Deadline Deals: A Successful Gamble for the Los Angeles Kings

Dean Lombardi has made great moves at the NHL trade deadline(s) that have enabled continuous success for the Los Angeles Kings.

After the trade with the Philadelphia Flyers that brought Mike Richards to be the number two center-man behind Anze Kopitar, the Los Angeles Kings and management were making a statement that they were a contender for the 2011-2012 NHL season. With a defensive core including Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene, Drew Doughty, and Jack Johnson, the Kings were poised to make a deep playoff run at were considered favorites at the beginning of the season.

The typical scoring drought the Kings would come familiar with started on cue at the mid-season point and scoring was needed. With the brief play and steady development of (then AHL) defenseman, Slava Voynov, on the NHL roster gave Dean Lombardi an opportunity to trade from a point of strength to obtain elite scoring down the stretch.

In February 2012, the Los Angeles Kings traded defenseman Jack Johnson and a first round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Jeff Carter.

(Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
(Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Jeff Carter was signed long term, had six twenty-plus goal seasons (including two seasons topping thirty goals and one reaching forty-six goals), had familiarity with some of the members in the organization (Mike Richards and John Stevens from the Philadelphia Flyers), and was taken away from a Columbus situation that was not the right fit.

Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were immediately joined, seldom separated, and seemed to have a few players play on their left including Dustin Penner and Dwight King during that year’s cup run. Even though Jeff Carter was injured towards the end of the regular season, he played a pertinent part in taking the Los Angeles Kings to their first Stanley Cup victory scoring eight goals in the twenty-playoff games, four goals in the finals.

On April 1, 2013 the Los Angeles Kings traded two second round draft picks to the Buffalo Sabres for defenseman Robyn Regehr.

Robyn Regehr has been a polarizing player for the Los Angeles Kings fan base. Brought in for defensive help as Rob Scuderi had parted ways in the offseason signing a contract as an unrestricted free agent with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Regehr has done all that has been asked.

Robyn Regehr is a stay at home defenseman that can and has been moved up and down the line up and had been coached by Darryl Sutter in Calgary. That same year, the Los Angeles Kings felt they had filled the void left by Scuderi and signed Regehr to a two-year contract extension with the Kings shortly after the trade.

A trend in the trades that would bring pending UFA’s to the Kings started to surface as players would want to stay here and would be willing to sign an extension knowing that they can hit free agency and potentially land a bigger paycheck.

The Los Angeles Kings would end up losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals that year. The move of bringing in Regehr did not have the same results as maybe the Jeff Carter trade deadline deal did, but Regher is currently a roster fixture (to some fans dismay) and would have his name engraved into the Stanley Cup the following year and Dean Lombardi was able to retain the two second round draft picks in the offseason.

Heatherington tries to emulate his game after Robyn Regehr. (Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Heatherington tries to emulate his game after Robyn Regehr. (Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)
In 2013-2014, the Los Angeles Kings’ lack of scoring became apparent again in the middle of the season and Lombardi needed to make a trade.

During last year’s NHL trade deadline craze, there were numerous goal scorers on the market that could have potentially helped the Kings out of their scoring woes (at the time, the Kings sat third in the league for goals for). Former King Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek and Marian Gaborik were all on the block and all would eventually be traded.

The trade that brought Marian Gaborik to the Kings was a high risk/high-reward deal. Gaborik was an elite goal scorer with a great awareness with or without the puck on his stick. The risk(s) was that Marian Gaborik was signed to a big salary (which Columbus retained some of) and was limited to just twenty-two games that season. Injuries, Gaborik’s history of injuries, and playoff efficacy were concerns for the Los Angeles Kings fan base.

Gaborik went on to not only shine in the 2013-2014 Stanley Cup playoffs with a team high fourteen goals, but, went on to sign a seven year contract extension (the trend of signing pending UFA’s apparent) with the team after winning their second Stanley Cup in three years.

