Making a push to be counted amongst the most serious Stanley Cup contenders, The LA Kings have remained on the market for a top scoring winger ever since coming up short in the Ilya Kovalchuk
sweepstakes last summer. After Kovalchuk signed a 15-year deal in New Jersey that GM Dean Lombardi deemed too rich, he instead signed enigmatic winger Alexei Ponikarovsky, who has been quiet and inconsistent in the first third of the season.
The Kings are therefore still looking for a speedy winger to play on the top line with franchise star center Anze Kopitar, particularly on the left side. Here is a look at some of the forwards around the league that may or may not be available for a trade, who the Kings might be taking a closer look at.
With the Devils struggling badly to start the season, trade rumors have been circling around the team since day one. Captain Jamie Langenbrunner has consistently been a part of those rumors. He has a no-trade clause which would complicate things but it's possible he will accept a trade out of the mess that is the Devils, into a contending team like Los Angeles.
On top of that, he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Langenbrunner has already voiced his dissatisfaction with the way things have been run in New Jersey this year, so don't be surprised if he signs elsewhere next summer. It would not even be terribly surprising to see him leave at the trade deadline.
Langenbrunner is a bit older than the kind of player the Kings would prefer to trade for, but his production is still at a good level and his experience and leadership qualities will go a long way during a playoff run for a young team like the Kings.
The 36-year-old Stillman is no longer a first line threat in the NHL, but his experience and playmaking abilities might still come in handy for a team looking to make a long playoff run. With the Panthers struggling again this year, expect Stillman to move at the trade deadline.
He has two Stanley Cups to his name and has scored a solid 51 career playoff points in 82 games played, including 26 points in 25 games during Carolina's Stanley Cup run in 2006.
Targeting Stillman, the Kings would perhaps not be expecting a first liner or even a 25 goal scorer, but rather a playoff warrior and a leader who still has a nose for the net.
His name has mostly been absent from most trade rumors this year but expect Moulson to be in the mix closer to the deadline. Moulson is on an affordable one-year $2.4 million contract, and will be a UFA when it expires next summer. He has been one of the very few bright spots and consistent scorers on a terrible Islander team this year.
This makes it unlikely that the Islanders would want to let him go, but also make Moulson a very attractive option for teams looking for scoring help.
Moulson is also a left winger, which the Kings are looking for and has already sniped 9 goals this year to follow his impressive 30-goal breakout season in 2009-2010. If the Isles decide to trade the forward to bolster their blueline depth, the Kings are a potential destination.
With the Philadelphia Flyers pushed up right against the salary cap, Zherdev might become expendable for them. It's perhaps unlikely that Dean Lombardi would take a chance on yet another unpredictable Russian winger after being frustrated by Alex Frolov and Alexei Ponikarovski alike, but Zherdev might be a gamble worth taking.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren certainly thought so by surprisingly signing Zherdev to a one-year deal as a free agent. His inconsistency has had him occasionally playing fourth line minutes but he has still managed to pot eight goals as part of a deep stable of Flyers forwards.
Zherdev is an off-the-radar trade target and likely would not require much of an investment to bring him to the west coast.
It's another story whether or not he's on the Kings radar at this stage in his career.
If the Minnesota Wild drop out of the playoff race, perhaps a 37-year-old forward playing at a high level like Andrew Brunette will be available before the deadline passes.
Brunette is a warrior who has missed a total of only two games during the last eight seasons. He is a reliable 20-goal scorer who is especially valuable on the power play. Brunette has been known to park himself in front of the goaltender and battle abuse from big Western Conference defensemen to chip in deflections and loose pucks. It's not always pretty but it tends to result in big goals.
Brunette will be a UFA at season's end and is approaching the twilight of his career. He would likely accept a trade to a contending team for one more chance at the Stanley Cup, and it's likely such a move could ignite a whole new gear in Brunette to push up his production toward the end of the season and in to the playoffs.
Another Russian winger, Sergei Samsonov is a more intriguing possibility.
Samsonov certainly has the speed and the ability to play on a line with Anze Kopitar. One might speculate a trade to a genuine Stanley Cup contender and a chance to play with a star like Kopitar, could reignite Samsonov to reach top form.
He has 11 points in 22 games this season, coming off a concussion and is scheduled to become a UFA next summer as well. The Hurricanes might not require a big return for the winger and if the 32-year-old were to perform like he did after a deadline day deal to the Edmonton Oilers in 2006, when he exploded for 15 playoff points in the Oilers run to the Stanley Cup final, the gamble would certainly prove to be worth it.
Perhaps the biggest name that's been swirling around trade rumours this year is Dallas Stars' number one center Brad Richards.
He has been terrific during his three seasons in Dallas, and is again playing at more than a point-per-game pace this season.
His contract is up at the end of the year which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. The Stars' uncertain ownership situation has meant that contract talks have not yet seriously begun between the two parties. A big decision is therefore looming for GM Joe Niewendyk on whether to trade Richards at the deadline, or hold on to him for a playoff run and hope they can resign him as an impending free agent once they have a new owner.
For the Kings, Richards would likely revert to left wing rather than his usual center position. His high salary and high stature makes him a big of risky trade target as well, since Dallas is not likely to give him up without some highly valuable young assets going the other way and there is no guarantee he will resign with the team after the season is over.
But with the Stars well positioned in the West and seemingly headed towards a playoff run, don't bet on Richards being available for a trade at all.
An obvious target for the Kings, given that TSN's Bob McKenzie already reported last week that Sturm had been traded to LA. The deal eventually did not go through but it could still resurface later on in the season.
Sturm is a speedy left winger who scored 22 goals last year and would potentially be a low-risk, high-reward trade target for the Kings. The trade fell apart for now because Sturm is still coming off a long-term knee injury and concerns about his condition put the trade in ice for now.
It's possible the trade will eventually be back on the table if his recovery is going as expected. If so, expect the Kings to be back in the mix for the reliable German scorer.
The Jarome Iginla trade rumors have been making the rounds since last year again, and the Flames' horrible start to the season this year has reignited those rumors more fiercely than ever. Could the Flames captain finally be leaving Cowtown?
Iginla has not been on his best either this year and speculation ran rampart for a while specifically taking Iginla to Los Angeles, who clearly have a great deal of interest in the veteran star. The Kings would reportedly be willing to part with some of their brighter prospects in exchange for a proven star forward like Iginla, so the ball is largely in Flames GM Darryl Sutter's court on whether to trade his best player or not.
Those rumors were squashed by Flames management though who stressed that Iginla will definitely not be traded. Of course, that same management also assured Dion Phaneuf that he wouldn't be getting moved last year, a few weeks before they shipped him off to Toronto.
The 28-year-old Oilers forward has one more year remaining on his contract and Edmonton has reportedly been interested in shipping him out of town to make room for their younger players on the top lines.
Penner has seemed somewhat disinterested this year, playing again on a team with no realistic post-season chances and would likely welcome a move out of Edmonton.
He is a proven finisher and is on pace for about thirty goals this season. He had 32 goals and 63 points last season in a bit of a breakthrough season in a terrible Oilers team and would be an attractive piece of the puzzle for the Kings.
The price might not be as high for Penner as for some of the other bigger names on this list either, which would better suit Dean Lombardi's careful team building philosophy. The Stanley Cup winner with Anaheim four years ago would likely welcome a return to California as well after a few years in the freezing Alberta winters. Expect talks between these teams to heat up closer to the trade deadline.