The Los Angeles Kings may have all the pieces in place for a bright future, but that’s the thing about the future. It’s in the midst of taking shape every single second. For the Kings, armed with one of the best farm systems in the NHL, could it come as soon as 2020-2021?
If Kings general manager Rob Blake believes so, he could decide to make a move. At the very least, Kings fans and some Kings themselves are hungry for change with a single playoff game victory since they last captured the Stanley Cup in 2014. Which assets would they try to move, though?
Here are their top three trade chips heading into the 2020 offseason:
3. 2020 First-Round Draft Pick
It’s admittedly unlikely that the Kings give up their lottery draft pick, especially if it turns out to be No. 1 overall. However, what if the Kings fall out of the top four or even five and they miss out on the player on whom they had their sights?
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft is admittedly very deep with potential franchise players to be had anywhere in the top 10 at the very least. So, the Kings could of course talk themselves into keeping it regardless. However, as previously mentioned, they already have a prospect pipeline that is the envy of the league. If they’re offered a huge return, it makes sense for Blake to at least consider it and weigh his options.
2. Jeff Carter
Aging forward Jeff Carter won’t fetch nearly as much as a high draft pick at this stage of his career. However, trading him would likely be more about opening up a roster spot than anything else. Whatever you get in exchange would be gravy. Carter is simply no longer worth his deal, which is saying a great deal considering his reasonable $5.27 million cap hit.
To his credit, Carter did score 17 goals in 60 games this past season, which is an uptick compared to the 13 in 76 games he notched the previous season. He also led the team in shots per game with 3.0, which is a sign he still has something to give, but if the Kings are wise they’ll make it so it won’t be with them.
In fact, the only reason the Kings would keep Carter around would be for next summer’s expansion draft. However, if you’re the Kings, would you be willing to chance it? That Carter has a decent season in 2020-21 and ups his value to become attractive to Seattle?
Truth be told, even if Carter does string together some semblance of a decent campaign, he’ll only have one season left on his deal at that point. So, Seattle GM Ron Francis would have to be doubly stupid to take that bait.
In such an instance, Blake would probably have to sweeten the pot for Francis to pull the trigger, right? You have to believe, if Blake were to do that, it would be on the condition that goalie Jonathan Quick, who’s in serious decline, be the one taken instead.
The bottom line is, Carter served his purpose. He was brought in at the 2012 trade deadline, after which the Kings won the Cup. He even helped to a greater degree with a 25-point postseason two years later when they won it all again. He’s an investment that has paid impressive dividends.
The time to sell is now, especially if, as the Kings, you’re resigned to losing him already, so much so that you would be willing to give Seattle something else just to take him off your hands. Better to trade him now, when you can still get at least something for him, instead.
1. Alex Iafallo
What to do, if you’re the Kings, with a player who just set career highs in goals, assists and points? Well, if that player is Alex Iafallo, you at least consider moving him now, when his value is at his highest.
Keep in mind, while Iafallo had a career year, with 17 goals and 26 assists, he also played alongside Anze Kopitar. He also got the most ice time he’s ever had in the process (18:56 per game). Dustin Brown, who’s on the downside of his career, also scored 17 goals, but in 18:24 per game, in four fewer contests.
It’s not a slight to Iafallo or even Brown, just meant to put things in the proper perspective. The Kings have to ask themselves if Iafallo would be on the top line if they had anyone else to fill the same role with more scoring ability. Maybe Adrian Kempe, who can play the same position and has more of a pedigree, could improve on his consistency issues if he’s consistently given top-line ice time. Just a thought.
Under normal circumstances, all logic does dictate you hold on to Iafallo, because he is valuable. As he proved this past season, he can effectively slot in anywhere in the lineup and does so many things right that his point totals aren’t important, even if his 43 points were relatively impressive… but only compared to the rest of the Kings. Compared to other top-line left-wingers, Iafallo falls slightly short in terms of production. That’s just a fact.
The Kings also have to take into account how Iafallo’s slated to become an unrestricted free agent in just a single season. Logic dictates, from Iafallo’s perspective this time, that he should at least get an idea of what he’s worth on the open market. If you were in his position, you’d probably do the same. If you were the Kings, you’d be wise to at least keep an open mind about trading him.
It’s a bit of a catch-22, as Iafallo is just the type of player the Kings need to take that next step and make a playoff run. While the thought of keeping Iafallo in the fold in the hopes of going on a long run is attractive, expectations are such that the Kings won’t be in a position to hit their stride as a legitimate contender until after Iafallo is scheduled to hit free agency.
It comes down to two options for Blake. He can either get out in front of this and try to re-sign Iafallo when his value is objectively at his highest or he consider trading him under those same circumstances as his top trade chip instead. You can be sure if the Kings do trade him, based on what he brings to the table, it will absolutely be worth their while. That’s the whole point.