There’s still a little more than five weeks to go before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline arrives on March 21. That won’t stop a myriad of chatter going on around the league, and for the first time in a quite a while, the Kings are expected to be buyers, not sellers.
Before jumping into any conversation centered around potential roster moves LA GM Rob Blake may be looking to make, it’s important to begin with a clear understanding of the plan they’re working with first and foremost.
For example, if you think they should trade Drew Doughty to Toronto, that isn’t happening. Thus, the starting point for this should be our original report from February 2021 – which was later picked up by other media outlets – that the Kings next big move is likely to be a left shot defenseman who is around 25 years old.
While several names have been thrown around in the 12 months since that initial report, all eyes are now staring at Arizona Coyotes blueliner Jakob Chychrun.
If Jakob Chychrun really does become available (and I'm not saying he is at the moment, relax – as thus far, Coyotes have refused to entertain offers, and understandably so).
If… big IF…something opens up there, that's a game changer. He's the guy Kings need to go all in on.
— The Mayor | Team MM (@mayorNHL) December 11, 2021
Once thought to be untouchable, that sentiment has apparently changed in recent months. So, now what?
More specifically, exactly what would it cost to acquire the 23-year-old former first round pick from Arizona? And should the Kings entertain such an idea – or should they be looking elsewhere?
To glance at Chychrun’s stats in a vacuum would likely turn off a casual observer. He has two goals in 37 games this season. His minus-27 rating is horrific. Even beyond that, he’s only been a plus-player twice over his nearly six seasons in the league; with a career-best rating of plus-4 a few years ago.
There’s a reason Arizona selected him in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. He’s an elite skater, plays with poise in the defensive zone, isn’t afraid to use his body to gain an advantage, has great vision, an above-average shot, and is more than comfortable with the puck on his stick at all times.
If that’s not enough, his father, Jeff, played for the Kings and Flyers. That’s usually enough to seal any deal here in Los Angeles.
Setting the last joke there aside, there is still more to the story.
Along with his size and speed, Chychrun has three more years remaining on a contract that carries an AAV of $4.6 million. That type of cost certainty for a player on the rise is exactly what the Kings will need as they continue to rework their roster in hopes of finding another Stanley Cup victory in the years ahead.
Chychrun won’t come cheap, though.
As we reported last month, we’re hearing the Coyotes are looking for four assets in exchange for the young defenseman. When Elliotte Friedman recently commented that the Kings were ‘out’ on Chychrun, it raised a few eyebrows.
Let’s provide some additional context based upon our sources.
It’s all in the semantics. Yes, the Kings are out on Chychrun… if the deal has to include Brandt Clarke.
Currently, the Kings possess one of the deepest prospect pools in the entire NHL. While openly acknowledging they will be looking to trade some of these assets for NHL-ready talent when the timing is right – for now, they’re refusing to part with two prospects in any such deals, Clarke and Quinton Byfield.
Again, some context helps here. Since opting for #ReCreateLA (i.e. a re-tool, rebuild, re-set, etc.) in December 2018, Kings GM Rob Blake and Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Yannetti have done exactly what they set out to do… stockpile the system with centers and right shot defenseman.
Several times over the past two years, we’ve commented on Kings Of The Podcast that the organization now actually has too many prospects and they’ll need to thin the herd sooner, rather than later. This was even a concept discussed heading into last summer’s Draft, where the Kings opted to go for quality over quantity.
BTW – If you’ve never listened to Yannetti on Kings Of The Podcast, his two most recent appearances are a must-listen for any Kings fan. They are a true master classes in understanding scouting, drafting, and building a prospect pipeline. You’ll learn more than you could possibly ever imagine.
Even prior to selecting Clarke last July, the Kings had three right-shot defensemen among their Top 10 prospects. Plus they had others on the Honorable Mentions list, like Sean Durzi.
Doughty is expected to be in LA for at least five more seasons and Matt Roy is signed for two more years behind this season. Now, factor in Durzi and Sean Walker. That’s four right shot defensemen. As we’ve noted of late, Clarke is expected to be up with the Kings next season – he’s not eligible for the AHL, so it’s either NHL or OHL. And with Brock Faber expected to turn pro in a few months, throw another log on the fire. Sure, Faber will likely start in the AHL next season, but he should be knocking on the Kings door in less than a year’s time.
We also haven’t even touched on Helge Grans and Jordan Spence, who both look plenty legit in their first year of pro hockey with the Ontario Reign.
Needless to say, it’s a bit crowded on the right side.
Things are a bit thin on the other side of the LA blueline, with Tobias Bjornfot and Mikey Anderson – both already in the NHL – along with recently drafted Kirill Kirsanov as the three brightest lights among the batch of younger left shots in the Kings system.
