Following the Trade of Jake Muzzin to Toronto last week, the most common question we’ve received is, ‘Who is next and when will it happen?’
Answering the latter part of that is much easier than the former – sometime between now and February 25th, the NHL Trade Deadline. While some Kings fans are clamoring for deals to happen as soon as possible, things are never as easy as they may seem to the outside world. Internally, the Los Angeles brass, led by GM Rob Blake, have earmarked the expected returns for certain players and discussions are well underway with a number of teams. However, the key in any deal is ensuring they get back in return what they need to re-tool quickly. Blake and company are well aware that the decision to deal players who mean so much to the franchise – and helped the organization achieve ultimate success, twice – is not an easy one to swallow, for anybody involved. As tough as it is, the team is really left with no other choice if it plans to once again challenge for the Stanley Cup a few years from now.
With that in mind, here are 10 Tidbits dealing with the first part of our opening question:
• Three players are definitely safe – Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Dustin Brown. Kopitar is the captain of the team and is signed to a longterm deal. Although he doesn’t have protection in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft (see here), he does have a No Movement Clause until then. Doughty is protected essentially forever. He isn’t going anywhere. After a few rocky seasons under coach Darryl Sutter, Brown has all but solidified himself with the organization. As we’ve stated numerous times on twitter, as long as Blake as the GM (and he will be in charge for many years to come), Brown will not be traded.
• Often not discussed in the same breath as the three above, there is one other player the Kings are not likely to move – Kyle Clifford. We’ll put the odds at less than 1% he gets dealt, and even that may be too high of a number. If you need to understand why, simply read this.
• Among the players definitely available are Jeff Carter and Alec Martinez. Although Carter has perhaps tried to control his destiny (by allegedly making comments he may retire if he doesn’t like where he’s traded to), we don’t see that being an issue – as we discussed in detail here. Nashville should have interest and Boston is said to have interest. On the Martinez front, it’s well-known that Tampa was interested at one point (prior to his injury in December). Could they still be? We’ve heard little rumblings of that in recent weeks. The Kings had multiple scouts at a pair of Capitals games over the weekend. We don’t see either of these two players involved in a deal with Washington. The expected return on Martinez is in the neighborhood of two assets, a second round pick and a third round pick (or equivalent prospect). There’s much debate on what a Carter deal would yield, as discussed here. The biggest question of all could be the timing of a deal for Martinez. As we’ve said during several radio interviews over the past few months, we were lead to believe one each of Muzzin/Martinez would be dealt before the trade deadline and the other one wouldn’t be moved until around the draft. If the return is right, though, why wait?
• We took a deep dive on the likely timing of a Jonathan Quick trade here. Let’s add a brief update to this. If the Florida Panthers can somehow pull off a trade with Columbus for goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, don’t be surprised to see the Blue Jackets announce a deal for Quick soon thereafter. From what we understand, preliminary discussions have taken place and the interest is there. There’s a lot of ifs tied to this scenario; however, it makes good sense on many levels. CBJ GM Jarmo Kekalainen has to be coming to grips with the fact he will likely lose his top two free agents this summer. Trading them now could hamper their playoff aspirations. Yet, adding Quick would give them cost certainty in net for a few years (Bob is reportedly looking for Carey Price-type money, which is about $10M per season x eight years) and provide a solid mentor for young Joonas Korpisalo. Bobrovsky is 30 years old, two and a half years younger than Quick – and without anywhere near the playoff success. If Columbus did sign their current netminder to a long-term extension, that would almost surely spell the end of Korpisalo’s time in Ohio. For LA, the most curious part of the deal would be if Blake could get a first rounder next season. The Kings already have two this year. Having another pair next year could be better than having three this year. What are the Kings expecting in return for Quick? We covered that in the ‘deep dive’ article linked in the first sentence of this section.
Just ran into Stanley Cup winning player in hotel here in VAN. Lots of talk about Kings season, naturally. Re: Quick trade scenadio, he said – Still nobody better in a big game than Jonathan Quick. Who cares about regular season stats? Somebody would get THE best playoff goalie.
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) January 2, 2019
• Ilya Kovalchuk may be on the move. As we’ve said since early December, the Kings are happy with him. He’s a pro off the ice. He also signed to be part of a Cup contending team. LA certainly doesn’t fit the bill this season or next. If he moves on, will that impact the Kings ability to sign prospect Nikolai Prokhorkin this summer, Kovalchuk’s St. Petersburg SKA (KHL) teammate? Hmmmmm. If the 35-year-old Russian sniper is dealt soon, look for the Kings to retain about $1.5-2 million of cap space as part of the transaction.
• Will Tyler Toffoli get traded? We say not very likely (maybe less than 20%). And if you missed it, we covered all the reasons why here.
Forbort is too valuable to LA. Right age, right price. Expect Martinez will be moved by 7/1. LaDue is a total wild card at this point. Price is right to keep him… But why keep him if you're not going to play him?
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) January 14, 2019
• Derek Forbort and Trevor Lewis are interesting case studies. Forbort is not likely to get traded, although his value has probably never been higher than right now. Sure, the Kings have a bevy of young defensemen to work into the lineup next season – including Kale Clague, Daniel Brickley, and perhaps even Mikey Anderson in the second half – they would like some experience on the blueline outside of Doughty and Dion Phaneuf (no, he isn’t being bought out this summer). Forbort is also signed to an attractive contract for next season, sitting at 2.5M. If he was going to be moved, we see it in a package. As for Lewis, why trade him right now? When you weigh the return against the leadership, it may be a move better suited for the summer.
• Alex Iafallo and Adrian Kempe are safe. Along with guys like Matt Luff and Austin Wagner, this is some of the young talent management would really like to see take a huge step in their development/growth over the next 12 months.
• Like Lewis, rookie Jonny Brodzinski is on the mend from injury. While we don’t see him leaving in a trade, we do have some updates on his health. Kings management has been extremely impressed with the work he’s put in to return from injury. He’s on the current Kings road trip, traveling and practicing with the team. As we noted a few weeks back, he’ll be headed to AHL Ontario soon for a rehab assignment – tentatively targeted to being on Friday, February 15th.
• Carl Hagelin and Nate Thompson will almost surely be dealt before the February 25th deadline. They’re the type of players who are typically sought after by Cup contenders. Just also keep in mind that Thompson has a 10-team No Trade list, so he’ll have a little say in where he goes. We see it as a longshot Brandon Leipsic is re-signed this summer. We’d put equally long odds on Blake being able to flip him in the next few weeks. If he can, that’s fantastic asset management once again. He’d be taking a guy he plucked off of waivers and turning him into a usable asset for the future. Jack Campbell? Don’t see him moving. He’ll be needed next season.
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