The most exhilarating stretch of the entire NHL season is on the horizon, as the NHL trade deadline is days away. The rumors have been stronger than they have ever been, and they have left us all in wonder and excitement. For the LA Kings, this deadline will either be a quiet one, or Rob Blake, and his management crew will strike big.
The Kings have finally become a legitimate contender for the playoffs after roughly four years of rebuilding, and they may look for ways to strengthen the core of the team in the coming two weeks.
The injuries with players such as Drew Doughty, Viktor Arvidsson, Mikey Anderson, Alex Edler, and Brendan Lemieux may force the Kings to hit big at the deadline. Could they look for a young offensive defenseman with a reasonable cap hit in Jakob Chychrun?
"Certainly, the Los Angeles Kings are a team that I think have a huge interest in potentially getting Jakob Chychrun. They’ve been in from the start. Their interest remains high today," – Chris Johnston#GoKingsGo— Panagiotis Mavridis (@MavridisNHL) March 1, 2022
Or does Rob Blake have some serious inquiries for some goal-scoring forwards to fill in the massive holes that the Kings have on the powerplay and with their finishing?
Marek on SN says Brock Boeser will likely go to a team that does not only need goals, help on their PP but that can absorb a QO of $7.4M. Marek throws out the #ALLCAPS & #GoKingsGo as perhaps potential suitors. Marek wonders if there is a VAN/LA marriage on the horizon.— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) March 10, 2022
Whatever happens, Blake has a plan in place. But with all the recent injuries that LA has gone through, it’s hard to believe that they don’t make moves. It all depends on how Rob and Luc view the team, and they think it’ll benefit the team in the short term and the long term.
Today, we’ll go over three crucial keys that the LA Kings must follow at the 2022 NHL trade deadline.
1. No rental players
In the grand scheme of things, rentals are ugly, not the actual players, but the ideology of renting a player for a playoff run. Unless a team is a cup contender with countless assets to spend, there’s no reason an NHL team should be giving away valuable pieces of their future for 20 games worth a player who will very likely underperform. Unless the player re-signs for a reasonable price, rentals will always come back to haunt you.
The LA Kings are in no place to give valuable pieces to their future in exchange for a player who’ll last with the LA Kings for a few games and then leave. They’re nowhere near in the race for a cup (although anything is possible), and taking the risk of trading for an older player with no guarantee of an extension can– and will– come back to bite the Kings.
We saw how the last rentals worked out with LA when Milan Lucic was acquired back in 2015. The Kings lost Colin Miller, Martin Jones, and a 1st round pick in the best draft class to ever exist, the 2015 NHL entry draft. Lucic played 81 games with the Kings in 2015-16, where he tallied 55 points in 81 games and later walked in free agency.
Another rental that backfired on the Kings was the Ben Bishop deal back in 2017. The Kings traded Erik Cernak, Peter Budaj, a 7th round pick, and a conditional draft pick for Ben Bishop. Ben played a total of 7 games with the LA Kings.
Erik Cernak became a huge part of the Lightning’s back-to-back cups and now is one of the most underrated players in the entire league.
The Kings aren’t a suitable team to give away these picks and prospects for a player that will likely leave in free agency. Let the more confident teams waste away their picks and prospects on these deals and take the safe route. It isn’t worth it. At least not yet.
2. Invest in players
Investing in young players and picks is something that the Kings have done throughout their entire rebuild. It’s been challenging to see some of the key pieces of the cup runs get moved, but they’ve created a bright future within the organization.
Now that the Kings have started to show themselves off as a justifiable playoff team, investing in picks and prospects may not be the route the Kings may want to take. Instead, what if the Kings invested in young-ish roster players who could break out?
Buying low on players that could very well exceed in production could be crucial for a team like the LA Kings. We haven’t seen many teams take the risk, but it would be nice to see a team do so. Now, this doesn’t mean the Kings should bet on every young player available on the market, but instead they should take a look at some younger players who’ve got great analytical numbers.
Nils Hoglander of the Vancouver Canucks is an example. The Canucks have put his name out on the market, and he would be a fantastic fit with the LA Kings. Fitting the young player scheme, Hoglander’s speed, shot, and strength qualifies with LA’s system. If he truly is available, then LA should make an offer. He could be a fantastic 60 point player. Playing him on the first line with Adrian Kempe and Anze Kopitar could help him find his groove, making the first line much more of a first line.
Buying for a comparatively nominal price for a player with excellent analytical numbers could seriously work. For GMs, they’ll always take the safe route of buying players that have proven themselves, but they never really put effort into finding hidden gems.
The Florida Panthers did it with Carter Verhaeghe and based on the projections of the players available. There’s more than enough proof that these players live up to a Verhaeghe-like potential.
The Kings have the flexibility to invest in these types of players, and if they don’t hop on that train, there will be other managers who will.
3. Go big, or go home (with specific players)
Don’t settle for secondary, and don’t be afraid to outbid for players like Jakob Chychrun. That’s a message that should be aired to all of the teams that are in on Jakob Chychrun and other young players with hefty price tags on the market.
The colossal stockpile of prospects and picks that the Kings have may go to waste. Rasmus Kupari, Gabe Vilardi, Tyler Madden, Quinton Byfield, Phillip Danault, Anze Kopitar, Kasper Simontaival, Francesco Pinelli, and Alex Turcotte are only some of the center prospects that the Kings have. By all means, they can be moved to the wing, but that still leaves so many other players out of position.
Instead of decreasing their value by letting them sit away in the AHL, the Kings must use a select few of those names to acquire a much-needed roster player like Travis Konecny or Jakob Chychrun. The Kings are struggling on the scoring side of hockey games, so bringing in young snipers like Travis Konecny and Brock Boeser will be crucial.
And if they don’t go big on the forwards, they go big on Jakob Chychrun. The 23-year-old offensive defenseman has been a rock for Arizona for a few years now, and with him being on the block, he’ll be able to fetch a heck of a return.
Not many teams will afford Chychrun, but do you know who can? The LA Kings can. With the extreme amount of prospects and picks that the Kings have, they entirely match the bill. The left side of the defense in LA is ridden with injuries, and even when healthy, it isn’t as good as it needs to be. Trading for a star player will be the definition of going big.
Do not go big on some rentals, though. It’s best to stay away from giving ridiculous amounts of assets for upcoming UFAs like Ben Chiarot, Tomas Hertl, and Claude Giroux. It’s the same as the first point.
The LA Kings should follow these three keys in the next two weeks. It’s essential not to make a desperate move around this time of year, especially when you have the luxury of a mammoth prospect pool like the Kings do.
The pressure of the continual changes in the market may be stressful and cause GMs to make rational decisions. One moment you have the player you want, and the other, he’s on his way across the country because another team outbid you in a matter of a few minutes. But if the basics are followed, and the management group doesn’t do anything rational, the Kings should do just fine.