In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing the recent injuries to the team’s lineup, some trade talk surrounding the team, and a check-in on the Ontario Reign.
Injuries Hit the Kings
In Friday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Kings forward Brendan Lemieux exited the game after taking a hit from Emil Bemstrom. Lemieux landed awkwardly on his left leg and was struggling to put weight on it. There was no report on what injury he actually sustained, as it was listed as a lower-body injury. He’s considered day-to-day and missed Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, but there’s hope he’ll return for tonight’s game against the Boston Bruins.
Related: Kings’ Lemieux Reaching New Heights This Season
The Kings will be desperately hoping he can return, as he brings much-needed physicality and grit to the lineup, and against a Bruins team who seemed to bully the Kings last week, not having Lemieux would hurt. He’s also been an important part of the Kings’ very effective fourth line, currently on pace for a career-high 13 goals and set to tie his career-high of 18 points. He struggled to make an impression last season after being traded from the New York Rangers but has proven to be a pivotal part of this Kings team that has turned the page on their rebuild. Andreas Athanasiou replaced Lemieux on Saturday and had a great game with two goals, but I would expect Lemieux to be back in the lineup once he’s healthy.
While the injury to Lemieux is concerning, more concerning was Viktor Arvidsson going down on Sunday against the Sabres. Arvidsson seemed to catch an edge and took a nasty fall into the boards, and it looked like he took the brunt of the impact on his shoulder. He’s also day-to-day, but the Kings need him to return soon. He failed to find chemistry with Anze Kopitar on the first line but has been fantastic since moving to the second line with Phillip Danault. He’s been even better since the addition of Trevor Moore to that line, with 24 points in his last 24 games, since the start of 2022. He’s on pace for 27 goals and 57 points in just 75 games this season and looks like the 30-goal scorer he once was in Nashville. For a team that struggles to finish chances, losing their second-leading scorer for an extended period of time could be very detrimental.
There were two recent articles released in The Athletic that are of particular interest to Kings fans. One is an article where the reporters for each team were asked to predict the player who’s most likely to get dealt at this season’s trade deadline. Not only was Kings reporter Lisa Dillman’s answer interesting, but so was Arizona Coyotes reporter Eric Duhatschek’s, as he gave a small update on Jakob Chychrun. Still having Chychrun as the most likely player to be dealt, he adds an interesting point at the end regarding the Coyote’s asking price. Duhatschek said:
“So far, no one’s met Arizona’s asking price of a Jack Eichel-like package.”from ‘NHL trade deadline 2022: Which player (of pick) each team is most likely to deal, from captains to cap casualtiesm,’ The Athletic, 3/7/22
That asking price is very important for Kings fans, as it seems very unlikely the team puts together a “Jack Eichel-like” package to acquire Chychrun at the deadline. Maybe they do during the offseason, but I’d be surprised to see a deal like that complete in the next few weeks. The Kings are in a good spot right now, on their way to a postseason return, and set to get Alex Edler back at the end of this month, so a huge trade seems unnecessary at this point. The other interesting piece from this article was Dillman’s answer to the question, predicting that Athanasiou was the most likely player to get dealt.
On Athanasiou, Dillman said, “At times, Athanasiou has been the odd man out in the Kings’ lineup. Plus, the Kings have to start seeing what they have with their (many) prospects in Ontario.” She then went on to point out that he would be a great low-risk gamble for a team looking to add scoring.
Athanasiou would be my guess as well, with it being unlikely he’s brought back after this season and players like Gabe Vilardi needing a spot in the lineup soon. While I don’t think the Kings make a big splash at the deadline, moving Athanasiou could also free up cap space for another move. More than likely, he will be traded in an effort to get some value out of the player instead of losing him for nothing in the summer.
The other Athletic article which caught my eye was one from Dillman discussing the pros and cons of acquiring Jake DeBrusk. While I feel that trade is highly unlikely, she makes a great point about where the Kings are in terms of trades, stating:
“There is no genuine urgency for the Kings to make a splash at this year’s deadline, other than to satisfy fans (and some writers) who like to see eye-popping moves. Teams like Boston are in win-now mode. Teams such as Seattle or Arizona are thinking big-picture thoughts. The Kings fall in the middle. They are trending up but they are still not to the point where they need to make a bold move that gives them a short-term boost but might have lingering, long-term consequences.”Lisa Dillman (from ‘Jake DeBrusk to the Kings? Here are the pros and cons of a potential trade,’ The Athletic, March 4, 2022)
This perfectly describes where the Kings are at, and every Kings fan needs to be aware of this. While a big-time trade would be fun and could help the team, it’s far from a necessity at this point. There will be a time for blockbuster trades, but that time is not now.
The Reign have played three games since the last Reign-check, and Lias Andersson has been the main headline across those three games. The team went 3-0 last week, with him totaling five goals in the three games. It’s been a tough season for Andersson, who looked to have developed great chemistry with Vilardi and Vladimir Tkachev during the preseason. But he was hurt before the season started and was never able to find his feet while healthy. He’s in Ontario on a conditioning assignment and is making the most of it. I don’t expect him to be back next season, as there simply aren’t enough roster spots for him, but good performances to finish out the season could help him secure a contract or trade somewhere else. It’s been a tough career for the former ninth overall pick, and I’d love to see him figure it out in the NHL. I just don’t think it will be with the Kings.
Rasmus Kupari is starting to find his game in Ontario with two goals against the Vegas Silver Knights on Saturday, including a gorgeous goal, undressing the Knights’ defensemen before blowing the puck past the goalie. As I’ve said many times, I still have a lot of faith in Kupari to develop into a solid NHL forward, and finding his confidence again in the American Hockey League (AHL) will be huge. The Reign have continued to be a dominant team in the AHL, and they’ll feel confident in making a deep Calder Cup run.
Garret Sparks’ health is still a question mark, and I’m not convinced by the other options in net for the Reign, so I think adding another experienced AHL goalie would go a long way in helping this team achieve a Calder Cup win. Winning the Calder Cup would be huge for the team’s prospects, as they’d get a taste of the grind that is winning a championship at the professional level.
Trade Deadline Looming
Still, two weeks away, the trade deadline is coming up fast, and we should start to see deals happening soon. While I doubt the Kings are too active this season, a lot can change in two weeks, and we know the team is interested in making a few improvements. This is always a fun time of year for hockey fans, and it will be nice for Kings fans to not see their team sell off players this time around.