By protecting him from Seattle’s expansion draft, the LA Kings ensured former captain Dustin Brown will stay in Los Angeles to start the 2021-22 season.

In one of the more surprising moves on Sunday, the LA Kings protected forward Dustin Brown from Seattle’s expansion draft. Brown, 36, was one of 11 players tucked away in the Kings cupboard, ensuring he’ll at least start the 2021-22 season in a Los Angeles Kings uniform. The Ithaca, New York native, has spent his entire career with the Kings since being taken with the 13th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

Seattle, officially adopted as the 32nd NHL franchise in December 2018, will look to follow the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft how-to-guide to becoming a contending team in their inaugural season. The LA Kings opted for the eight-skater and one goalie route for Vegas’ expansion draft in 2017, and Dustin Brown was left exposed for the Golden Knights at 32 years of age with five years left on his contract.

He, obviously, survived that expansion draft, with Vegas taking defenseman Brayden McNabb. At the time, Los Angeles still had most of the pieces in place that helped the franchise win two Cups in three seasons. However, when it became apparent that the Kings were entering a transitional period, general manager Rob Blake began to sell off veteran pieces in exchange for draft picks and prospects.

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The former LA Kings captain was part of the five remaining pieces from the Stanley Cup-winning teams entering the shortened 2021 season. Brown kicked off the year, accumulating his 300th career goal in the overtime loss to Minnesota on Opening Night. And despite his season being cut short with an upper-body injury, the veteran forward led the Kings in goals (17) and finished fifth in assists (14).

“It speaks to his longevity and his skill set,” Kings head coach Todd McLellan said after the milestone. “We’re happy that he reached that goal. Over and above that, he’s provided a physicality for this team and some leadership for a long, long time.”

After Jeff Carter was traded to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, Brown’s leadership on a Kings team chock-full of youth became that much more valuable.

The Kings could have conceivably exposed Brown to Seattle, just as they did for Vegas. Brown has just one year left on his contract, and he will turn 37 in November. However, with a Kings roster still searching for consistent scoring from their top-six forwards and permanent roles for their prospects, losing Brown could have been detrimental.

Not just from a roster perspective either, Brown is undoubtedly still a productive player, but his presence goes far beyond just filling a roster spot. By protecting him from Wednesday’s expansion draft, Brown will aim to help the Kings return to the postseason while being instrumental in developing the team’s prospect pool.

“You can see why he’s had such a great career,” McLellan said of Brown. “He’s competitive, he’s been able to adapt and change, and I think that’s one of the biggest things for an individual that’s played that long, understanding how the game is played, study it a little bit and figure out how you’re going to be effective in the game.”

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