In less than two weeks, most fans will turn their attention back to the action on the ice. For now, it seems all everybody wants to talk about are trade rumors. Who’s leaving, who’s staying, what would it cost to get this guy or that guy?
Here’s a quick recap of the five things in play for the Kings at the moment:
- One of the most valuable assets the Kings have to bargain with is Jonathan Bernier. He’s a young goalie, former first round pick and (in limited action) appears to be everything you can build a franchise around. However, trading him away is also one of the riskiest moves GM Dean Lombardi can make. Jonathan Quick is an unrestricted free agent next summer (July 2013) and he’s an east coast guy. Would he rather play for a team closer to home? Also, his career numbers are almost identical to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne – who recently signed a seven year deal for $7-million per. Can the Kings afford to pay him that much? Trading Bernier now increases Quick’s leverage in negotiations down the road and exposes the Kings if he was to walk away in a year. Even so, as risky as it is, he’s likely moving if Lombardi can land a sniper in a return. Any deal like that though would need to include other players because, with as talented as Bernier may be, he’s still only played 43 games in the NHL. And you’re not getting a top line forward straight up for a guy with ‘potential.’
- If Bernier was to leave in a trade, expect the Kings to get a veteran back-up in return (either via that same deal or a separate one). It’s highly unlikely you’ll see either Manchester goalie as Quick’s understudy come playoff time.
- Indications are Willie Mitchell is set to sign a contract extension real soon. This is good news for a Kings defensive core that has been one of the best in the NHL over the last few seasons. Signed in the summer of 2010, Mitchell is set to be an unrestricted free agent in July if a deal can’t be worked out. Retaining him makes the Kings ‘D’ a solid position of strength and increases the likelihood one of their young blueliners will be traded – either before the deadline on February 27th or over the summer.
- Jack Johnson. You can’t talk about who has been the best defensemen for the Kings this season and not mention his name in the discussion. He continues to improve his game and he just turned 25-years old. Most defensemen mature around 25-26. People tend to forget how young he is because he’s been in the league for five seasons. What makes Johnson a candidate to move more than anything else is his contract. He’s locked up long-term to a very favorable deal. It’s not that the Kings want to get rid of him. It’s that they may have to move him to get a high-end offensive player.
- Continuing with that theme, never forget that fans tend to overvalue their own players. Everybody may love Kyle Clifford, but he’s not getting you Zach Parise in return. A package of Trevor Lewis, Colin Fraser and Alec Martinez isn’t going to get you Jarome Iginla. That’s not a knock on any of those Kings’ players. Everybody inside a locker room plays a role. However, if you want a top-six forward in return, you’re usually going to be dealing a front line defenseman, a top-six forward or a package of draft picks/prospects the other way. The Kings don’t have many draft picks to offer at the moment, as they’re without a second and third this year – which means they’ll probably want to hold onto their first rounder. On the prospect side, Tyler Toffoli (LA’s second round pick in 2010) is highly unlikely to be moved. The Kings need at least one, if not two forwards, so moving somebody like Dustin Brown just creates another hole.
Add all of those factors up and you can start to see what it isn’t as easy to make deals as one might hope. This isn’t NHL 12 on XBOX. Lombardi can’t go out and just pick up every $7-million player that he wants. There are salary cap issues to consider as well as line-up cards to fill out every game. Robbing from Peter to pay Paul is a circular exercise.
To top it all off, the trade market is extremely thin this year – with way more buyers than sellers. So, with not enough players to go around, the few that are available will probably cost you more than they’re worth because so many teams are bidding on them.
Do the Kings want Nash? Of course they do! But, they aren’t getting him for what’s being floated around the internet. Not even close. Sources told us last month the Blue Jackets were looking at Brown, Johnson, Bernier and a pick/prospect. That’s way too rich – even for an elite player like Nash.
So, the most likely scenario has LA picking up one or two depth forwards at the deadline and having to wait until the summer to make a major move.
Last year’s trade deadline article – what did the Kings need and what could they give up?