The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection — Thomas Paine.
After jumping out to a big lead in the division during the first half of the season, the Los Angeles Kings have seen their fortunes turn, thanks to a 4-7-1 slide over their past dozen games. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks are in the midst of a 13-2-1 stretch, winning their last four games by a combined 19-12 score. And let’s not forget the San Jose Sharks and their 13-2-3 streak over the last six weeks.
Add it all up and you have a very tight race at the top of the division, with L.A. holding just a two point edge over the Ducks and three over the Sharks with 25 games left in the regular season. To add injury to insult, Marian Gaborik’s knee injury could keep him out until the playoffs, and star center Anze Kopitar is day-to-day with the dreaded “lower body injury”.
Should Los Angeles roll the dice at the trade deadline?
Andrew Ladd is available
Ladd is one of the biggest names currently on the trade market, and with good reason. He may be having a bit of an off season for the Winnipeg Jets (15G, 17A in 57 games), but has had five straight seasons (annualizing the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign) of at least 57+ points. Still just 30 years of age, Ladd plays with attitude and edge and is characteristically strong on the puck, generating an iCorsi comparable to that of Jeff Carter.
Not only is Ladd’s $4.5 million salary reasonable, but it would be pro-rated over the remainder of the season, easing the financial burden substantially. Between the cap savings from the player (s) going the other way and Winnipeg’s likely willingness to hold salary, a deal is waiting to be made.
How Ladd would help the Kings
It’s no secret that Los Angeles is, yet again, struggling to light the lamp.
Over their past three games, the Kings have scored only two goals. During their last five games, they have found the back of the net just nine times. Take out the whoopin’ they put on Boston (nine goals) and they are averaging just 2.31 goals per game in calendar 2016. That isn’t going to get it done, with or without Gaborik and Kopitar.
A natural left winger, Andrew Ladd can light the lamp. He will never be ranked among the league leaders, but he is a consistent mid-20’s goal scorer, playing for a team that has been (at best) mediocre offensively in recent years. As stated before, his advanced statistics — always a top consideration for the L.A. brain trust — are very good, and bordered on elite as recently as five seasons ago.
Another trait the Kings covet: Ladd plays a heavy game, as evidenced by his 212 hits in 2014-15. He even got a few votes for the Selke.
Is he worth Tanner Pearson?
Let’s lead with the obvious: Ladd would be a significant upgrade for a team with its eyes focused on Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Pearson is young (22) and exciting, having shown potential after notching sixteen points in 27 games earlier this year. However, he’s been inconsistent and a nearly-zero factor lately, scoring just one goal and dishing out two assists over his past eighteen games.
Writer’s edit: no sooner do I call Pearson a non-factor than does he score the overtime winner in tonight’s game against the Predators. Isn’t that always the way?
With Ladd, you know what you get, and with the “win now” window still open, he would help the Kings chances this year. And you never know about the future — born on the west coast (Maple Ridge, British Columbia), there’s a reasonable chance Ladd might like to stay relatively close to home and re-sign with the Kings.
But if not, he would be lost to free agency on July 1. Losing Pearson for a rental player — like the first rounder they surrendered in the Sekera deal a year ago — would be a major blow.
What do the fans think?
It’s fair to say that Kings fans are, at best, decidedly mixed about a Pearson for Ladd deal:
— GambLou (@GambLou) February 10, 2016
@Darrell_Samuels Why in the world would the Kings trade their #1 prospect for a rental like Ladd. No fricking way.
— Scott Egebjerg (@ScottABR) February 20, 2016
Pearson appears to have a bright future in Los Angeles if he can figure out how to put it all together. Does it make sense for the Kings to use Pearson to acquire Andrew Ladd? If not, who do you think would, or should the Kings either stand pat or go for someone else instead?
Leave your thoughts below, or feel free to message me @McLaughlinWalt.
Walter McLaughlin is a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for The Hockey Writers. He is an avid sports fan, having followed the Kings since living in L.A. in the mid-1970’s, as well as suffering through Seattle sports teams’ general futility. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Finance and has worked in community banking for over 25 years, specializing in SBA loans. He is married and has two daughters.