NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
Last year, the St. Louis Blues proved that being in last place in early January doesn’t mean your season is over. Are you tired of hearing that yet? It seems like a lot of the teams that are outside of the playoffs right now are using that as their slogan. The reality is, the Blues were the exception to the rule.
So, don’t be surprised if the Kings don’t go from the Western Conference basement to a playoff spot this season. Los Angeles is in the middle of a rebuild that will take some time. They have good core pieces like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, but there’s too many elements missing around them.
The Kings currently own a 17-23-4 record, which is fourth-worst in the league. General manager Rob Blake will have some tough decisions to make this season, but deciding whether or not to be a seller at the trade deadline isn’t one of them.
Blake will have to find a way to unload some of the veterans he has on the team so that he can accumulate draft picks and prospects to help with the rebuild.
Who could be on the move?
• Tyler Toffoli – Forward
Toffoli is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he’ll be an intriguing rental for one of the contenders out there. The 27-year-old has 11 goals and 24 points in 43 games. He’s surpassed the 20-goal mark three different times and he scored 30 goals once. There are plenty of teams that need secondary scoring and that’s exactly what Toffoli would provide.
• Trevor Lewis – Forward
Lewis isn’t as big of a name as Toffoli, but he could be a useful depth forward for a team looking to improve their bottom two lines. The 33-year-old has one goal and six points in 31 games this season. His advanced stats are particularly interesting. When he’s on the ice, the Kings control 53.89 percent of the shot attempts, 55 percent of the expected goals for and 51.69 percent of the high-danger scoring chances. Lewis can also play any of the three forward positions. He’s going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
• Kyle Clifford – Forward
Like Toffoli and Lewis, Clifford is also going to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st. The 28-year-old has that coveted size that a lot of teams are looking for a depth forward. Clifford has five goals and 12 points in 43 games this season. When he’s on the ice, the Kings have 56.24 percent of the shot share, 57.2 percent of the XGF% and 57.59 percent of the high danger scoring chances.
• Derek Forbort – Defense
Forbort made his regular-season debut on Monday night. He missed an extended period of time with a back injury, but he appears to be healthy. If he can stay on the ice, the pending unrestricted free agent will be able to build up some value on the trade market. The 27-year-old has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game over the last three seasons. A contender will roll the dice on Forbort if he’s healthy.
• Alec Martinez – Defense
Martinez wouldn’t be a pure rental. He has this year and next year remaining on his contract at a reasonable cap hit of $4 million. The 32-year-old missed a good chunk of the season with a wrist injury, but he’s been back for two games now. He’s averaged over 21 minutes of ice time since the 2015-16 season. Martinez’s track record and his reasonable salary make him an interesting pick up for any team looking to improve their back end.
Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones and Bob McKenzie. Chris Cuthbert will handle play-by-play duties alongside analyst Jim Fox from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Calif.
Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.