Kings News & Rumors: Defenseman Trade Targets, Athanasiou & More

In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I break down the rumors that the team is looking to trade for a depth defenseman and an update on Andreas Athanasiou‘s injury. I also take a look at Lias Andersson’s recent game on the first line.

Kings Looking To Add Depth Defenseman

Early this season, the Kings have lost two major defensemen to injuries. Sean Walker will be out for the rest of the season, and the team’s highest-paid player, Drew Doughty, will be out for at least two months. So far this season, Doughty contributed the most wins to LA for the minutes he has played, recording a 0.292 wins above replacement per 60 rate (WAR/60). He has also put up the team’s highest points per 60 rate (points/60) of 4.64, goals for per 60 rate (GF/60) of 4.34, and second-highest expected goals against per 60 rate (xGA/60) of 1.48.

Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With these subtractions from the lineup, the Kings are looking to add a defenseman to help carry some of the load. Pierre LeBrun commented on the team’s situation, saying:

“Maybe not the kind of the trade the Kings would like to make in a perfect world because they’re hamstrung by the cap but the long-term injuries to two of their top four defencemen on the right side, Drew Doughty and Sean Walker, has them working the phones looking for, at least, a depth defenceman for the right side… Doughty will be back in 6-to-8 weeks so that’s why they can’t just go out and replace his $11 million cap hit. Walker is out for the season.”

LeBrun on Kings trading for a defenseman.

One thing LeBrun mentions is the salary cap. Though the Kings are tight on cap space, they can put Walker’s $2.650 million salary to the side by placing him on their long-term injury reserve.

Related: LA Kings 2021-22 Season Preview: Defensive Pairings Projection

This is not the first time the Kings have been looking for a defenseman; last season, LA was aiming for a more significant addition to their D-core. They ended up not landing a top defenseman but rather drafted one at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, selecting Brandt Clarke eighth overall. The team’s general manager, Rob Blake, will try a second time to trade for a defenseman to help restore some of their decimated blue line.

Athanasiou to Return Soon

Athanasiou is another player who has suffered an injury early this season. He has shown he is capable of scoring at high rates in the past, and the Kings will soon get this scoring back. On Tuesday, he skated for the first time in a regular jersey, ditching the red, non-contact one he had been sporting before.

Athanasiou was activated from injury reserve prior to the Kings’ recent game against the St. Louis Blues, and he should make his season debut soon. Last season, he scored 10 goals and added 13 assists through 47 games, and he will look to continue to make an impact on the team’s offense in his return.

Andersson Has Tough Game on First Line

With Viktor Arvidsson on COVID protocol, the Kings decided to bring up Andersson to the first line for Wednesday’s contest versus the Blues. Head coach Todd McLellan promoted Andersson to play alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, saying he wanted Andersson to play the same game he had been, just in a more significant role:

“I don’t think Lias’ role will change, I think his position in the lineup changes, we just want to see him continue his role… Lias is a pretty intelligent player, he wins a lot of free or loose puck battles and while he’s in the battle, he has a tendency to make a play coming out of it. Those are real good things for us. He’s got to be responsible defensively which he is for the most part. Two games under his belt now, so he should be feeling better about what’s going on around him. I don’t think he’s changing anything, it’s just his spot in the lineup is different.”

McLellan on Andersson’s role on the first line.

The game against the Blues was a wild one. Brayden Schenn got the scoring going in the second period, putting St. Louis up 1-0. The Kings came back with two goals of their own in the third, coming from Arthur Kaliyev and Adrian Kempe. LA’s puck luck went downhill from there. After several missed attempts at the empty net, Torey Krug buried the equalizer for the Blues while shorthanded. The Kings controlled overtime but to no avail. In the shootout, the two teams were tied at two after three rounds — this included a double post for LA and one goal for St. Louis that went off the post and the back of Jonathan Quick before entering the net. The Kings won the shootout in the fourth round with Kaliyev wiring one past Jordan Binnington.

YouTube player

For Andersson, the game did not go well. He put up just 0.01 individual expected goals — third-worst on the Kings. He recorded the team’s worst Corsi for percentage (CF%), which was 19.05 percent on the night (CF% measures the possession of a team when a certain player is on the ice), expected goals for percentage (xGF%) of 11.89 percent (xGF% measures if a team outscores their opponent or is outscored when a certain player is on the ice), and expected goals for (xGF), with 0.13 in the game. Given his performance, it is likely that we see a new set of lines for the team’s next game versus the New Jersey Devils.

Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey

Sign up for our regular 'Kings Newsletter' for all the latest.