The NHL trade deadline expires at 3 pm Eastern Time today, and as usual, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has been busy. Counting the trade he made with Philadelphia (not a deadline deal, but effectively the same thing) last month, he has picked up the following veteran players for the playoff push and beyond: Vincent Lecavalier, Luke Schenn, Rob Scuderi, and Sunday night’s pièce de résistance: Kris Versteeg.
Ok, so maybe that’s overstating Versteeg’s projected value to a Kings team that’s been struggling to score goals in recent months. It’s also possible Lombardi isn’t done tinkering yet and might add another player before it’s all said and done. For the sake of argument, though, let’s assume Versteeg is the most noteworthy offensive puzzle piece added for the stretch drive. How can he help the Kings?
Versteeg Possesses Offensive Skills
All else being equal, Versteeg won’t find the back of the net as many times as Loui Eriksson over the course of a full season. That said, he’s no placeholder. Now in his eighth full season in the league, he has scored 20-plus goals three times, and may have had a fourth as recently as last year if not for missing 21 games due to injury.
Check out this highlight-reel goal he had just a couple of months ago:
Although Versteeg will probably start on L.A.’s third line, he has played up and down the lineup throughout his NHL career. He will likely spend a considerable number of shifts in a top-six role for the Kings.
He Finds High-Percentage Scoring Areas
The Kings offense isn’t pretty, fancy or even pretty fancy. It’s plain meat-and-potatoes: dump and chase, grind, possess, throw the puck on net and look for tips and rebounds.
To succeed in L.A.’s offense, a player cannot make his living as a floater. That’s the last thing Versteeg is, as demonstrated by the first embedded video clip in this The Hockey Writers article from last October.
Versteeg Adds a Touch of Grit
No, Kris Versteeg won’t have the impact Dustin Brown did in the playoffs during the run to the Kings’ first Stanley Cup (Henrik Sedin and Michal Rozsival, anyone?), but he’s got some sandpaper to his game, which should fit in well in Los Angeles. Watch him take it to Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher two years ago:
He doesn’t throw his body around all that much, but he’ll stand up when the game is on the line.
Possession Is His Middle Name
As helpful as Versteeg having a degree of physicality will be, his ability to contribute positively in terms of possession will be far more important. Check out his Corsi For % in recent years:
On a possession-dominant team like the Kings, Versteeg’s possession skills will be of critical importance.
Versteeg Is a Two-Time Champion
Veteran experience and playoff savvy should never be overrated. In Versteeg’s case, he’s got both in spades, including winning Stanley Cup championships with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010 and again this past season.
It’s true that Los Angeles has their own pair of Cups over the past four years, but plugging in another winner into a locker room full of them is perhaps the biggest reason why Kris Versteeg is a member of the Los Angeles Kings today. Lombardi’s hope is that he’s a big factor in another deep run to the Stanley Cup.