Derek Forbort

Looking at the 2019-20 Los Angeles Kings

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the 2019-20 Los Angeles Kings.

2019-20 Los Angeles Kings

Record: 29-35-6 (64 points in 70 games), seventh in the Pacific Division, second-worst in West
Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar – 62 points (21 goals and 41 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves

Season Overview

After exceeding expectations in 2017-18, the Kings crashed to earth in 2018-19. Jarringly so, to many of us.

If you look at the Kings’ place in the standings alone, you’d probably assume that 2019-20 represents the team settling into the new normal. To some extent, that’s true. In the grand scheme of things, every time the Kings make an overture toward rebuilding, they’re likely being smart.

But unlike a lot of other cellar dwellers, the Kings actually held their own by many measures. The Kings ranked somewhere between respectable to downright impressive in analytics terms. Take, for instance, how solid Los Angeles looks in Charting Hockey’s Shot Shares chart, which uses data from Evolving Hockey:

Not bad for a team that sits second-worst in the Western Conference, right?

Through their Stanley Cup-contending years, the Kings hogged the puck but sometimes struggled to finish. Such a formula worked well during their postseason runs.

This version of the Kings is a weakened form of that, but if you squint, you could see glimpses of those former glories. Not enough to win a meaningful number of games. And, no, certainly not to the point that you’d want to sabotage their rebuild.

Yet it’s amusing that the bounces finally started to go the Kings’ way as 2019-20 came to a halt.

Highlight of the Season

How could it be anything other than rattling off a baffling seven-game winning streak to “end” their season?

Indeed, as 2019-20 ended, the Kings’ winning streak was far and away the longest active streak in the NHL.

The Kings authored a decent larger stretch, too, going 10-2-1 in 13 games from Feb. 12 – March 11.

That home-heavy stretch cemented that, if nothing else, they were pesky at home. The Kings ended up 19-13-2 in Los Angeles this season, versus 10-22-4 on the road.

Upsetting the Avalanche in their 2020 Stadium Series game ranks as a highlight for the 2019-20 Kings, too.

MORE ON THE KINGS:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Long-term outlook for the Calgary Flames

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the long-term outlook for the Calgary Flames. 

Pending free agents

The Core

The Flames played a little over their heads for much of 2018-19, building some belief that the Flames might possess one of the NHL’s best cores. Unfortunately, Nathan MacKinnon and the Avs rained on that parade during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and things got downright soggy at times in 2019-20.

Overall, though? The Flames’ core still looks quite good. Not best-in-class, but quite good.

If nothing else, they boast some serious value.

Thankfully, they didn’t overreact and trade Johnny Gaudreau, who’s almost insultingly underpaid ($6.75M AAV through 2021-22). Maybe 2018-19 inflated expectations for “Johnny Hockey,” but he’s still an excellent player.

It’s actually difficult to tell how much Sean Monahan and/or Elias Lindholm lean on Gaudreau for production, but both are cheap and covered for years, so it doesn’t really matter.

Matthew Tkachuk? He’s worth every bit of that $7M per year through 2021-22. So the forward group is covered pretty nicely.

And, yes, Mark Giordano‘s age (36) is troubling for the future, but we’ll get to that. For now, consider Giordano pretty fantastic (not quite Norris-fantastic, but fantastic nonetheless), and nicely cost-efficient at $6.75M. Giordano’s contract ending after 2021-22 mitigates much of that aging curve concern, too.

Now, not every long-term dollar is well-spent. While Milan Lucic isn’t as bad of a player as the snark suggests, his contract really is a headache. There are other issues, such as Mikael Backlund‘s troubling term.

Ultimately, though … not bad. Not cream of the crop stuff, but you can bump that group up quite a bit thanks to a mix of bargains and relatively limited risks.

Long-term needs for Flames

Consider Cam Talbot’s resurgence triage for the Flames’ goaltending situation. Talbot provided a short-term fix, but considering his pending UFA status and how unpredictable the position can be, will the Band-Aid slip off soon?

There’s quite a bit of uncertainty there, whether Talbot returns or the Flames find the “next” Talbot. Meanwhile, David Rittich presents an unpleasant form of predictability: he’s been consistently mediocre.

Unfortunately, the Flames face questions about how to insulate their goalies. Their defense lacks clarity beyond aging star Giordano, especially if both Hamonic and Brodie played their last games for the Flames. There are worse groups out there, but the Flames may be stuck with “good” while seeking “great.”

In ranking the NHL’s farm systems for The Athletic in January (sub required), Scott Wheeler placed the Flames 26th. Even at such a low ranking, Calgary’s highest rank prospects were forwards (and goalie Dustin Wolf), not defensemen. If the Flames get help on defense, it might have to come via free agency.

Oh yeah … they might need a coach, too, if they aren’t impressed with Geoff Ward.