So, what would a deal look like to acquire Chychrun?
One of the true beauties of social media is the ability to quickly and easily connect with hockey fans. Conversely, the flip side of that can be some of the crazy stuff we see. For example, LA can’t simply trade Blake Lizotte, Carl Grundstrom, Lias Andersson, Adrian Kempe, and Sean Durzi for Chychrun – that’s not how it works. Sure, it’s a five-for-one package… heck, throw in a first round draft pick, make it six-for-one… That’s still not enough to get the deal done.
From what we’ve been hearing. the deal would essentially need to be two draft picks and two prospects. How that puzzle is pieced together will determine the composition of the deal. For example, if it’s two first round draft picks, the package could likely be rounded out with an A-level and B-level prospect. To do it differently, a pair of A-level prospects could be grouped with a first and second round pick.
For example, if the Kings were willing to package Clarke, Alex Turcotte, a first round pick and a second round pick, it is believed Arizona would accept that deal.
Given LA’s preference to not include Clarke, the scope begins to change.
Turcotte, Vilardi, a first, and a second? Not enough.
Turcotte, Vilardi, and two firsts? Possible.
Turcotte, Bjornfot, and two firsts? Acceptable.
On one hand, the idea of even trading Turcotte OR Vilardi seems a bit crazy considering the Kings offensive challenges. Turcotte continues to be sneaky good in Ontario. He’s showing why he was taken so high in the Draft. And Vilardi has been equally impressive over the past month. We expect him back in LA next month.
To get in the NHL, you have to give.
Some of LA’s other Top 10 prospects — guys like Rasmus Kupari, Akil Thomas, etc. – aren’t likely going to move the needle in a Chychrun deal.
However, there are two names to watch for as things develop further in the weeks ahead.
THE FABER FACTOR
No other Kings prospect has probably seen his stock rise more over the past year, especially during the first half of 2021. The selection of Clarke created a real log jam, though.
The Kings had four players under consideration with that No. 8 pick last summer. If they went with a forward, things would be very different right now. With Clarke now in the fold, has he made Faber expendable? Absolutely not. Both are still prospects. Neither has proven a single thing in the NHL yet.
And before this report gets taken out of context somewhere, the Kings remain VERY high on Faber. They’re looking forward to signing him in April and he’s expected to be a big part of the team’s future.
Eventually, the Kings will find a spot for him. They found a spot for Anderson; they found a spot for Bjornfot. During his time as GM, Blake has been good about that. When he feels a player is ready for the NHL, he finds a roster spot for them in LA.
If at all possible, the Kings don’t want to include Faber in the deal.
THE DURZI DILEMMA
A central piece in the Jake Muzzin trade back in January 2019, Durzi has burst onto the scene this season and forced his way into the conversation.
For a team that severely lacks offense — and hopes to make the playoffs this season — now is not the time to trade Durzi. Or is it? With Doughty, Roy, and Clarke taking up three spots on the right side in LA next season, where does that leave Durzi? Could he be dealt in the summer? Sure, that would make more sense than moving now, considering what he’s meant to the Kings offensive output since joining the big club in late November.
There’s still the Sean Walker element to all of this, as well. He could find himself without a spot on the Kings next season too. Back-to-back years of missed time due to injury have severely reduced any trade value he once had – even if his contract is a very manageable $2.65M for two more years.
Putting all secondary moves to the side, dealing four assets for Chychrun is a steep price to pay. Sure, the Kings are dealing from a position of strength – given their vast pipeline right now. Would they be moving too many key assets though for something that still might not address their biggest overall need… more offense?
If Florida is really considering putting a package together for Chychrun that includes Panthers prospects Spencer Knight and Anton Lundell, forget about the Kings overpaying to get the defenseman. That’s taking things to a whole new level… and adds to the context of ‘the Kings are out’ on Chychrun.
The current group of defensemen in LA appear to be solid enough to get LA into the playoffs, which is the goal this season. To reach the organization’s next goal – winning the Stanley Cup – Blake needs to look out a little further on the horizon, to next season and beyond.
Getting Chychrun now would not only solidify the defense, it would also help define how much money the Kings will really have left over to spend on upgrades at forward. And that could be the more important need over the next two to three seasons.
Pulling off two big trades at next month’s deadline is a pipedream for Blake or any other GM. If LA were able to land Chychrun soon, another immediate move at forward would likely be more of a depth add.
That should be the goal right now. Save the “next big move at forward” for the summer.
We’ll cover that
in our next article.
Update, Part II is now posted…
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