Young stars like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel headlined the draft weekend, but the Boston Bruins made headlines of their own with a few big trades. One of those trades included Stanley Cup winner Milan Lucic who was sent to Los Angeles.
The Big Price Paid for the Big Forward
The window of opportunity is often short-lived. Whether it is in terms of dating; knowing a liquid’s certain boiling point for a chemistry experiment; or potential employment, opportunities cannot slip away and sometimes compromises need to be made in order to fulfill maximum opportunity potential.
The same concept can be applied to the Los Angeles Kings and the team’s window of opportunity to still contend for a Cup in the upcoming year and so forth. In a trade with the Boston Bruins, the Kings sent goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller, and first round draft pick in 2015 for Milan Lucic.
Giving up a player like Jones was hard because of what we have seen of his play, but his departure was inevitable. It was a déjà vu moment where, like Jonathan Bernier, a young, budding goalie is ready to make his stamp as a starting goaltender somewhere else. Jones was shipped to the Boston Bruins to become the backup for Tuukka Rask, as former Bruins backup goalie, Niklas Svedberg decided to sign with the KHL.
Maybe Boston General Manager Don Sweeney had another move up his sleeve during the draft to potentially move a goalie and it is not known how much playing time Jones will really get to see, but it seems the former WHL goalie of the year is in the same position he was in playing behind Jonathan Quick.
One of the other pieces of the trade was defensive prospect Colin Miller.
Sweeney had dubiously dealt top-pairing defenseman Dougie Hamilton earlier in the day. Hamilton is a big, right-handed shooting defenseman that was young, good both offensively and defensively, and can move the puck well. Sweeney is getting some of those qualities back with Miller, but Miller lacks the size, experience, and NHL maturity of a player like Hamilton. Miller won the AHL Calder Cup with the Manchester Monarchs last year and looked ready to take the next step into the NHL this upcoming season. Now, he will be trying to do so with the Boston Bruins.
The Kings were set to pick thirteenth overall in what was considered a deep draft with high-end talent in the first 20 first-round draft picks. Players like Seattle Thunderbird’s center Mathew Barzal, left wing Kyle Connor from the USHL, or the Ottawa 67’s forward Travis Konecny would have been available at the Kings initial drafting position.
Instead, Lombardi sent the No. 13 overall draft pick, along with restricted free agent Jones and Miller for left wing Lucic. There are not a lot, if any, players like Lucic in the NHL right now and Lombardi gave a lot for the brutish power forward; however, the window of opportunity is only open for so long and compromises needed to be made.
New Dimension(s) to the Line Up
Lucic is not a one-dimensional player. The 6’4” forward is both physically intimidating and has the skill to play in a top-six role. He has an on-ice presence that can be felt on every shift and his intimidating demeanor is not something that will be taken lightly by opposing teams and division rivals.
The Kings have players that will finish their checks, get in the dirty areas, and a couple that will fight when called upon. But there is not a single player on the Kings like Lucic that brings his size and skill, and there hasn’t been for a long time. Lucic will be a fan-favorite and he brings new dimensions to an already strong top-six forward group and deep Kings team.
Marginal Costs and Benefits
The price was steep for the 27-year-old forward with only one year left on a $6 million contract. Even though a lot was given up to obtain Lucic, the Bruins ate $2.75 million of this last remaining year, which gives the Kings a little wiggle room in regards to the salary cap.
The cap space will not be enough to keep former Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams or re-sign Andrej Sekera. However, a potential buy-out of the Mike Richards’ contract would alleviate another $4.5 million in cap space and would give the Kings some more options, whether they are options to better the team via a trade or free agency.
Tyler Toffoli signed to a very reasonable two-year deal worth $6.6 million the same day and the Kings have $66.5 million distributed to 18 players leaving roughly $5 million in cap space. With the exception of Williams, maybe Stoll, and maybe Richards, the Kings group just got bigger and most of the forward group remains intact.
The Kings roster was going to look a little different come September, but this big move came as a surprise and gives the Kings a new look.