With the NHL Trade Deadline quickly approaching, we continue to be inundated with questions about what the Kings might be doing, who they’re looking at, which players might move, if they’re done making deals after the trade with Carolina, etc.
We have spent a ton of time on calls, texts, and face to face conversations over the past week, checking in with our sources, to gather all the latest thinking from within the Kings organization.
If you keep up with our prospect information, it should not have come as any real surprise that the Kings were going to do what they could to hold onto Derek Forbort and Colin Miller in their deal for defensive help. Forbort is almost NHL ready and they are in love with the speed and shot of Miller. Even Kings VP Mike Futa went out of his way to praise GM Dean Lombardi for his “masterful job of kind of steering them” toward other kids in the system.
Before we go any further, though, it is important to note one thing… never say never. Another team can always call and knock your socks off with an incredible deal. However, all things being equal, the following represents what Lombardi is working with heading into Monday and the players we have been asked about most.
LIKELIHOOD OF SPECIFIC DEALS
Justin Williams / Jarret Stoll / Robyn Regehr: All three will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Had the Kings not turned things around over the past month, their names would at least be in the discussion. As we shared on NHL Radio earlier today, Williams isn’t going to be offered up as a rental, but if he was, he would clearly be the catch of this year’s Trade Deadline Class. Now, looking ahead – and anything can change (for example, making a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final can create stronger ties of loyalty and cloud judgment on both sides) – Stoll is the most likely to return, albeit at a heavily discounted price. Williams will get a fat paycheck elsewhere, and you can’t begrudge him that; he’s earned it. Lombardi just doesn’t have the cap space to give him a big deal. Regehr could possibly come back on a cheap, one-year deal, but it’s doubtful. Look for Nick Shore to be the third line center next season and the fourth line center spot is Stoll’s if he wants it.
Ruling: None of the three are getting traded, LA is going for the Cup
Mike Richards – Option A: Montreal has been heavily scouting Manchester for quite some time and they are said to be interested in Mike Richards.
What team outside of Toronto has scouted the Manchester Monarchs the most? The Montreal Canadiens. Scout at 5 of 7 last home games #LAKings
— Andy Tonge (@AndyTonge1) February 25, 2015
How will they make it work though? Los Angeles really can’t take a roster player back in return and they can’t really take any extra salary back from Montreal either. One option could be to retain some of Richards’ salary.
It’s never fun trying to explain math, but let’s give it a shot. Richards has a cap hit of $5.75 M, but there is a nearly $1 M savings for sending him to the AHL. Thus, at the moment, he counts (and we’re rounding) $4.75 M towards the cap, even though the actual checks being written are higher. Buying him out this summer comes with its own set of penalties (all the penalty numbers for the next ten years are detailed here). Basically, if they agreed to retain $3 M of his $5.75 M cap hit this season just to get a trade done with Montreal, it would actually save them cap space compared to just leaving him in the minors.
Where retaining some of Richards’ salary can really help is when you consider the salary cap impact in future years vs. a buyout. If they buy him out this summer, the cap hit over the next four years (of the ten years total in penalties) would be $1.22 in 2015-16, then 1.72, 2.72, and 4.22 M. Retaining less than those numbers during those years would be a cap savings compared to buying him out.
What’s the bottom line?
Ruling: Less than 20% likelihood a Richards deal gets done with Montreal
Mike Richards Option B: The other known suitor for Richards’ services are the Toronto Maple Leafs – as we’ve heavily chronicled here (most notably, the 5 Myths about the rumors). Our sources say the Leafs and Kings have discussed at least four different proposals over the past few weeks, and none of them have really moved the needle on conversations. As noted in the past, for this deal to work, Toronto really needs to make it happen, as they have very little to offer Los Angeles that the Kings are interested in.
Ruling: Less than 10% likelihood a Richards deal gets done with Toronto
Final Richards point: Mark this down… Simon Gagne 2012 playoffs. Mike Richards 2015 playoffs.
