Kings’ Quiet Deadline Sets Team Up for Future Success

The Los Angeles Kings remained relatively quiet on Monday, with only three trades coming before the deadline. Troy Stecher, Frederic Allard, and Nelson Nogier were all brought in, adding depth to the blue line which will help the team get through their recent injury crisis. These weren’t the big moves some fans were hoping for, but the team did not need to make those moves. Not an exciting deadline, it was still a good one for the Kings, as general manager Rob Blake continued to trust his process. The team not only helped themselves this season but made offseason moves more realistic as well.

The Moves That Were Made

Stecher was the only player added to the NHL roster before Monday, and while he is far from a superstar, he will still provide value for the team. Over the last few days, the team gave an update on the timeline for injured players, and after that update, this move made a lot of sense.

Matt Roy is expected to start skating again at the end of this week, but there is no word on his return, and Drew Doughty is expected to miss significant time, perhaps the rest of this season. So, the Kings will be missing their top two right-shot defensemen for at least another week and will be without Doughty for possibly the remainder of the season. With that in mind, adding a defenseman with over 300 games played, and previous experience with Alex Edler was a smart decision. Stecher can replace Strand in the lineup for now and can replace Jordan Spence once Roy returns, allowing Spence to make an American Hockey League (AHL) return where he can continue to develop.

Drew Doughty Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Adding Nogier and Allard won’t affect the NHL roster, but it was smart business for the organization overall. With so many defensemen up with the Kings, the Ontario Reign was in desperate need of help on the back end, and they got it with Allard and Nogier. Nogier was a swap for Markus Phillips so they didn’t add an extra defenseman, but they added another right-shot defenseman and someone with a bit more AHL experience. The organization wants to see the Reign make a deep playoff run, giving the young players down there a good taste of professional playoff hockey, and these moves help that goal. These were boring, but intelligent moves.

The Moves That Weren’t Made

There were two moves that the Kings were rumored to be interested in. The first was a blockbuster move for Jakob Chychrun which has been rumored for months now. The team did not get that deal done, and it sounds like there were never any advanced talks to make it happen. Arizona Coyotes reporter Craig Morgan confirmed that general manager Bill Armstrong felt the “pieces weren’t there” to move Chychrun.

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It’s easy to see why no one matched the Coyotes valuation, as three first-round picks and a prospect is an insane haul that any team would be reluctant to trade. The Kings will almost certainly revisit this deal in the summer after the price hopefully goes down. There’s no harm in waiting, as getting Chychrun now versus in the summer doesn’t change much for the team. Perhaps Chychrun makes it clear he doesn’t want to start the prime of his career in a college arena and the Kings can capitalize, or they’ll have to look elsewhere to grab the long-awaited left-shot defensemen.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The other rumored move was one for Vancouver Canucks forward Conor Garland. This was a move I’ve been against since the start and I’m glad it didn’t happen. That isn’t a knock on Garland as a player, he simply isn’t what the Kings need. He wouldn’t be a big enough upgrade on what the team already has and his contract isn’t great for a team looking to make some big adds this summer. He doesn’t change this team’s trajectory and there will be better options available this summer. I would much rather see the team use the assets that would have been involved in this trade for bigger moves. It was a smart move pivoting away from this deal, as adding Garland would have been trading for the sake of trading, which is never a good idea.

Sets the Kings up for a Huge Summer

The biggest reason I’m happy with the lack of movement from Blake at the deadline is that it sets the team up to be a major player during the offseason. The Chychrun deal is an obvious one to try and make happen, but there’s also interest in adding a top-six winger to the mix. The Kings have been the worst finishing team in the league all season and have one of the league’s worst power plays. Adding some star power at wing could help fix both of those problems if they get the right player in.

The name most fans are begging for is Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg, I have serious doubts that he ever becomes available, but he is the profile of a player the team should be looking at. Another interesting name is Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat, who found himself in some trade rumors around the deadline. Like Forsberg, I have doubts that he will be available, as he’s a player you rebuild around, not one you trade. However, I would have said the same thing about Chychrun 12 months ago and here we are.

Alex DeBrincat Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Regardless of if these players are available, these are the names the Kings should be targeting this summer. They have built up an incredible prospect pool and now have more prospects than roster spots, so now is the time to move prospects. Yes, it would suck seeing someone like Gabe Vilardi, Alex Turcotte, or Rasmus Kupari be traded, as they’re all players I’m confident will become good NHL players, but if you’re adding an established star it’s worth it. This will be a difficult summer for Blake, who will have to make some tough decisions that will make or break the team’s future, but he’s done well in the trade market throughout his tenure as general manager and I’m confident he’ll make the right move.

One thing I’m interested in heading into the summer is the possibility of trading a current roster player. If the team truly wants to make a big splash in the market, they might need to free up cap space to make something happen. The team won’t have as much cap space as many think, so bringing in a Forsberg or DeBrincat would be impossible with their projected space.

If the Kings decide to free up space, I would imagine it either comes from, trading Adrian Kempe’s restricted free agent rights, as the Buffalo Sabres did with Sam Reinhart last summer or trading Alex Iafallo. Trading either of these two would free up the necessary cap space needed, and they would fetch a solid return. Far from a guarantee, and possibly unrealistic, making blockbuster trades can force difficult decisions, and Kempe or Iafallo could be a casualty of this.

Cooler Heads Prevail

Blake has been one of the more conservative general managers league-wide since taking over for Dean Lombardi in 2017. He stayed true to his nature at the deadline and remained his conservative self. This will always bring criticism from some, but it was the right move for the Kings, as they’ve set themselves up for future success once again.

Since starting the rebuild, Blake has put a lot of faith in his process and he’s continuing to do so. The success or failure of this deadline will likely be determined by what moves he makes during the offseason and if he gets those right, remaining patient now will have been an amazing decision. There wasn’t a realistic move that would have changed the King’s plans for this season, so waiting until the summer for big moves makes sense, where they can decide how all-in they want to go with the core of Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Jonathan Quick all around.

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