According to TheFourthPeriod.com the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings are talking about a potential trade. Both teams are coming off sub-par years where they underperformed. For the New Jersey Devils it was a case of injuries and the Ilya Kovalchuk signing not producing the desired results. The results was the team missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1995-96 season, and a coaching change. The consolation prize came in the form of #4 overall pick Adam Larsson, who is playing 23 minutes/night as a rookie. For the Kings it was just a case of failed expectations, and Dustin Penner underperforming after his trade from Edmonton. The thinking in the hockey world is that if the Kings underperform again this year there will be major changes, in either player personnel or coaching/management. Both teams are sitting in the middle of their divisions.
The Men in Charge
Lou Lamoriello has been with the New Jersey Devils since 1987, the longest tenure of any team executive. He is considered one of the shrewdest GM’s in the game, and under his watch the Devils have consistently been competitive. He has built three Stanley Cup winning teams, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009 as a builder.
Dean Lombardi was the General Manager of the San Jose Sharks before he began with the LA Kings. From 1995-96 to 2002-03 he worked with the Sharks, and drafted Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart and Ryane Clowe. He worked with the Philadelphia Flyers as a scout until 2006, when he was named the GM of the Kings. He also has a law degree.
Both the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings fully expect to make the playoffs, and go past the first round at that. With a new Head Coach in Peter DeBoer, the Devils may be able to get away with more than the Kings, who need a lengthy playoff run to prevent wholesale changes.
Currently the Kings are 9-6-3 and 2nd in the Pacific Division, and the Devils are 9-7-1 and rank 4th in the Atlantic Division. Both divisions feature very competitive teams.
Numbers This Season
The New Jersey Devils are ranked in the middle of the NHL in both goals for and goals against. They do rank as one of the top penalty-killing teams in the league. Ilya Kovalchuk leads the team in ice time at over 25 minutes per game, and rookie center Adam Henrique has earned ice time from Peter DeBoer.
The Los Angeles Kings are the 8th best defensive team in the league, but ranked 22nd in offense. The Kings are the opposite from the Devils, they rank amongst the league’s best on the powerplay, but are average on the penalty kill.
The New Jersey Devils have two very notable UFA’s this off-season: Center Zach Parise and future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur. While there is little evidence to suggest that Brodeur won’t be back with the franchise for his 19th season, Parise is a different story. There was speculation last year that there was animosity between him and the Devils organization. With the Los Angeles Kings seemingly connected with every big name available, and Parise resigning far from a certainty, there may be reason to suggest that he has been talked about by the two teams. Backup goalie Johan Hedberg is also a free agent, leaving the Devils very thin in the crease next year.
The Devils could be wise to stock up on prospects, and do not have an heir apparent to Martin Brodeur within the system. Their depth on the wings is lacking too.
For the Los Angeles Kings, aside from role players (Ethan Moreau, Colin Fraser, Trent Hunter, Scott Parse) the main free agents at the end of the season are winger Dustin Penner and center Jarret Stoll. Penner, considered a bust in Los Angeles with just 9 points in 33 games with the team since being acquired from Edmonton in March, is currently on the injured reserve. With a strong pipeline of young players and his lack of production and UFA status at the end of the year (and not to mention Dean Lombardi’s frustration with him), it would be very conceivable for the Kings to auction Penner to the highest bidder once he is healthy.
The Kings are also afforded the luxury of depth. Defencemen Thomas Hickey and Derek Forbert, both former first round draft picks, face stiff competition (Jack Johnson, Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Alec Martinez) if they want to establish themselves in Los Angeles. Either of those two could be shipped out in the same way Colten Teubert was last year (to Edmonton as part of the Dustin Penner trade). Meanwhile Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards will be the Kings #1 and 2 centers for the next several years, meaning Andrei Loktionov might not be able to compete for top-6 minutes. And of course there is Jonathan Bernier, who is considered ready to become a 50 game NHL goalie, but is behind Jonathan Quick on the King’s depth chart. With the Devils acking prospect depth and offense, as well as questions about life after Martin Brodeur, there may be a fit here.
The New Jersey Devils have about $3.5 million in cap space, whereas the Los Angeles Kings have just $400 000. In almost any significant deal with the Kings, the opposing team will have to take on salary.
There are a few big names these teams feature that may be moved, with Zach Parise topping that list. Overall the Kings have done an outstanding job in building depth within their organization and as a result can do shopping on the trade market. Players such as Andrei Loktionov, Thomas Hickey, Derek Forbert and Dustin Penner can be dealt with little effect to the parent club. The New Jersey Devils have to be a bit wiser with their assets. Both teams main needs are offense and veteran blueline depth. It would not be surprising if the Devils attempt trade for Dustin Penner, due to his value being at an all-time low and his contract status and numbers from previous years. For the Kings they certainly have the assets to deal for Zach Parise, the question is whether or not Lou Lamoriello will deal his star center. Jonathan Bernier would almost certainly be included in that package. Both teams need to make the playoffs and are in the buying category, and they may be able to help each other out. What do the readers think?
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Salim Valji is based in Edmonton AB, writing about all topics hockey for THW. His work has appeared in the Edmonton Journal, Fox Sports and NHL.com. He is credentialled by the WHL and Hockey Canada and attended the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He will be covering the 2012 IHHF World Junior Hockey Championship for THW.