmus Kupari, Gabriel Vilardi, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Jacob Ingham, Tyler Madden, Samuel Fagemo, Akil Thomas, Aidan Dudas, Lias Andersson, Tobias Björnfot, and Matt Villalta–all RFAs–will need new deals if they are to remain in the team's system.
Speaking with reporters during his exit interview, Blake noted that he'd "love to be able to bring that exact team that we had yesterday, full health, and run right through a whole season, but I know it’s not possible because of the cap situation and ultimately the amount of UFA’s and signings.” So, decisions have to be made on who and what should be a priority this summer.
Vladislov Gavrikov was quite a revelation for L.A. following his trade from Columbus, seamlessly fitting in and was one of only two defensemen who did not get absolutely crushed in every match-up in the playoffs, managing a very healthy 53.2% SAT. For all his efforts (he even led the entire team in SAT% behind), he was rewarded with only 90 seconds of power play time. The Kings badly needed a left-shot defenseman, and while rumor was they were targeting a player 26 years old or younger, the 27-year-old native of Yaroslavl, Russia turned out to be exactly what L.A. was looking for. Evolving Wild projects the defenseman's next contract will run about $4.5m for four years, which would eat up 60% of their current available cap space. For his part, Gavrikov seemed to indicate he's open to staying, but was mum on what the future holds.
How does this all relate to Arvidsson? Well, with only $7.5m in available space and Gavrikov and Vilardi both deserving expensive extensions (Evolving Wild predicts Vilardi will also receive a 4x4 deal), something will have to give. Enter: Viktor Arvidsson. The Kings could, in theory, deal his $4.25m salary to another team and hope that their depth players step up to fill his 26 goals (which was third on the team this year). If Vilardi has an explosive year a la Adrian Kempe, then perhaps Arvidsson's presence won't be so missed. But that's a lot of pressure to put on someone who has yet to play 82 games and remain fully healthy (though, to be fair, Arvidsson has never played a full season in his entire career either) and feels rather like creating one hole while trying to fill another.
Arvidsson only has one year left on his contract, which would make him an appealing trade target for any competitive team looking to improve their second or third lines with a moderately expensive, but still highly talented winger. If the Kings did trade him, they'd not only immediately free up $4.25 million, it's potentially one less contract to worry about with a whopping 13 players they'll (probably) need to factor in for the following season. There's no telling what may happen with the cap in 2023-24 (CapFriendly projects that it will rise to $87 million next year, but nothing is ever guaranteed in the NHL) and with Anze Kopitar, Blake Lizotte, Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, and Sean Durzi being among the most notable names who will need new deals in 2025, saving themselves $4+ million is nothing to sneeze at. Sure, Kopitar's cap hit will come down from $10 million, but that money can and will be quickly reallocated to others in need of pay raises (see above list). Add another $4 million on top of that and you may just be able to fit the core in under the cap.
However, money shouldn't be the only factor considered in the trade decision. In 77 games this season, Arvidsson was fourth in SAT% and second in SAT% Ahead, meaning he's very good at generating shots for the team in general and even better when the team is ahead. In six playoff games, he led the team in SAT% and was second behind only Gavrikov in SAT% Behind (relevant for the fact that the Kings scored first in only one of six games). Considering his line played primarily against Connor McDavid, that's very impressive. His potential replacement, Vilardi, struggled mightily in the postseason, logging an unimpressive 45.4% SAT Behind, sixth worst on the team. Vilardi's SAT% of 43.6% is somehow worse, but was marginally better in terms of being only eighth worst.
On the power play, Arvidsson's 19.4 individual SAT/60 was fourth and his 8.68 points per 60 led the team. Vilardi's 2.89 PPP/60 was only 14th best on the team. And that's not because Vilardi didn't get power play time–he was actually fourth on the team, just shy of 3:00 TOI/GP. By contrast, Arvidsson was sixth with only 2:15 TOI/GP. And to make it really fair, when sorted by PP TOI% Vilardi and Arvidsson were fifth and sixth with 54.9% and 44.1% respectively.
None of this is to say that Vilardi has no value to the team and should be given up on. He's still a young player who is showing continuous improvement. But, if the Kings are to continue improving and hope to one day best the Edmonton Oilers, getting rid of a player like Arvidsson doesn't appear to be in their best interest. In fact, it would actually behoove Los Angeles to keep Arvidsson around for this year, next year, and beyond.
All SAT information comes from NHL.com/stats. All salary information comes from CapFriendly unless otherwise noted.