NHL Trade Deadline Primer for the LA Kings
April 3, the date for this year's 2013 NHL trade deadline, is coming up in just over a week.
The Los Angeles Kings currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference, and in all likelihood will be a buyer rather than a seller at this year's market.
The team has a few holes that could be filled, a few players that could be moved, and as always, has a few big rumors floating about in terms of potential targets.
There's a lot to digest heading into the week before the deadline, so here is your L.A. Kings deadline primer just to get you more comfortable with the upcoming event.
Upcoming Free Agents
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Rob Scuderi - The Kings' No. 1 stay-at-home defenseman likely won't see a new home to end the season. With injuries to other key stay-at-homers Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, the Kings cannot afford to lose him. There was also talk reports earlier in the year from the Fourth Period that he and the team were working on an extension.
Dustin Penner - While the big left wing hasn't been scoring a whole lot, he's been an effective power forward jumping between the King's second and third line. With a $3.25 cap hit he likely won't attract many buyers.
Brad Richardson - A consistent healthy scratch under Darryl Sutter, Richardson might be a guy who is a toss in for a bigger deal, or a player dealt for a pick. Richardson has played just two games thus far in 2013.
Davis Drewiske - Another consistent healthy scratch. Drewiske has had his opportunities to play this year, but like years prior has been muscled out of the spot by younger and more talented players. At 28 he still has plenty of tread left on the tires for a defenseman, and could be a toss in or a players swapped for a pick.
Restricted Free Agents: Keaton Ellerby, Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez, Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Kyle Clifford, Jake Muzzin, Jonathan Bernier.
The Kings have a gaggle of young restricted free agents that are up for contract, and in the event of a deal one or more of them would likely be going the other way. With a lowering cap in 2013-14, the Kings will have roughly $14 million in cap space and 12 players of unrestricted and restricted status to resign. Players like Voynov, Martinez, Lewis, and Ellerby will be in line for some form of a raise, and that could make things a little tight if the team doesn't move some personnel.
No question the team will be looking to add a true top-four stay-at-home defenseman. No offense to Keaton Ellerby or Jake Muzzin, who have filled in capably and at times excellently, but experience will be key in the playoffs. At times this season both players have looked young, and that is no knock against them, it's all part of the learning curve. However, those kinds of mistakes can be game-changers, nay, SERIES-changers in the post season. If the Kings are going to add anything at the deadline it will be a veteren stay-at-home type player.
Veteran Back-Up Goaltender
This is a tough one. Jonathan Bernier is playing extremely well for the Kings, but you can't help but read the writing on the wall that he will be gone. If that is the case, and it will be the case anyway next season, the team will have an empty hole in goal and could use a veteran backup goaltender to take that place until Martin Jones or J.F. Berube are ready to step up and take the reins.
A Top-Six Forward
While it might not be the most pressing of needs considering the team is 12th overall in scoring, a top-six wing could make a big difference down the stretch. As it currently stands the Kings have been utilizing Dustin Penner as the second line left wing, as well as young upstart Tyler Toffoli. Penner, who has been outstanding at times, is seemingly in the position on a game-by-game basis, and Toffoli is currently experiencing his first taste of NHL action. It's not exactly the consistency you could hope for with a second line wing who is paired with world-class players like Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. It may not be the most pressing need, but it will be on the King's radar for certain.
Yup, by now I'm sure you've all heard this one.
The cost would be high, likely a top prospect, a secondary prospect, and a roster player, but the impact would be pretty beneficial. Iginla, 35, is still very productive and has a great relationship with coach Darryl Sutter. If a trade goes through for the former gold-medalist you can guarantee he was a major voice in the acquisition.
The downside? He's old, expensive, and could walk at the end of the season. Is it worth giving up the future for a potential rental? Dean Lombardi might currently be mulling over that very question as you read this.
Jordan Leopold/Robyn Regher
Another set of players who have the Sutter connection. Leopold broke onto the scene in 2002-03 with the Calgary Flames, and really made a name for himself in the next couple of years with the team
Regher, a lifetime Flame until 2011 when he made way to the northeast, was a key part of the 2003-04 Finals run that saw Calgary beaten in game seven by the Tampa Bay Lightning along with teammate Jordan Leopold.
Both players are defense-first style players, Leopold with a little more offensive upside, who have playoff experience, big game experience and have worked well under coach Sutter in the past. Most importantly they have manageable cap hits with expiring contracts on a team in Buffalo that should be a seller.
It'd be unlikely that Dallas would allow Eriksson to go to a division opponent, but then again the divisions are changing next season and Dallas will not be seeing the Kings nearly as much. The left winger has been arguably Dallas' MVP the last three seasons and is a consistent 70-point player. At 27, with an unbelievably reasonable cap hit of $4.25 million for through 2015-16, the cost on Eriksson would be high. However, as a proven goal-scorer on a mid-level team, it could be a situation similar to Mike Richards where the Kings were willing to part with a bit of the future to gain the right now. Dallas is currently the oldest team in the league, rebuild is not far off for them and the Kings have a lot of young pieces.
Big Potential Pieces in Play
The Kings don't certainly have a whole lot to offer in terms of roster players, but what they can package is young talent with loads of potential. Teams that are looking to rebuild might be willing to part with quality players in an attempt to bolster a youth movement for the future.
Bernier is going to be a huge chip in play come April 3 and the days leading up to it. You've heard it all before, he's asked for a trade, he has no foreseeable future here with Jonathan Quick as No. 1, and he has the skills to be a No. 1 goaltender elsewhere.
He's proving it this year that he can stand up to some of the best teams and come out looking solid. Bernier has done himself a huge favor by playing well when called upon, and with a goalie market that is VERY barren, the Kings might be able to get a solid return from Bernier.
Yes, the young defenseman has been playing very well as of late, but his stock is high, his age is low, and he could be a very desirable target for teams looking to add a potential top-four defenseman to their ranks.
There is an interesting battle going on in the King's defensive group right now, and a lot of it is centering around Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin. On one hand you have the steady play of Martinez, on the other you have the raw potential of Jake Muzzin. Both are young, both are solid players, but with Derek Forbort, Kevin Gravel and a wealth of other defensive prospects getting closer to the pro ranks, it seems less likely that both could stay.
It's hard to believe that the Kings would dangle such a young and upcoming talent as Toffoli, but don't put it past Dean Lombardi. Remember Brayden Schenn? Lombardi is a guy who has shown in the past that he is willing to trade raw potential for the here and now. Schenn's upside was said to be that of a Mike Richards, and Lombardi traded potential for actuality. Ask yourself what Toffoli could be, because that might be what he is trying to get for the young goalscorer.
Jason Lewis is a blogger, reporter and featured columnist for the Los Angeles Kings on Bleacher Report and Hockey's Future. Follow Jason on twitter @SirJDL for Los Angeles Kings news, articles and thoughts on the world of hockey.