A quiet deadline day was the best-case scenario for Rob Blake and the Kings as he continues to oversee the teams’ transition to a contender.
The trade deadline is a chaotic time where we see players get moved around from one team to another. For the past few years, the LA Kings have been selling at the deadline. In hopes of building a winning future, they moved their aging core away for picks and prospects. Now, it’s becoming more and more distinguishable that it’s paying off for them, as they’re currently in second place in the Pacific Division.
This year, the Kings were in the mix on a number of players such as Conor Garland, Jakob Chychrun, and Tyler Bertuzzi. In the end, the Kings didn’t acquire anyone of the sort. Instead, they had a quiet deadline after trading for depth defenseman Troy Stecher, and extending forward Blake Lizotte to a two-year deal. In addition, the Kings did add two AHL defensemen for organizational depth.
As much as we all wanted to see general manager Rob Blake make some sort of splash at the deadline, he stayed patient.
After last night’s win over Nashville, the Kings are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games, despite a number of players out of the lineup. Brendan Lemieux, Viktor Arvidsson, Matt Roy, Dustin Brown, Andreas Athanasiou, Drew Doughty, Mikey Anderson, and Tobias Bjornfot are all out with injuries. Fortunately, the expectation is that all of these players will return at some point this season.
Making a panic move because of extended injuries would’ve been risky because the big question would be, “how does the lineup look when the injured players return?”
Bringing in mediocre middle-six players like Garland would be beneficial for the Kings now, as he would make an immediate impact on the first line, but once Arvidsson comes back, that would force the Kings to psuh down Alex Iafallo or Adrian Kempe to the third line. If not Garland himself.
This could apply to a player like Jakob Chychrun as well. If the Kings were to trade for Chychrun (who by the way– is injured), that would help their defensive corps when he returned. But what happens when everyone is healthy? Breaking up the Anderson-Doughty line would hurt the team, seeing how they’ve been one of the best defensive pairs in the NHL this season:
Not playing Edler with Stecher or Roy wouldn’t make sense either. That leaves Chychrun with Sean Durzi, but there is some concern with that pair. Both defensemen are offensive defensemen, potentially leaving the team exposed on the rush going the other way.
While Chychrun is an attractive piece to the Kings and one they could revisit in the summer, it just wasn’t a fit at the deadline.
Another downside of buying at the deadline would be the loss of prospects. Seeing how LA has been short-staffed due to injuries, this has allowed some of these younger players to get some time in the NHL. Gabe Vilardi, Rasmus Kupari, and Jordan Spence are among the recent call-ups.
Eventually, there will be a larger move that brings in a win-now type of player to Los Angeles which will require the Kings to give up one or two young guns. But at the moment, there’s no reason to move on from these players.
If the Kings are looking to make some sort of trade that includes prospects going the other direction, it should be in the off-season. This will allow the younger players to get an opportunity to play in the AHL playoffs with the Reign – if not the Kings.
That leads to the next point, which is the fact that it would be safer to make a bigger move in the summer, rather than during the deadline. During the summer, NHL teams have more flexibility to make changes to their roster and are more willing to do so. That’s when the market is the cheapest.
No general manager is desperate to make a last-second trade because there is no time limit. GMs have time to think out their process and they have time to slowly but surely strategize the best way to acquire specific assets. While the trade deadline sees teams overpaying for players because they know their time is running out and that they need players to help them win immediately. The off-season offers a much more patient approach.
Without all the commotion of the deadline, Chychrun’s price was a roster player, a prospect, and a first-round pick. As the deadline arrived, Chychrun’s cost went up to two or three first-round picks and a prospect:
Dreger on TSN says the #Yotes ask for D-Jakob Chychrun has changed, they now want two, maybe three 1st RD picks and a prospect.— NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) March 21, 2022
Prior they were asking for a 1st RD pick, either a top 6 F or top 4 D and two prospects.
Once the dust settles in the summer, the price will go back down and it’ll make some players far more cost-efficient.
Free agency also comes along during the summer, and that’s where some GMs will look to improve their team as well. We know that Blake isn’t afraid of making some sort of signing in free agency (see: Danault and Edler), so could Blake make some sort of push for a goal-scoring forward?
Wink wink, Filip Forsberg.
It may not be desirable for entertainment purposes, but staying quiet and not making any trades helps the LA Kings more than anyone could really expect. It’s best to make the bigger moves during the off-season so that the pressure of the deadline doesn’t cause teams to make some sort of irrational move.