For the first time since the 2017-18 season, the Los Angeles Kings are in good shape to make the postseason. The team is second in the Pacific Division with a 31-19-7 record and 69 points. This solid performance indicates that LA’s lengthy rebuild has come to a close.
It also means the Kings will be buyers at the trade deadline, unlike the past few seasons when they’ve been sellers. For a team that is in playoff contention for the first time in a while, general manager Rob Blake shouldn’t be under a lot of pressure to make a move — the team is expected to have plenty of playoff runs in the coming seasons. That is not the case, however. Several factors have led to the expectation that Blake will be making at least one big move.
Kings Veterans Need to Win Now
The Kings still have several veterans from the team’s Cup runs in the early 2010s, including Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick. These players have been through the entire rebuilding phase, and they have made it clear they want to win now.
After the Kings missed the playoffs last season for the third consecutive time, Doughty was very vocal about turning things around: “Me and ‘Kopi,’ ‘Quickie,’ ‘Brownie,’ we’re all getting older…We all had, I thought, phenomenal seasons, but we’re running out of time. You’ve got two of the best players at their position, both ways, two of the most complete players at the position. And with all this cap room, yeah, we’ve got to bring guys in. That’s it, for sure. There’s no point just waiting for these prospects to develop when you’ve got guys in their prime, guys that are hungry to win, and guys that are sick of losing. So, yeah, we’ve got to bring guys in.”
Doughty makes a great point about the timing: the veterans don’t just want to win, they need to win now, as their productivity will decrease in the coming seasons. Right now, Kopitar, Doughty, and Brown are still in the top 10 in scoring on the team, so if LA wants to take advantage of their solid play, this is the season to do it.
Offseason Additions Have Set Kings up for Success
Doughty also mentioned that he wanted the Kings to bring in players to help them win. Blake listened to his franchise defenseman and made moves for a couple of players that have been huge contributors this season. He traded for Viktor Arvidsson. He traded a second-round pick at the 2021 NHL Draft and a third-round pick at the 2022 NHL Draft in exchange for the winger, and it has paid off in a big way; Arvidsson is second in team scoring with 18 goals and 20 assists in 50 games.
Blake also signed Phillip Danault to a massive six-year, $33 million contract. Some thought the Kings overpaid for a player who would mainly be contributing his defensive skill. While Danault has shown up as expected, he has also surprised with 16 goals and 17 assists through 55 games — fourth on the team.
These two additions have more than worked out for the Kings this season, and the team needs to capitalize on the great campaigns they are having by adding another piece at the deadline.
Kings Fans Expecting a Blockbuster Deal
After watching several losing seasons, fans are overjoyed about the team in 2021-22. After trading away a lot of LA’s core to initiate the rebuild, they are ready for the team to be the receiver of an elite player in a blockbuster deal; they haven’t been on the receiving end of a big trade in quite some time.
One player that the Kings have been linked to is Jakob Chychrun. The 23-year-old defenseman is exactly what LA has been looking for: he is young, shoots left, and is dynamic offensively. He is having a down season, though, and with an asking price similar to what the Buffalo Sabres were looking for in the Jack Eichel trade, a deal may be difficult for the Kings to pull off.
Whether it’s Chychrun or another big addition, a blockbuster deal should, in theory, not only help the team this season but become part of the long-term core. In other words, the Kings shouldn’t be as interested in a player at the end of his prime whose production might not last much longer.
Kings Have Experience Making Big Moves at the Deadline
Even though the Kings haven’t brought in too many players at the deadline recently, they have made deals to send players out of Los Angeles for prospects and draft picks. They moved Jeff Carter and Alec Martinez for a couple of picks each, traded Tyler Toffoli for a package that included prospect Tyler Madden, and sent Jack Campbell and Kyle Clifford to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for more picks and Trevor Moore.
The Kings need to use their experience to make another big move, but this time to move picks or prospects to get a solid roster player in return.
Zackary Weiner is a high school student from New York City who covers the Los Angeles Kings here at The Hockey Writers. He is a lifelong hockey fan and player, and his previous experience includes writing articles about the NHL for various online publications. His articles cover a wide variety of topics that concern the Kings and he takes into account a range of viewpoints, making his articles a perfect read for anyone who wants to stay up to date on the team. Zackary is more than happy to get into a conversation with fellow Kings fans, so feel free to leave a comment below any of his articles like this one to let him know your opinion and what you want to see next. You can also listen to him talk about the team on Fantasy Hockey Life, The Hockey Writers Live, and Blackhawks Banter.