On July 1, the Los Angeles Kings acquired Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators for a second-round pick in 2021 and a third-round pick in 2022. Many Kings fans were ecstatic when this trade was announced, as LA desperately needed a top-six right-winger, and he is seemingly poised to slot in on the first line alongside veteran centre Anze Kopitar.
Acquiring the two-time 30-goal scorer without having to give up a single roster piece or prospect seems like a major win for the Kings, but it will impact who LA will choose to protect in the Seattle expansion draft.
Kings Likely to Go 7-3-1 Protection Route
With this acquisition, it would make sense for the Kings to opt to protect players based on the 7-3-1 option. This refers to protecting seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie. The other option is to protect eight skaters and one goalie, however going the second route wouldn’t make much sense following this acquisition.
Arvidsson will surely be protected, as there would’ve been no reason to acquire him if they were not planning to keep him. Franchise cornerstone Kopitar will certainly be protected. Alex Iafallo, who has been LA’s best left-winger over the past few seasons, signed a four-year contract extension earlier this year, indicating he is involved in the team’s future plans. Adrian Kempe, a 24-year-old former first-round pick, is another forward LA will protect as he has shown flashes of brilliance. These four forwards will be protected no matter what route LA goes with the expansion draft, however, they have additional valuable forwards to protect.
Other forwards who could warrant protection are Trevor Moore, Brendan Lemieux, Lias Andersson and Dustin Brown. Were LA to go the eighth skater route, it would mean they’d be protecting four blueliners, thus all four of these players would be left available. Due to this, it makes LA opting to go with the 7-3-1 option the most likely scenario.
Moore grew up in Thousand Oaks, California, which is part of Greater Los Angeles. In his first full season with the Kings, he jelled with his hometown squad, posting 23 points (tied for fifth among the team’s forwards core) while skating as the team’s third-line centre. Lemieux, 25, was brought to LA this season to provide the team with more grit, and he excelled in this regard, throwing 44 hits in 18 games. He did exactly what was expected of him and could be a player LA chooses to protect.
Lias Andersson, 22, is another player LA brought in recently in a trade at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and is someone they likely will protect. The former seventh-overall pick struggled with the Kings and was sent down to the AHL. With the Ontario Reign, he posted 17 points in 15 games and played excellent hockey with the Kings’ young prospects. Due to this, he’d make sense to be a player to protect.
Out of the aforementioned four names, Brown is the player that is most likely to be left unprotected. Although he led the Kings in goals (17) and finished third in points (31) during the 2020-21 season, he’s 36 years old and is making $5,875 million next season. Afterward, his contract will expire as he only has one year left on said deal. Similar to how he was left available for the taking in the Vegas expansion draft, Brown could probably be left available this time around without being selected due to his age and contract. Leaving him unprotected is risky as Seattle could select him, and he was a key piece for LA in 2020-21. This means the veteran right-winger could be protected at the expense of one of LA’s younger forwards.
Going the 7-3-1 Route Leaves Either Kale Clague or Sean Walker Available
The Kings will have to protect Drew Doughty due to his no-movement clause (NMC). Additionally, he was far-and-away LA’s best defenseman in 2020-21. Despite his contract potentially becoming a nightmare for the Kings in a few years time, he’d be protected even if he didn’t have an NMC. LA’s young top-pairing blueliner Mikey Anderson is exempt from the draft, as is Tobias Bjornfot. This means Matt Roy is almost certainly going to be LA’s second protected defenseman, as he is the team’s best defensive option.
With their third and final protection slot for their defence, LA will likely have to choose between protecting Kale Clague or Sean Walker. Clague is a 23-year-old left-handed defender who has shown potential. In 18 games played with the Kings in 2020-21, he produced six points and blocked 13 shots. On the other hand, Walker is on a cheap contract that lasts for another three seasons and is an established player who the Kings can rely on in any situation. He can kill penalties, produce offence, play strong defence, and quarterbacks the Kings second power-play unit. Whichever of these two ends up being protected, LA will have to give up a solid blueliner.
Acquiring Arvidsson should pay off in spades for the Kings, however it does limit their options heading into the expansion draft and will likely cause them to lose either Walker or Clague from the blue line.
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I am a lifelong hockey fan who will be covering the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks here at The Hockey Writers. Before joining The Hockey Writers I spent two years blogging about hockey.
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