Trade: Kings send Alec Martinez to Golden Knights for draft picks

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The Los Angeles Kings continued to sell off veteran players on Wednesday afternoon while the Vegas Golden Knights got their defensive upgrade.

The Kings have traded veteran defenseman Alec Martinez to the Golden Knights in exchange for a 2020 second-round draft pick as well as a 2021 second-round draft pick that had originally belonged to the St. Louis Blues.

Martinez is signed for one more season at a $4 million salary cap hit, while the Kings are retaining zero salary in the move.

Let’s break this down.

For the Golden Knights

They definitely need some help on the back end. Goal prevention has been a big issue for them this season and it’s been a two-part problem. For one, the goaltending has not been great. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t been as consistently good as he has been the past few years, while they still have some major question marks with the depth behind him. But it’s not just on the players in the crease.

They also needed some depth on the blue line in front of them for this season and beyond. Before acquiring Martinez they only had three NHL defensemen under contract for next season (Nate Schmidt, Shea Theodore, and Brayden McNabb). At 32 years old (and with some injury issues the past two seasons) Martinez is not the same player he was a few years ago when he was a key cog in a championship team in Los Angeles, but he should still be an upgrade to a defense that needs some extra help. He is no longer a player you want to rely on to be a top-pairing player (his offense is all but gone and his defensive impact has declined), but the Golden Knights shouldn’t require that level of play from him. He should sitll be an upgrade for the second or third pair, a role that he is probably best suited for on a contending team at this stage of his career.

[MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker]

For the Kings

It is simply something that needed to be done.

This is part of the Kings’ ongoing attempt to turn the page on this core and continue selling off veteran players for future assets. Martinez spent 11 seasons with the team and was a significant contributor to a championship team (scoring a Stanley Cup clinching goal in overtime), but he was one of the veteran players on the team that could bring a solid return. And he did.

The two draft picks now give the Kings 20 draft picks over the next two draft classes, including seven in the first two rounds and 11 over the first three rounds. They also had nine picks in the 2019 draft, including four picks among the top-50. The best way to maximize a return on draft picks for a rebuilding team is to give yourself as many chances as possible to find a player. The Kings will have done that with with three classes between 2019 and 2021, while still having a chance to add even more before Monday’s trade deadline (3 p.m. ET).

The Kings have already traded Tyler Toffoli (Vancouver), Jack Campbell, and Kyle Cliffort (both to Toronto) over the past couple of weeks.

MORE KINGS TRADE COVERAGE:
Kings send Tyler Toffoli to Canucks
Kings trade Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford to Maple Leafs
• Kings face key stage of rebuild

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.