Kings to debut LaDue, who’s been in the news lately

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For a 24-year-old defenseman that’s never played in the NHL, there’s plenty of intrigue around Paul LaDue.

LaDue, the former North Dakota rearguard, is set to make his big-league debut tonight when the Kings take on the Bolts in Tampa Bay. LaDue’s recall came after an impressive stint with AHL Ontario — six goals and 18 points in 36 games — in his first full year of professional hockey.

The debut also comes with his name making the rounds.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, in speaking with Fan 960 radio (per FanRag), said he’s “hearing that this might be a showcase,” for Kings GM Dean Lombardi, to potentially generate interest in LaDue heading into the trade deadline.

But Friedman also pointed to reports from dialed-in Mayors Manor scribe John Hoven, which said the opposite:

LaDue is nearly untouchable when it comes to trades being considered by GM Dean Lombardi. That’s not to say it’s impossible (we all know the adage, even Wayne Gretzky was traded); but more to the point that it would have to be an overpayment of epic proportions to pry him from the pipeline. This label is not something we throw around lightly either.

We used it with [Tyler] Toffoli a few years ago, when people wanted to connect the dots and throw him into trade talks – while all of our internal sources laughed at the mere suggestion. The same thing went with a pair of players last season. And now with LaDue. At the very least, know this; LaDue’s recent call-up was not to showcase him for a trade.

If the latter holds true, it doesn’t necessarily shutter trade talks. If LaDue shows well and earns the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter, he could be an effective replacement on the back end — and, most importantly, an inexpensive one ($925,000 cap hit).

Friedman noted that L.A. is tight to the cap, adding that when it comes to teams calling about a trade, “everybody talks [Jake] Muzzin or [Alec] Martinez.”

Which is were LaDue might come in. Though it seems risky to lean on such an untested guy, the Kings have worked the likes of Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel into the mix this year, with the former having acquitted himself well.