Marian Gaborik won a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings and sweet revenge in the process. (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
Marian Gaborik won a Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings and sweet revenge in the process. (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
This year’s trade deadline deal may have the same results.

With the suspension of Slava Voynov and the rotating wheel of injuries to Kings defensemen, Dean Lombardi knew he had to make a trade for defensive help. A lot of defensemen were on the block and traded at this year’s deadline. Brayden Coburn, James Wisnieski, Kimmo Timonen, Keith Yandle, and Zbynek Michalek were all moved and all could have helped the Kings’ defensive troubles.

Instead, Dean Lombardi chose Andrej Sekera having traded a first round pick and defensive prospect Roland McKeown to the Carolina Hurricanes. Sekera is a pending unrestricted free agent, but provides the defensive stability that can shelter other players’ minutes.

Will this deadline (alright, a week before) deal work the same magic for the Los Angeles Kings who currently sit outside of the playoffs? Will the trend continue and Andrej Sekera resigns to remain a Los Angeles King? There is still a lot of time (and cap-crunching) between now and then.

27 thoughts on “Deadline Deals: A Successful Gamble for the Los Angeles Kings”

  1. “The move of bringing in Regehr did not have the same results as maybe the Jeff Carter trade deadline deal did…”….sorry Cole, have to call you out on this one. Comparing the impact of Carter and Rehger is beyond inaccurate in terms of equity to the team. Noted both players brought more than expected in their play, Robin was intended to replace Scuderi not boost the offense like Carter. The loss of Mitchell for the season and Greene for most of it left the Kings playing a patchwork defense, one the Blackhawks’ talent exploited in the WCF. A healthy defensive core left over from 2012, plugging Regher into Scuderi’s spot, could of had the Kings playing for their fourth straight cup this year (if they get in) instead of third in four years.

    • Regehr has been the worst player on Los Angeles on a consistent basis. His play is almost always below replacement level; the Kings would have been better served calling up a younger player than continuing to ice Regehr. Even players like Brayden McNabb and Jamie McBain have been superior contributors, despite their relative lack of exprience, than Regehr. Huge bust move.

      • Andrew I don’t which is the case, are you purposely being silly, or is it you really have no idea about the game of hockey and how it’s played? In either case, you win the Neville Chamberlain awareness award with your comment.

        • Well you’ll have to explain to me why I’m wrong. There is no question of his footspeed; he’s clearly the slowest defender on the team with the possible exception of Matt Greene.

          From a statistical standpoint, it isn’t even close. Regehr is far and away the least effective player at either driving play up ice, or in restricting shots against in his own zone. Part of that is deployment, but most of it is the fact that he just isn’t any good. He occasionally throws a decent check, but his play isn’t particularly physical. He doesn’t score, so you can’t even use the Subban/Karlsson/Shattenkirk argument.

          So what exactly does he do? He hits a lot of people? Great…. super valuable skill, there. Chase people with the puck and hit them. Even by the eye test, he isn’t any good. I’ve seen him completely fumble away two plays in the last week alone that led to goals. Again, anecdotal… but two full seasons of statistical evidence back up that he’s been the worst D-man on the team.

          And besides a poorly applied historical reference, you can point to… what, exactly, as support?

          • You’re wrong Andrew, because you don’t understand the game, and in this case how the Kings play it. Sampling here is to ask yourself in view of Regher and Greene’s noted lack of foot speed how in the world they are corner stones on the two penalty kill units? Statistics are fine, but I’d rather have every forward in the league looking for Regher and Greene’s whereabouts when they consider going into a corner, apparently Sutter agrees as “He hits a lot of people” (your words) rings true with him and the team alike. The Kings are built for playoff hockey, and play what’s termed a ‘heavy’ style game, players like Regher and Greene are not only fundamental to this style, their play enables their elite skating puck handling partners to exploit opportunities knowing they can engage because their backs are covered. You feel statistical evidence points to Regher being the worse defenseman on the team, yet the team credits his play significant towards getting them into the playoffs last year and a major factor in the outcome of the San Jose series, so who do you think is right? We won’t even mention the effect he has in the room.
            As to poorly applied historical reference….not so much in this case.

