If there were two words to describe the way general manager Dean Lombardi is rebuilding the Los Angeles Kings, they would probably be “competent” and “patient.”
Yet for all the points made about how the Pittsburgh Penguins rebuilt their team based on draft picks, their GM Ray Shero also had the nerve to make bold moves at or around the trade deadline. From the James Neal deal to acquiring Marian Hossa and Bill Guerin, Shero hasn’t been afraid to roll the dice to get things done. Perhaps that confidence trickles down to his team, too.
In other words, at some point, Lombardi must realize that there is a difference between being patient and being complacent. It’s respectable that he wants to build the team slowly, but maybe the group deserves a reward for putting together such a great run amid a 10-game road trip? Helene Elliott points out the differences between Shero’s aggressiveness and Lombardi’s conservative moves (or lack of moves).
While the Kings sit outside the top eight in the West and Lombardi dithers about filling a hole he recognized last summer, Shero’s Penguins on Monday acquired power forward James Neal — a three-time 20-goal scorer — and defenseman Matt Niskanen from the salary-dumping Dallas Stars for defenseman Alex Goligoski. It’s a great deal for the Penguins, who lost Sidney Crosby indefinitely to a concussion and Evgeni Malkin to season-ending knee surgery.
The Kings, who were interested in Neal but not at the cost of a top defenseman, have looked at Florida’s David Booth and Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky but have made it known they won’t trade prospect Brayden Schenn. It would be surprising if Lombardi does anything bigger than his usual and tedious mid-range deals. The Ducks thought they’d be buyers, but if goaltender Jonas Hiller continues to be plagued by lightheadedness they’ll fall too far out of contention for anything to make a difference.
As you can see, Elliott mentions Booth and Hemsky as possible targets. Let me offer two other players who would make a lot of sense. (Note: these are suggestions for targets, but these guys aren’t guaranteed to be available.)
Dustin Penner – There was a point in which it seemed like Penner would be nothing more than a punchline for bad offer sheet deals … until the market readjusted and Penner found his game again in Edmonton. Now his contract actually seems reasonable.
That’s not to say his game lacks blemishes as he’s not exactly a future Selke candidate, but the big winger can get to the front of the net and score tough playoff goals (like he did for the Anaheim Ducks).
Tim Connolly – As we discussed last night, Connolly is a speedy and skilled guy who could be a nice change of pace for Los Angeles. Rather than having a traditional second-line center, the Kings could use Jarret Stoll in defensive situations and Connolly when they need firepower. It often pays to have that kind of flexibility.
One unique thing that Connolly might have going for him: he has lower trade value with an expiring contract. The Buffalo Sabres would likely be willing to move him for less than those other teams would, considering those players are a bigger part of their teams’ respective futures.
Anyway, those are just a few suggestions for the Kings. What do you think? Should they take a bigger risk than normal or play it close to the vest? Let us know in the comments.