After making the playoffs a season ago, 2018-19 has been nothing short of a disaster for the Los Angeles Kings. A team with an aging core that’s time to compete is now, the Kings find themselves sitting near the basement of not only the Western Conference, but the entire league. Gone is head coach John Stevens, replaced with Willie Desjardins early in the campaign. Tanner Pearson was moved to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and more moves are certain to come.
The Kings don’t have any players you can trade for at this deadline and build around. No, if you are shopping in Southern California, you are looking for a specific type of rental. You want a veteran player who has been through the battles and can lend some winning wisdom to your locker room. Impact players? There are only a few up for grabs in L.A. right now, but they all could be good fits for the Boston Bruins.
Why the Kings?
The Kings’ front office need to make a decision on where the organization is headed. Are they going to blow this up? Unlikely with Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty signed for the foreseeable future. A quick rebuild, more like the retool that the Bruins underwent after finally firing Peter Chiarelli after the 2014-15 season? That seems far more likely to this observer.
If the Kings go that route, their best bet is to identify their core and move all other assets to create cap space and accumulate draft picks. To my eye, Kopitar, Doughty, Quick and Jake Muzzin should be the core group moving forward for the Kings. As you can clearly see, there is a lot of work to do.
Rental options like Carl Hagelin, Nate Thompson and, to a lesser degree, Brendan Leipsic and Alex Iafallo won’t bring home major assets, but could garner mid-round selections for an L.A. team desperately in need of a reset. There are veterans with term under contract too, but those deals could be tough to move. Ilya Kovalchuk has been a terrible fit with the Kings and still has two years left on his deal, while Jeff Carter has three more seasons remaining with a hefty cap hit. Tyler Toffoli, a free agent in 2020, could be appealing to teams as well.
Bruin fans hated Carter, and for good reason, during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was a dominating scorer for them, and a huge part of the team that stunned the Bruins in the 2010 Playoffs. After joining the Kings at the deadline in 2012 from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Carter has been a mainstay for the Kings in their top-six forward group.
He’s snapped home over 20 goals in each of his five full seasons with the Kings, including 32 during the 2016-17 season as the Kings faltered late and missed the postseason. A season ago, he appeared in only 27 games but still scored 13 goals in the process, battling back from injury in time for the stretch drive and playoff series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Carter, however, went pointless in the four-game sweep and has struggled since.
With just 10 goals and 25 points in 49 games this season, Carter has not been the offensive force the Kings were hoping for. Is his injury still bothering him? He’s played in 49 games this season and seems healthy. Is old age catching up with him? That’s a scary possibility for a guy with so much term left on his deal.
Carter’s best quality is his ability to score goals, however, and that is something the Bruins need help with. In a secondary role, with lesser minutes and heavy power play time, he could thrive in Boston. The acquisition price would have to be relatively low and the Kings would have to eat salary here, but Carter as the center on the third line or right winger on the second line makes too much sense.
Eight years younger, less money and less term. That’s the reality when comparing Toffoli and Carter. At just 26, Toffoli represents a potentially long-term option for the Bruins on their top two lines. Another player whose game is based on his goal-scoring ability, he can play both center and wing and could help a Bruin power play that will have to be dynamite against either the Toronto Maple Leafs or Tampa Bay Lightning to survive in the playoffs.
This season has not been kind to Toffoli, however, and his scouting report is a little confusing when you look at his production. With just eight goals in 50 games, he doesn’t appear to be the goal-scoring threat the Bruins are looking for. That said, the veteran did tally 24 goals last season and had 16 in a down 2016-17 season. Three times he has hit 20 goals, with a career-high 31 in 2015-16.
The trade price for Toffoli is likely to be higher than Carter solely because of the points made above, but he’s still a worthwhile target for the Bruins. If you were to trade for him, he instantly would add to a power play left wanting, and a top-six that is clearly a forward away from competing with the big dogs in the East.
Not only does he help you for this season, but Toffoli is signed through 2019-20 and is young enough to be a candidate for a contract extension. Is he the sexy addition that Bruin fans are looking for? Probably not, but he’s a good player.
A Deal To Be Made?
I don’t think the Kings have the same amount of assets to deal that the New York Rangers or St. Louis Blues do, but they are a fit for a specific need. The Kings have established veteran forwards who can put the puck in the net and an appetite to sell at this season’s deadline.
It likely won’t cost a top pick or even a top prospect, but a trade with them could have the same kind of impact. Would you rather deal prime assets for someone like Kevin Hayes, or pay a lesser price for someone like Toffoli? I’ll take Toffoli, thank you very much. Don Sweeney and Rob Blake patrolled the NHL as defenders at the same time during their careers. Perhaps now they will link up on a trade after both making the switch to NHL general manager.