            • The historical reference wasn’t even close to being appropriate. But more relevantly, the hockey.

              Who cares what his teammates say? If you can find me an example of one of the Kings players saying that one guy was useless, I’ll give a little more credence to them saying another guy was integral. Its a tight locker room, what did you think they were gonna say?

              My feeling is that our eyes deceive us, and in the case of the players, that their emotions cloud their judgement. Players are ALL THE TIME being confronted with the evidence of possession metrics and are completely astounded by them. The players are not infallible. They are subject to their own biases like the rest of us. Statistical evaluation is not, not without someone else introducing it into the equation.

              So again, point me to where ANYTHING AT ALL indicates Robyn Regehr is a good player. He might be a great locker room presence, which I don’t doubt, and play a role there, but that isn’t the same thing. He doesn’t score. He doesn’t suppress opposing players from shooting. He’s slow. None of this is opinion, its fact. He’s also never been a first pairing penalty killer, which kind of ruins your whole “cornerstone of the PK” argument as well. Kind of tough to have your third penalty killer be a cornerstone, especially when the people he’s beating out tend to be rookies, and especially considering his coach’s admitted tendency to play veterans over younger players, even when the younger players are clearly better (Toffoli was averaging less ice time per game than Jarrett Stoll at one point).

            • Thanks Andrew.
              Coaches decisions do vary with match-ups, positionally situated most often with the play at the time and the opponent, the Kings depth let’s Sutter effectively plug n’ play a number of players
              You ask for anything, okay, unaware teammates aside, being a Stanley Cup Champion 2014 says Regher is a ‘good player’ as you put it. Let’s face what the Kings did, without him they probably do not survive the San Jose series and last year would not have happened.
              Because further retort would be pointless, allow me in parting to note the game is played on a sheet, but it’s ice not paper.

      • You couldn’t be more wrong. The player that has been hurting the Kings the most this has been Muzzin. Muzzin has the worst plus/minus on the team and has been turning pucks over left and right and some have turned into goals against.

    • Actually Regher was brought in to fill the hole when Mitchell was injured in 2013, he then was re-signed in the off-season prior to Scuderi leaving in the off-season I believe.

  2. I love Rehger, I’m not sure who you’ve been talking to but all the yahoo comments that I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot of them),have been positive about his joining the roster and staying there.

    • Eric, I don’t think he was downplaying Rehger. I go to 15-20 regular season games
      yearly and watch the rest at a local gastropub. The fans I talk to (who
      actually like and watch hockey, unlike the typical yahoo commenter) are pretty
      blase’ at best when it comes to Rehger. It’s not that they don’t like him, they’re
      just rather apathetic to his presence on the ice. These same fans feel the same
      way about Nolan and Greene. I love both of them, but they’re not really as
      beloved as players like Carter, Kopitar, Quick, and Doughty. I think I
      understand where Cole is coming from and it’s no disrespect to Rehger.

      • You are talking to fans who do not totally understand the game, and therefore do not appreciate what players like Rehger, Greene and Nolan bring to the team’s success. Role players are more often than not, the difference between a great team and a team that wins championships.

        • What role does Regehr play? He’s slow, has no scoring touch, is a constant drag on whoever is partnered with him. He makes money that will need to be reallocated to superior players. He eats up ice time that better D-men should be earning.

            • I try not to call anything like I “see” it. I try to supplement the eye test with statistical evidence. What I see on the ice is a slow, older player who is constantly chasing the play and has no stick handling ability to speak of, which leads to constant fumbling in his own zone. When I try to refute what my eyes see with underlying numbers, I realize my eyes were indeed lying. Regehr is actually worse on paper than he looks on the ice.

            • Sutter coached him before and jumped at the chance to add him to the team when he became available. I trust his judgement.

