As the Kings proceed through a season long five game road trip, the trade deadline relentlessly approaches. Each passing day delivers an additional degree of intensified discussion concerning the potential for various teams to engage in deals. LA has certainly become one of the most recurrent franchises mentioned for a variety of reasons. The team has performed with enough proficiency to thrust itself into position toward attaining a second consecutive Stanley Cup. But they must continue accumulating points on a steady basis, in order to maintain their position in the ultra competitive west.
The Western Conference Remains Unsettled
LA currently resides in sixth place in their conference, nestled exactly two points below fourth, and several points above seventh. While they are second in the Pacific Division, Anaheim is exactly 10 points ahead of the Kings, making it doubtful that LA can capture the division. Therefore, their attainable goal should be the accumulation of enough points to qualify for the playoffs. However, their status as a postseason participant is still in doubt, since a grand total of ten teams have amassed anywhere between 40 and 30 points.
There are some less fortunate teams in each conference that currently lag behind their competitors, and are now confronting the reality that postseason participation is highly unlikely. And in the midst of that acknowledgment, they must determine whether or not their most effective response is to initiate the process of renovating their rosters. With the trade deadline becoming increasingly imminent, the opportunity to begin that process now contains legitimate appeal.
Perhaps the foremost candidate for such a thorough overhaul is currently the Flames, which has been well-chronicled. It appears that the franchise will miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, and could now initiate the process of reconstruction. And as that scenario continues to generate a massive degree of discussion, one potential trade partner that frequently emerges has been the Kings.
The possibility of blending one additional player into the overall mix of talent creates an enticing image for fans, and a somewhat complex state of affairs for GM Dean Lombardi. Even though the Kings are in a favorable position for Lombardi to execute a trade with Calgary or a number of other teams, it does not necessarily mean that he will do so. Or even that he should.
Adding Another Scorer
The concept of attaining another goal scorer often carries appeal, and this situation is no exception. But the Kings have not encountered consistent difficulty in their attempts to place the puck into the net. LA has accumulated 92 goals, which is the NHL’s ninth highest total, and their goals per game average of 2.88 has been exceeded by only six teams. They are tied for second with an impressive +14, and their power play is 12th with percentage of 19. While Jeff Carter had been dominating the goal scoring earlier this season, a group of teammates have recently contributed with far greater frequency. Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have both reached double figures in goals, while Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll now have seven goals. Plus, Tyler Toffoli has also demonstrated his scoring touch since his recent call-up, scoring twice in his first four contests.
Securing Another Defenseman
It seems more reasonable for the Kings to bolster their efforts along the blue line, by acquiring a tough but stable defender to strengthen a unit that remains impacted by injuries. Matt Greene (back), and Willie Mitchell (knee) remain unavailable, and it is wise not to count upon their return. Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov and Rob Scuderi have performed favorably, and rookie Jake Muzzin has improved considerably during his on the job training. Even Keaton Ellerby, who was acquired from the Panthers on 2/8 has solidified his performance in recent weeks. But in order for the Kings to smother their opponents to the same degree that they did throughout the 2012 postseason, another defender would be beneficial.
The Persistent Iginla Rumor
The Flame most often mentioned in prospective trades conversation is 15-year veteran Jarome Iginla, which you are assuredly aware of. Since being acquired from Dallas in 1995, the 35-year old Iginla has performed in over 1,200 games with Calgary, while serving as the team’s captain since the 2003-2004 season. But even though he has served as the consummate face of their franchise, this could be an ideal time for G.M. Jay Feaster to move him. First, because a well executed negotiation process that included more than one ambitious bidder could accelerate the Flame’s rebuilding process. Plus, it would eliminate any concerns regarding Iginla’s impending status as an unrestricted free agent following the season. However, that fact could just as easily develop into a deterrent toward consummating a deal. Because the Kings quite possibly could prefer to avoid paying Feaster and the Flames a hefty price, in exchange for the ability to merely rent Iginla in the extreme short-term. Lombardi already will have a conga line of free agents on his roster, and might not want to test next season’s reduced cap ($64.3) even further, by attempting to extend Iginla’s contract.
Still, he can supply a scoring presence, along with the desirable combination of experience and leadership. Which could prove to be the ideal recipe for a genuine Stanley Cup contender that needs an injection of those attributes. Iginla has reportedly supplied Calgary with an abbreviated list of acceptable trade partners, and the Kings happen to be among the teams that reside within that group. It should be noted that several of his teammates such as Mike Cammalleri and Jay Bouwmeester are also possibilities, and would not be nearly as costly to the Kings.
Can They Afford To Deal Bernier?
It might be easy to conclude that Jonathan Bernier should be presented as potential compensation, and he is arguably the most enticing performer that the Kings could offer in a deal. But can they truly afford to jettison such an effective performer with this season’s most significant contests yet to be played? As mentioned in my previous article regarding the Kings, he has been stellar throughout the season: https://thehockeywriters.com/darryl-sutter-coaching-tactics/
Bernier exhibits a calm demeanor, and has consistently minimized rebound opportunities for LA’s opponents. Plus, he has often been a stabilizing force for the Kings. Especially when the team has desperately needed a strong performance between the pipes to establish positive momentum during this condensed season. His 1.94 GAA is the NHL’s fourth best among goalies with at least 10 appearances, as is his .923 Sv%. He still has allowed just one goal in six separate contests, which remarkably ties him for fifth among all goalies in that category. Plus, his strong performances have helped guide the Kings to victories following losses by Jonathan Quick.
And Quick’s inability to prevent goals with anything remotely resembling his effectiveness during 2012 is really the critical issue. Otherwise, Bernier would be more expendable. Last season’s Conn Smyth Trophy winner has been inserted between the pipes in 25 contests, and his numbers still have do not compare favorably to those that he attained last season. 51 goaltenders who have appeared in at least five games this season, have manufactured a higher Sv% than his unattractive .895. And 26 have a better GAA than his 2.54. Quick also leads the NHL in a dubious category, by generating nine games with a -.850 Sv%. Any frequent viewer of the Kings’ contests this season, has witnessed pucks getting beyond Quick, that would have been stopped last year. With just 16 regular season contests remaining to somehow resurrect the exceptional level of play that he exhibited last season, there is certainly no guarantee that Quick will be able to achieve that. All of which makes it apparent that the Kings’ chances of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions are enhanced if they keep Bernier.
Should The Kings Make A Deal?
So now that you have absorbed the all-encompassing collection of facts and conjecture, what appears to be the most effective plan for Lombardi to embrace? Should he engage in a trade on or before April 3? It is easy to construct an argument that the team should enhance their roster by executing a deal. But if it means moving Bernier, then no. Because pursuit of another Cup should be the team’s primary goal, and he could easily be needed in order to accomplishment. If it requires a first round draft pick and not Bernier, then possibly. Although the player that the Kings received would need to be a proven difference maker, preferably a formidable force defensively. What is most likely, would be a trade for a steady defenseman, that costs LA a position player or a third or fourth round draft pick. Since the days are passing quickly, we will all witness what transpires very soon.
Phil Clark has been an avid fan of the NHL since childhood, and has channeled
that passion toward writing about his beloved LA Kings for The Hockey Writers.
Phil also writes about the NFL for The Fantasy Knuckleheads.