Despite the Kings acquiring Brendan Lemieux and Christian Wolanin over the past few days, neither trade would speak to the larger impact GM Rob Blake is believed to be cooking up. From what we’ve gathered, the Hall of Famer has a handful of potential ideas in motion — nothing imminent, still in the talking and planning stages — with at least one of them likely as early as the April 12th trade deadline.
As we first reported on Kings Of The Podcast last month (and has since been picked up by the national media), Blake & Co. are looking for an offensive-minded, left shot defenseman.
What team doesn’t want that, right? Sure, but not every team has the deep assets of the LA Kings. They have plenty of young prospects and cap space to play with, a rare combination among the majority of NHL teams. Part of the challenge becomes the timing of said trade. There are names LA could consider — for example, Jaccob Slavin in Carolina — yet they can immediately be tabled until after the season because a contending team isn’t likely to trade a top-4 defenseman during the season. That’s a summer move. And with Carolina rumored to be in some Expansion Draft trouble, this could be a situation to keep an eye on after the playoffs are over.
LA did look at the Blues’ Vince Dunn late in 2020. However, we believe that deal ultimately didn’t go anywhere because the price was considered too high for a player who would most likely only be slotted on the top-pair for a few seasons. The Kings are believed to be thinking more long-term than what it does for them in just 2021. Could they circle back to St. Louis? Sure, yet the price would need to come down to really interest the Kings.
And that’s not a knock on Dunn. He checks many of the boxes for LA. Value for a player is constructed upon what another team is willing to pay for him. Dunn is perhaps more valuable to another team than he would be in So Cal.
We know Kings fans love their Blue Jackets trades (and, no, the jokes and tweets still aren’t funny), so we’ll give you two names. Yes, they’d be interested if and when Columbus decides to move Zach Werenski. No, we don’t see the Kings viewing his teammate, Vladislav Gavrikov, as an ideal target.
Unfortunately, the Rangers aren’t likely to move K’Andre Miller. Either way, he’s probably not suited for a top pairing, so it becomes a bit of a moot point.
How about Noah Hanifin? Now, if Calgary was ever serious about listening to offers, consider the Kings one of the teams very interested in putting together a compelling offer for Flames GM Brad Treliving to consider. The 24-year-old blueliner fills just about every box for the Kings.
Which brings us to the Flyers.
Earlier today, Philadelphia put Shayne Gostisbehere on waivers.
Adding players without giving up assets in return can be very beneficial. However, not this time. Although only 27 years old, the 5-foot-11 rearguard has seen his game regress substantially in recent years. A member of Team North America (the Under-23 stars of the future) at 2016’s World Cup of Hockey, Ghost has had a rough couple of years defensively and we don’t see there being much of a match for LA. Plus, he comes with two more seasons on his contract after this one, at $4.5M AAV, so a waiver gamble could quickly turn into a costly mistake.
Where the Kings could be looking is a few stalls down in the Flyers dressing room.
Enter, Travis Sanheim.
He just turned 25 (literally, yesterday), stands 6-foot-3 and has played 233 NHL games. That’s a large enough sample size for teams to know who he is, yet small enough there’s still plenty of tread on the tires. Remember, the Kings are looking at a player who can impact the team for five years – read: somebody who is still productive in a few years when the Kings should be considered legit Cup contenders (should things work out according to plan).
Sanheim was selected by Philadelphia in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft. What’s notable there is he won’t come cheap (not as pricy as say Rasmus Dahlin, yet still not enough to break the bank) and — perhaps more importantly — he was taken at a time when Ron Hextall was still the Flyers GM. It’s not uncommon for the new regime to have less emotional attachment to players selected by their predecessor. Even so, it goes far beyond this. Hextall came up through the ranks with LA’s Mark Yannetti under Dean Lombardi. In many ways, they are of a similar mindset when it comes to player characteristics. Additionally, Blake leaned upon Hextall in recent years as a sounding board in LA, via a consulting arrangement. No doubt, one of the players they discussed was Sanheim, so the Kings should have plenty of insight on the player.
Coming off of his ELC in the summer of 2019, Sanheim signed a two-year bridge deal with a $3.25M AAV. Already in cap hell, the Flyers should be concerned with the idea of having to sign him long-term this summer.
Size, skating ability, range, speed, defending instincts, and offensive output.
While only scoring 29 points for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen in 2013-14, many saw him as more of a defensive oriented blueliner heading into the NHL Draft that year. Hextall and his group of scouts clearly saw something else – and they were right. In the two years that followed, Sanheim was one of the most productive offensive defensemen in all of junior hockey. His first season in the AHL saw him finish fourth in goals (10) and sixth in assists (27) among rookie defensemen.
In 2018-19, Sanheim’s first full year in the NHL, he finished with 9 goals, the same as Dahlin, Seth Jones, and Jake Muzzin. His 26 assists were what Hanifin and Tampa Bay’s Mikhail Sergachev were doing that season.
His 8 goals in the shortened 2019-20 campaign last year tied the output of rookie standout
Quinn Hughes and Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm.
For the analytics crowd, Sanheim is typically better than Hughes at even strength, where the latter derives more of his offense on the power play. Compared to Sergachev, Sanheim’s underlying numbers reveal him to be a better defensive player. This balanced approach would theoretically be very appealing to Blake.
‘Sanheim to the Kings’ could be something to keep an eye on.
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