Building on Thursday’s Draft Preview article, where John Hoven detailed the Kings plans heading into the weekend, let’s now dig a little deeper into the team’s potential search for a young defenseman with NHL experience. While some onlookers will be quick to point out that Los Angeles already has Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel in the system and both look to be knocking on the door after earning their first NHL call-ups this past season, their future outlook with the team is fully outlined here.
As the search for blueline help continues, it’s worth pointing out that the Kings made a similar move in recent years, acquiring Brayden McNabb from the Sabres, after he failed to grab a full-time NHL spot on Buffalo’s roster. The Kings have long believed their development staff is the best in the business. With a tight salary cap and prices for established top defenders being quite high, the Kings are likely thinking it will be easier to try and acquire a young player with at least some NHL experience and let their staff take a crack at helping him grow into a top-four role.
Several players may be good fits in Los Angeles, but the price to pay would be quite high. For example, guys like Brady Skjei, Stephen Johns, Alex Petrovic, and Brian Dumoulin should fall into that category. Even if the Kings are looking, the price to acquire them might be too rich for GM Dean Lombardi’s taste. Keep in mind, this isn’t to say that these four players possess crazy values, simply that their value to their current clubs is high.
With that in mind, here are a few other names to pay attention to in the coming days…
Jake McCabe – Buffalo Sabres
Games Played: 86 G: 4 A: 11 P: 15 PIM: 66 +/-: 3 Shoots: Left
A smooth skating defenseman, McCabe can move the puck, is an intelligent player, and former collegiate teammates with Michael Mersch. After brief tastes of NHL actions over two seasons, McCabe finally found a steady spot in the Sabres’ lineup last season.
Jamie Oleksiak – Dallas Stars
Games Played: 78 G: 1 A: 11 P: 12 PIM: 45 +/-: -13 Shoots: Left
It’s no secret that the Kings’ value players with size, and Oleksiak has plenty of that. A former first-round pick, the 6-foot-7defender has spent parts of four seasons bouncing between the Stars’ AHL and NHL clubs. After yet again failing to secure a full-time spot in the roster for Lindy Ruff’s club, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Stars move on from Oleksiak, and the Kings may be willing to gamble on this reclamation project.
Griffin Reinhart – Edmonton Oilers (pictured above)
Games Played: 37 G: 0 A: 2 P: 2 PIM: 26 +/-: -5 Shoots: Left
The former fourth-overall pick was traded to Edmonton, where he spent his entire junior career, after failing to crack the Islander’s roster. The expectations were that Reinhart would have a better chance at securing an NHL spot on an Oilers squad in desperate need for defenseman. Instead, he spent the year shuttling back-and-forth between Edmonton and Bakersfield. A team desperate to win, the Oilers’ may look to put Reinhart in play, as they continue to try and find players to shore up their blueline.
Tyler Wotherspoon – Calgary Flames
Games Played: 26 G: 0 A: 5 P: 5 PIM: 4 +/-: -6 Shoots: Left
Another player who has yet to take that next step in their development, Wotherspoon looks to have been passed up in the depth chart by other defenders in the Flames’ organization. Wotherspoon doesn’t stand out in any one area, but is a solid two-way defender who could definitely use a change of scenery.
Christian Folin – Minnesota Wild Shoots: Right
Games Played: 67 G: 2 A: 13 P: 15 PIM: 24 +/-: 5
Folin has all the tools to develop into a top four defenseman, but has yet to take a big enough step towards that goal. A smooth skater with a good shot, Folin split his time between the NHL and AHL, while also missing some time due to injury. As an undrafted free agent, Folin was free to sign anywhere he’d like out of college, and the Kings were in the mix before Folin opted to head to Minnesota. Per Michael Russo, the Kings’ once again expressed interest recently in the young Swede.
Mark Pysyk – Buffalo Sabres Shoots: Right
Games Played: 125 G: 5 A: 21 P: 26 PIM: 55 +/-: -15
Unlike most players on this list, Pysyk spent a majority of the past season playing with his respective NHL club. A former first-round pick, Pysyk is a versatile defender who has constantly improving. If you’re looking for a similar player style-wise, think of Tampa Bay’s Anton Stralman.
UPDATE, JUNE 24 at 11:45am:
Sources have confirmed to MayorsManor, the Kings and Devils have had talks about a possible trade for a young defenseman. Perhaps they are looking at Adam Larsson (right shot). He was a first round pick in 2011 and has already played 274 NHL games. He also signed a six-year contract extension last season with an average cap hit of $4.167M per year. Thus, he wouldn’t come cheaply and is probably well out of reach given the assets Los Angeles has to play with at the moment. More likely, talks have centered on Jon Merrill (left shot) or Damon Severson (right shot). New Jersey drafted the former in the second round at the 2010 NHL Draft and he has played 165 NHL games over the past three seasons. Merrill is coming off his Entry Level Contract this summer. Meanwhile, Severson was originally selected in the second round of the 2012 Draft and has played 123 games. He is signed for one more year, with a cap hit of $888K for the 2016-17 season.
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