            • Sutter is not infallible. He plays Tyler Toffoli fewer minutes per game than Trevor Lewis or Jarret Stoll for no apparent reason.

              His coaching style is such that he believes veterans get the call over younger kids, regardless of who is better, until the young guns have been around for a few seasons. No one in their right mind thinks Trevor Lewis is a superior player to Toffoli, and yet the evidence is there than Sutter won’t play TT. He has his guys. Fine, but that doesn’t mean he’s right. And both the eye test and the stats would agree on this one.

            • Sutter plays his young stars like he’s supposed to. You may not understand it because you think he should play them more but it is your lack of understanding.

              You ever see a fight between a 20 year-old and a 30 year-old? If they’re the same, the older guy wins, because bones get thicker, and strength increases, until 30.

              You want to have a team of cripples by the time they are 29, you play your 23 year-old rookies more often, than the veterans.

              You want them to remain valuable 10 years from now, you ease them in slowly and allow their bodies to get stronger and thicker, with time, as you increase their minutes. No matter how badly you need them, ‘right now.’

            • What? This doesn’t even make sense. Sutter seems plenty fine with sending Clifford and Nolan out to drop the gloves, and has been doing so for years. And they are 24 and 25, respectively. So while you may be correct about safety, Sutter clearly doesn’t care.

              Besides which, you act as though Toffoli is getting his butt kicked in fights night in and night out. I’ve never seen him in a fight. What I have seen him do is score a ton of goals and make awesome plays on a more regular basis than all but a few other LA players. Toffoli has been “eased in” for two seasons now – he isn’t a rookie anymore. When you have talent that has acclimated itself to the pro game, you use it. The team has left at least a few goals on the table this year because of Sutter’s reluctance to play his younger, better players. I get it with Pearson… its his first full season. But this isn’t TT’s first time to the dance.

            • You are under the impression that I’m talking about fights. I’m not.

              What I was discussing, was the tear and wear on a body that is still developing. He’s giving them only so many minutes because he doesn’t want their growth to get stunted.

              Besides, Sutter has taken the Kings to the Western Conference 3/3 years and won the SC twice in that time. How many Stanley Cups have you coached?

              None. Yeah, I figured. Maybe you let the professionals do their job, especially ones who’ve shown they know when to push the limits and when to hold back.

              The Ducks are en route to another President’s Trophy and by the time they hit the playoffs, they’ll have nothing left in the tank. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ducks get bounced in the first series.

            • I agree. Lewis is a better defensive forward by far. But Toffoli’s offensive contributions are more important than Lewis’ defensive ones. As we saw last year with Gaborik, the Kings are sound enough defensively that there is a huge amount of benefit to be gained by unleashing a scorer while trusting in the system to cover him if/when he gets too aggressive.

              Lewis is great at what he does, and hopefully permanently replaces Stoll next year. But Toffoli is an unbelievable young talent, and the Kings system is strong enough that giving him more ice time will benefit both him, by letting him learn the system, and the team, by reaping the rewards of his vastly greater offensive talent than a Stoll or Lewis. Stoll, in particular, has declined precipitously at taking faceoffs, the only area in which he was any good last year

          • He plays the roll of stay at home defensmen. They are not on the team to score goals or make pretty plays, that is for dmen like Doughty. You not knowing that is starting to make me think you know very little about Hockey.

    • Eric, I agree. Rehger is the King’s unsung hero. When he is out of the lineup the Kings struggle in the defensive zone.

    • If you visit some of the more common Kings fan sites, LGK, Insider, etc) it is not uncommon to see some dissension. I think it stems mainly from the fact that Regehr fills a slot in the defense that is harder to understand and evaluate. clearing the crease, punishing opposing players, playing the pk, good gap control, etc… He doesnt score, he’s unlikely to get many assists, and he plays against other team’s top players (and his foot speed is slow) so he’s likely going to only stand out when he’s been beat.

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