Andy Andreoff: This has become one of the most puzzling situations in recent memory. Andreoff would seem like the prototypical Darryl Sutter player. Here was our take last month (and not much has changed)…
Andreoff’s confidence is shot. Sutter did same thing to Martinez. Tore him down, rebuilt him. Now he loves 27. History will repeat. #BookIt
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) January 15, 2015
Kings management still likes Andreoff and haven’t indicated that recent contracts for Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan should spell the end of the former’s time in Los Angeles. Circling back to Montreal, they are one of two teams who have been heavily interested in Clifford in recent years. Knowing that he isn’t available, would they make a push for Andreoff? It’s possible. However, we don’t see the Kings being ready to give up on Andreoff for a low level draft pick. Even if his push for a roster spot is delayed until next season, there is still plenty of time for him to earn his stripes.
Ruling: Less than 15% likelihood Andreoff gets moved at the trade deadline
Jordan Nolan: His new contract is a real bargain. Given the Kings potential salary cap issues over the next two season, that makes him a prime target to stay, as they will need inexpensive, proven NHL players to round out their expensive group of top-6 forwards and defensemen. On the other hand, with players in Manchester pushing for roster spots in coming years (i.e. Michael Mersch and Nic Dowd), this is a player who could move before the three years is over. Nolan is a future talking point, not one to be considered at the moment, unless a team really wants to overpay.
Side note – why wouldn’t a team want Nolan? He has a great contract, can chip in with goals, plays a heavy game, has won two Stanley Cups, and is only 25 years old. There is a lot to like.
Ruling: Less than 5% Nolan gets moved at the trade deadline
Brayden McNabb: He is not being squeezed out by the addition of Andrej Sekeara. Ultimately, what this might do is allow him to be slotted in a more comfortable third-pairing role, as he continues his development at the NHL level. It’s not the perfect analogy, yet think of it as a team acquiring a veteran second line winger, which then pushes a 22-year-old kid down to the bottom six. He might work his way back up eventually, but the new situation is more ideal for that winger and allows him some breathing room to grow and mature as a player.
Ruling: Less than 5% McNabb gets moved at the trade deadline
Tanner Pearson: Of course he isn’t getting dealt. As for all this talk about, ‘What if the Kings’ cap problems lead to Pearson or Tyler Toffoli getting an offer sheet from another team?’ – it’s a non-factor. One of two things are going to happen here: a) they both get new deals before July 1, thus are never ‘exposed’ to the potential of another team trying to poach one of them, or b) their deals aren’t done by July 1, but Lombardi matches any offer sheets that come in on Toffoli and/or Pearson. These two players will be in Kings’ uniforms for a long time. How will the Kings be able to sustain their recent success as the current core of the roster ages? Simple, by locking up the next wave of high-end talent. Pearson and Toffoli aren’t going anywhere.
Ruling: 0% Pearson or Toffoli gets moved at the trade deadline
There is something else worth mentioning in all of this trade talk. Full credit should be given to Lombardi’s scouting and development staffs. They have done a phenomenal job the past few years. Skeptics like to note that Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Jonathan Quick were all drafted by Dave Taylor – and that Drew Doughty was a no-brainer pick at the 2008 NHL Draft. However, it’s the current management team that has drafted and developed the second influx of talent into the roster – a list that includes Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez on defense, along with Toffoli, Pearson, and Nick Shore at forward. One of the reasons the Kings haven’t been burned by trading their first round picks in 2011 (Dustin Penner), 2013 (Jeff Carter), and 2015 (Andreij Sekera) is because they haven’t wasted many of their picks in the first two rounds.
If the majority of their early round draft picks ended up flaming out and not turning into legitimate NHL players (whether it’s for the Kings or as an asset traded to another team for an NHL roster player – i.e. the Brayden Schenn trade for Mike Richards), the Kings would be left with the core group Lombardi inherited with nothing coming to replace those veterans as their production dips. Instead, the opposite has taken place. Lombardi’s staff has fully stocked the cupboards with a myriad of options at every position.
The forward group has been coming in waves. First Toffoli and Pearson, then Nick Shore, next up will be Adrian Kempe and Valentin Zykov.
On defense, the next wave is coming a little slower – yet they are coming – and that was the reason for the McNabb deal. They knew they didn’t have any young horses to come in and replace Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell right away. McNabb was the bridge to get to all the guys who will be coming over the next three years – Forbort, Miller, Alex Lintuniemi, etc.
Nobody has kept you more in tune with the Kings prospects than MayorsManor. If you want to know more about their future players, and who they view as the untouchable prospects, we provided all the details in our most recent Top 10 Prospect Rankings.
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