With the trade deadline looming, rumors are starting to float around about what team wants what player. A recent one surrounding the Los Angeles Kings is that the team is interested in Vancouver Canucks forward Conor Garland.
While Garland is a good player and one I suggested the Kings acquire last summer, the team should avoid making this trade, especially at the expected cost. The Kings are looking to add another forward, but it shouldn’t come at the deadline, and it shouldn’t be Garland.
Garland Isn’t a Big Upgrade
The main problem with this potential deal is that Garland would simply not be a big enough upgrade for it to make sense. As I mentioned, he is a solid player but scoring at just over a .5 point-per-game (PPG) pace, he isn’t the big offensive upgrade the Kings need. His 32 points would put him ahead of only Alex Iafallo in the King’s top six. Considering Iafallo’s far superior defensive impact, it isn’t worth a potential one more goal and four more points.
Of course, moving Garland into the top-six and Iafallo into the bottom six could improve their roster overall, but it doesn’t seem worth the price to just upgrade the bottom half of the lineup. Realistically, Garland is another tenacious middle-six forward who posts roughly half a point-per-game, something the Kings have plenty of. That’s not a knock on Garland either, it’s just not something the Kings need.
The other issue with Garland is that the Kings need a goalscorer, and he is not. The biggest issue for the team this season has been the inability to finish chances, specifically on the power play. Their two leading goalscorers, Adrian Kempe and Viktor Arvidsson are both volume shooters and aren’t what most consider, “pure snipers.” This isn’t a problem for either player, but it does leave the team in need of a sniper, which Garland is not. He also does almost none of his damage on the power play, leaving the team with another solid 5v5 player who is ineffective on the man advantage. He isn’t a big upgrade on what the Kings have and doesn’t fill a need for the team.
The other negative to trading for Garland is his contract. Far from an albatross, it is still not a great one for the team to take on. He has a $4.95 million cap hit through the 2025-26 season, making him the forward with the second most term behind Phillip Danault. If the Kings don’t send a roster player back to the Canucks, and it sounds like they wouldn’t, that would leave the team with very little money to acquire a left-shot defenseman, and a top-six goalscorer during the summer. Similar to the issue of his fit on the Kings, his contract isn’t terrible, but it isn’t worth it for this team.
Garland Would Likely Be Replaced Soon
This ties into his cost a little bit, but another problem with acquiring Garland is that there’s a realistic scenario where he is easily replaced in the top-six next season. Several people, myself included, feel that Trevor Moore’s fantastic 2022 is unsustainable and that he will not remain a top-six player next season, however, until that happens, he should be treated as one. Leaving just one spot available in the top-six, Iafallo’s spot. Now, let’s say he does replace Iafallo, as he is a small offensive upgrade, once again, the Kings need goals, and Garland’s career 82-game average is 23 goals. Would anyone be surprised to see Arthur Kaliyev score 23 goals next season? I wouldn’t, a ten-goal increase seems very achievable for the organization’s best shooter.
Even if Kaliyev doesn’t, it isn’t unrealistic to think one of Gabe Vilardi or Rasmus Kupari has a breakout season and announces themselves as a top-six forward in 2022-23. If that happened, you will have given up a decent package to acquire a $5 million third-line winger, who’s signed for three more seasons. It simply isn’t worth the risk. He’s a relatively expensive player, who could easily be replaced next season and would likely be replaced by 2023-24, with still two years left on his deal.
The reported cost includes Helge Grans, the team’s 2020 second-round pick. It’s safe to assume it wouldn’t be Grans for Garland one-for-one, so we can say the cost is Grans, plus other assets. Anyone who’s a consistent reader of my content knows that I am a big fan of Grans, and so are some pro scouts. The Athletic’s Thomas Drance, who covers the Canucks, gave us a taste of what some pro scouts are saying about Grans in a recent article.
“Meanwhile at the AHL level, Swedish-born blue line prospect Helge Grans is, by the estimation of some pro scouts, the most polished defenseman outside the NHL at the moment.”From “Braden Schneider, Bowen Byram and 8 more blue-chip young defenders the Canucks could target at the deadline” Mar. 7, 2022 Thomas Drance, The Athletic
While there will be people who say that it doesn’t matter what scouts are saying, he’s one of several good right-shot defensemen in the team’s pipeline, that doesn’t mean the team should carelessly part ways with him. Maybe the issues in Grans’ game prevent him from being an NHL defenseman, and maybe he reaches his potential of a top-four blue liner, we don’t know right now. However, I’d rather find out than trade him, plus more, for a minimal upgrade who might be out of the top-six soon. The trade market is insane right now and teams are overpaying like crazy, giving up a second-round pick with great potential and more assets for Garland would be an overpay for the Kings. I have no problem trading Grans if it’s in a package that without question improves the team, and this would not.
Garland’s a Good Player But Not a Good Fit
If this team wasn’t already filled with middle-six players who don’t score a lot of goals but play a sound 200-foot game, I’d be all over Garland. Unfortunately, they are overflowing with these types of players. The team needs to add goals and should look in either the trade or free-agent market this summer for a genuine top-line scorer. Giving up assets and cap space, which could be crucial for that hypothetical move for Garland, just doesn’t make sense. The Kings built up this incredible prospect pool and filled it with centers and right-shot defensemen with the goal of eventually trading some of them, but it must be for the right deal. There will be better options over the summer and the Kings should remain patient until then.
My name is Austin Stanovich, as a lifelong player and fan I’m hoping to bring my own unique perspective on the hockey world, specifically covering the Los Angeles Kings. As a SoCal native I grew up a Kings fan, and after graduating from Long Beach State in 2020 I’ve joined The Hockey Writers crew as a columnist for the Kings.