As the dust settles on the Kings big trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, some fans have suggested they would have liked the trade better if GM Rob Blake acquired some more NHL ready / proven players. Let’s address this in two ways.
First, go back to early December, when we laid out the expected return for Muzzin. If the Kings were looking for two assets — a first round pick and a second round pick (or equivalent prospect) — in said deal, they actually brought in a larger return. Combine that thought with a question we’ve heard a few times, ‘Why do a deal now, instead of waiting until closer to the Trade Deadline (where prices are theoretically higher)?’ and you have the answer. When you’re getting what you want, or even potentially more than expected, you do the deal. There is no reason to wait.
Second, on the prospects coming back, there is likely more than just the ‘age distribution’ discussion in play. With a 21-year-old forward playing in the AHL and an 20-year-old OHL defenseman, the Kings picked up one player they will need to protect in the 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft and one that is exempt. In a big picture sense, you want more of the latter and fewer of the former. Let us explain…
For the most part, it should be fairly easy to understand the rules of the Expansion Draft. If you’re a pro player in North America this season (AHL or NHL), you need to be protected. On the flip side, if you are a junior, college, or European player this season, you do not need to be protected (read: exempt).
Only read this paragraph if you’re really into the hardcore details (otherwise, skip ahead) – There are a few players/situations that require clarification. For example, Max Comtios played 10 NHL games for the Anaheim Ducks this season and was then returned to the QMJHL. He burned a year off of his Entry Level contract by playing that 10th NHL game, but he is still exempt from the Seattle Expansion Draft because he didn’t play an 11th game. Sound a tad confusing? It can be. Hence, just stick with the easy rules described in the paragraph above for a general discussion.
It’s already been announced that the 2021 Expansion Draft will be conducted under the same rules used by the Vegas Golden Knights; meaning, NHL clubs will have the option of (A) protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie or (B) or eight skaters – regardless of forward or defense – and one goalie.
Let’s put the goalie discussion to the side for the moment, as that’s a whole other can of worms. Focusing on just the forwards and defensemen, here is a rough look at what the Kings might be working with:
Current NHL Players requiring protection: [forwards] Jonny Brodzinski, Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford, Alex Iafallo, Adrian Kempe, Anze Kopitar, Matt Luff, Tyler Toffoli, [defensemen] Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort, etc.
Current AHL Players requiring protection: [forwards] Mike Amadio, Mikey Eyssimont, Carl Grundstrom, Sheldon Rempal, Austin Wagner, [defensemen] Daniel Brickley, Kale Clague, Matt Roy, Sean Walker, etc.
List of exempt players includes names such as: [forwards] Jaret-Anderson Dolan, Rasmus Kupari, Akil Thomas, Gabe Vilardi, [defensemen] Mikey Anderson, Sean Durzi, Cole Hults, Markus Phillips, etc.
Ilya Kovalchuk and Dion Phaneuf have contracts expiring in 2021, so they won’t require protection.
Factor in that Doughty has a No Movement Clause; he must be protected. Thus, this automatically limits how the Kings put their protected list together, as one spot is already spoken for.
Now assume the Kings go with protecting eight skaters, regardless of position. Take it a step further and assume Brown and Clifford would not be protected. Also, assume Forbort signs a contract extension before then. Which eight players would the Kings chose to exclude from the Expansion Draft?
Pick any eight skaters from this list – Brodzinski, Iafallo, Kempe, Kopitar, Luff, Toffoli, Forbort, Doughty (remember, he has to be protected), Amadio, Grundstrom, Rempal, Wagner, Brickley, Clague, Roy, and Walker.
Which eight players you end up with is not important to this exercise, rather focus on the fact you’ll have another eight players left over that you’d have to make available in the draft.
Somebody is probably reading this thinking, ‘Yeah, but not all of those young players are going to be worth protecting in 2021, so you won’t actually have to worry about all the guys remaining.’
Fine. Let’s drop three players from the group. It’s still a difficult exercise.
Then, add in a few NHL/AHL players the Kings acquire via trade or free agency between now and then and you’re right back to square one – a list of roughly 15 players you need to whittle down to eight. The more ‘almost ready’ prospects they add to the organization (read: AHL players or even guys with a small amount of NHL experience), the more difficult the decisions will be in 2021.
Muzzin being dealt to Toronto was the first of several Kings trades to come in advance of the February 25 deadline. In any of those deals, adding exempt players has an additional benefit beyond just the normal age distribution needed to fill out a roster for next season, the season after that, and any future years beyond.
Finally, we leave you with this gem from twitter yesterday…
Kings working plan:
– Top 5 pick this year
– Top 5 pick next year
– Return to playoffs in 2020-21
Thus, don't expect them to be in on any big name free agents this summer. If they bring in any UFA vets, think bridge players for a year or two. Can't go with an all rookie lineup. https://t.co/egaD9CwPxU
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) January 29, 2019
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