In this edition of Los Angeles Kings News & Rumors, I’ll be discussing the team’s acquisition of defenseman Troy Stecher, Blake Lizotte’s two-year extension, Mikey Anderson going on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), and a check-in on the Ontario Reign.
Kings Acquire Stecher
On Sunday, March 20, the Kings announced they had traded for Stecher in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Kings insider John Hoven reported last week that fans should expect an addition on the blue line before Monday’s deadline, and this appears to be that move. Stecher was an undrafted signing out of college for the Vancouver Canucks in 2016-17, and after four seasons with the team, he signed with the Detroit Red Wings in 2020. He was a solid defenseman for the Canucks, but despite putting up solid metrics in Detroit, he had been relegated to a depth role on their team. He excels at surprising chances against and gets the puck out of his own zone at an impressive rate, although he struggles to do so with possession. All-in-all, he’s a steady defenseman, who’s safe with the puck in his own zone, and doesn’t give up many chances against.
It’s unclear exactly where he will fit into the lineup right now, but as a natural right-side defenseman, I would imagine he fits in there. My guess would be that he replaces Austin Strand in the lineup. Not only does it allow Stecher to play in his natural position, but it also allows him to reunite with Alex Edler, who he played with on a pairing at various times with the Canucks. Coming over to a new team and jumping straight into the lineup is difficult, but having a familiar face to play with makes things easier.
Acquiring Stecher isn’t the big move some fans were hoping for, but with bad news on the injury front regarding Anderson and Drew Doughty recently, this is a good addition to get the team through the rest of this season. He’s an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and I’d expect the team will let him walk. For a seventh-round pick, he’s a solid player who can fill a role while players are injured, making this a good move by Rob Blake.
Kings Extend Lizotte
Monday morning, it was announced that the Kings signed Lizotte to a two-year extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $1.675 million. After struggling last season in an elevated role, several fans were surprised to see him re-signed, and there were even question marks heading into training camp around if he would make the team or not. This season, he has had a massive bounce back in a more fitting fourth-line role and has been a key figure on one of the team’s most consistent lines.
Lizotte is currently on pace for 22 points, the second-highest total in his career, and has been, by far, the team’s most effective forechecker. He’s also been one of the best forecheckers in the league with his 7.17 forecheck pressures per 60 and 7.48 recovered dump-ins per 60 being nearly unmatched. Since Brendan Lemieux’s injury and Arthur Kaliyev being moved up the lineup, Lizotte and his line have struggled. Once the Kings are healthy, I would expect the fourth line to be reunited and Lizotte’s impact to be more noticeable again.
It could be interesting to see how this signing might affect some of the team’s prospects. A few players would have likely planned on fighting for Lizotte’s spot next season, but that has now become more difficult. Competition is a good thing, and having a player like him blocking the way for prospects could force the young players to elevate their play, but I would certainly expect some prospects to be moved this summer. That was likely the case even without the extension, but this further reinforces the point. Lizotte has found a spot on the team’s fourth line and earned himself a well-deserved extension; he can anchor the fourth line for the foreseeable future until a prospect like Samuel Helenius is available to take the reins.
Anderson on LTIR
The Kings announced some negative news on Sunday, revealing that Anderson would be placed on LTIR. He becomes the fourth defenseman to be placed on LTIR this season and joins Sean Walker on the list. Anderson has been out for a while, but confirmation that he won’t be back any time soon still stings. He’s been a fantastic defensive defenseman this season and has posted metrics that put him amongst the league’s best defensively. The Kings will likely roll with their current group of Olli Maatta, Edler, and Jacob Moverare on the left side, although it is possible that Stecher replaces Moverare.
The Reign also made some noise in the trade market, sending Brayden Burke to the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Frederic Allard. With so many defensemen up with the Kings, the Reign were in desperate need of help on the back end and got it with Allard. A career American Hockey League (AHL) player, he brings a solid two-way game, with some offensive upside. He’s produced at just under .5 points per game during his AHL career and isn’t afraid to get physical. Not a flashy trade, like Stecher, he will help the Reign navigate the King’s tricky injury crisis. Burke leaves the Reign after playing just 31 games and spending parts of the season as a healthy scratch. He was acquired last summer and played fine when in the lineup, but was ultimately expendable.
There was also some bookkeeping from the Kings today, sending Quinton Byfield, Rasmus Kupari, Gabe Vilardi, and Jordan Spence all down to the AHL, in what is a simple paper transaction. This allows all four players to maintain their AHL playoff eligibility and Hoven reports that one of Moverare or Strand will likely be sent down as well for the same reason. This is a sensible move from management, as it’s been no secret that the organization wants the Reign to go on a deep run this season.
Speaking of going on a deep run, the Reign have done themselves no favors recently, dropping four straight games. Of course, this comes with the caveat that the team is missing several key players, including Martin Frk, Vilardi, and Spence. Still sitting second in the Pacific Division, they are likely out of the race for first place with the Stockton Heat, but that isn’t the end of the world. The paper transactions made on Monday should mean that the team is able to load up for the playoffs, and I’d still expect them to make a deep run.
Kings Remain Patient at the Deadline
As has been reported by several people recently, the Kings decided to stay very quiet at the trade deadline. Acquiring Stecher and Allard were their only trades, with Lizotte’s re-signing being the other piece of news. This was a smart decision from Blake, as the market had become extremely volatile, and the Kings are not in a place to overpay for players. This also sets them up to make a big splash this summer and I’d expect at least one or two big moves from them at that time.
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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.