With the NHL trade deadline getting close (February 24, 3 p.m. ET) the Pro Hockey Talk crew will be taking a closer look at some individual players that could be on the move. Today we focus on Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alec Martinez.
Player: Alec Martinez
Current team: Los Angeles Kings
Contract Situation: Signed through the end of the 2020-21 season at a salary cap hit of $4 million per season.
Why the Kings might trade him: Quite honestly it would make almost zero sense for the Kings to not trade him this season. He still has one more year remaining on his contract so there isn’t as much pressure to move him as, say, teammate Tyler Toffoli, but this is absolutely the time for the Kings to maximize their return for him. They are completely out of the Western Conference playoff race and are probably a couple of years away from being a playoff team again, and at that point Martinez won’t be a part of the team anyway. If he is, he will be a fraction of the player he is now. The player he is now is only a fraction of the player he was a couple of years ago. His trade value is only going to go down from here.
Teams that could/should be interested: Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs (maybe?), Florida Panthers, Vegas Golden Knights, Columbus Blue Jackets
What he provides: At his peak Martinez was a really good No. 2 or 3 defenseman that could provide some solid offense from the blue line (especially given the system he played in) and play a sound defensive game. Not a superstar by any means, but a good player that could be a key cog in a championship defense.
He is not quite that player anymore.
He is 32 years old, his offensive production has completely dried up and even his defensive game has regressed a bit the past two seasons.
Here is where Martinez ranks among the 178 defenders that have logged at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey this season in a number of defensive measures (via Natural Stat Trick):
Total shot attempts against per 60 minutes: 117th
Scoring chances against per 60 minutes: 118th
Expected goals against per 60 minutes: 104th
Those put him in the bottom half of the league.
Will a change of scenery help and a better supporting cast help?
The Carolina Hurricanes are in the market for a defenseman with Dougie Hamilton out for what could be most (if not all) of the remaining season. The Pittsburgh Penguins are currently without Brian Dumoulin and John Marino — their two best defensive players — and could use a short-term stop-gap. They do not have much flexibility beyond this season, however, given the long-term commitments they have on defense and their salary cap situation. The Maple Leafs need defense both short-term and long-term (Tyson Barrie and Jake Muzzin are both unrestricted free agents after this season) but I don’t know that Martinez is the solution to either problem. They acquired Muzzin from the Kings under almost identical circumstances at this time a year ago. Vegas and Florida have obvious needs on defense, but salary cap space is an issue for both and there would either need to be salary retained or salary moving back the other direction. Columbus could also be a sleeper destination if the injury to Seth Jones is serious enough.
Predicted Destination: Nashville makes sense for something along the lines of a second, future fourth-round pick, and maybe a fringe prospect. Even with all of their struggles this season the Predators are still very much alive in the playoff race and still control their own path. They also have more than enough salary cap space to add him and have five draft picks in the first three rounds of the 2020 draft. Their defense, once a major strength, has taken a hit this season with the departure of P.K. Subban and injury to Ryan Ellis. Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, and Ellis is still a very formidable top-three when are all healthy, and Dante Fabbro is an intriguing young player, but there is a pretty big gap in talent once you get beyond that group.