Long-term strengths of Flames

While the Flames’ forward group ranks a notch or two behind the best of the best, it’s still quite good. The one-two punch of Gaudreau’s playmaking on one line and Tkachuk’s two-way peskiness on another can be very effective.

The Flames also lack a cap hit above Tkachuk’s $7M. That flexibility could come in very handy if other teams need to shed salary thanks to a coronavirus-related cap squeeze.

Even certain weaknesses could be spun as strengths.

Yes, their goalie situation is uncertain, but the Flames also enjoy flexibility. Before you scoff at that point, consider that Sergei Bobrovsky‘s performing at a sub-backup level for $10M per year at age 31.

Who’s to say that the Flames won’t successfully target better goaltending, at better prices, without the risky term other teams hand out?

Such flexibility opens up lanes for free agency, too. Perhaps the Flames could take that next step by landing, say, Alex Pietrangelo or Taylor Hall?

As is, the Flames mostly show the makings of a good team. Last season showed they could flirt with great, while this one reminded that there’s still work to do. They have a decent shot at getting there, even if they aren’t there yet.

(Then again, there’s also the possibility that they already missed their best chance or chances. Hockey’s fickle that way.)

MORE FLAMES BITS:
Looking at the 2019-20 Flames (so far?)
Biggest surprises and disappointments.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Looking at the 2019-20 Calgary Flames

With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take a look at where each NHL team stands at this moment with a series of posts examining their season. Have they met expectations? Exceeded expectations? Who has been the surprise? All of that and more. Today we look at the Calgary Flames.

Calgary Flames

Record: 36-27-7 (70 games), third in Pacific Division
Leading Scorer: Matthew Tkachuk — 61 points (23 goals and 38 assists)

In-Season Roster Moves: 

• Traded away Michael Frolik to the Buffalo Sabres for a fourth-round pick in 2020.
• Sent Brandon Davidson to the San Jose Sharks for future considerations
• Acquired Erik Gustafsson from the Chicago Blackhawks for third-round pick in 2020.
• Traded away a conditional fourth-round pick in 2021 to the Los Angeles Kings for Derek Forbort.

Season Overview: 

It seems like a long time ago now, but the Flames had the best record in the Western Conference last year. Of course, the season didn’t end on a positive note though, as they were eliminated in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Colorado Avalanche.

Heading into the NHL pause, they hadn’t really come close to locking up a postseason berth. Although they were sitting in the third spot in the Pacific Division, the Vancouver Canucks, who were on the outside of the playoff picture, were just one point behind the Flames.

Why the Flames have failed to improve on their regular-season success from a year ago isn’t exactly rocket science. Just look at the difference in production for some of their top players.

Johnny Gaudreau went from 36 goals and 99 points last year, to 18 goals and 58 points in 2019-20. Sean Monahan had 34 goals and 82 points during Calgary’s standout season a year ago only to see those numbers drop to 22 goals and 48 points this year. Elias Lindholm was still having a strong season so far in 2019-20, but his numbers went from 27 goals and 78 points to 29 goals and 54 points.

Captain Mark Giordano, who won the Norris last season, missed a 10-game stretch due to a hamstring injury. He put up an incredible 17 goals and 74 points in 78 games last year. This year, he had a very respectable five goals and 31 points in 60 games.

Let’s not forget the head coaching change/controversy that went on at the beginning of the season. Bill Peters lost his job because of the way he had been mistreating some of his players over the year. Geoff Ward has come in and picked up the pieces of what was left behind by Peters, but that couldn’t have been a comfortable situation for all involved.

If the season resumes, the final spot in the Pacific Division will be one of the best races in the NHL. Can the Flames hang on to it? What does the future look like for them? This is going to be an interesting situation to monitor going forward.

Highlight of the Season So Far: 

The biggest moment that stands out has to be the battles between Tkachuk and Zack Kassian. When I think of the 2019-20 Flames season, that’s the first snippet that pops into my mind. If the playoffs started today, the Flames and Oilers would go head-to-head. Can you imagine what that would be like? A best-of-seven series between two teams that hate each other would be must-see TV.

MORE FLAMES BITS:
Biggest surprises and disappointments for Flames

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

NHL on NBCSN: Rebuilding Kings attempt to play spoiler against Pens

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Wednesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings.  Coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins and Kings are heading in very different directions right now. Pittsburgh is chasing a Stanley Cup and Los Angeles is chasing the top pick in the NHL Draft.

Heading into tonight’s game, the Penguins are four points behind the Washington Capitals for first in the Metropolitan Division. Pittsburgh has two games in hand.

On Monday, general manager Jim Rutherford made a couple of moves to improve his roster. He acquired Patrick Marleau from San Jose, and Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary from Buffalo. They also made a splash earlier in the month when they acquired Jason Zucker from Minnesota. So the team looks pretty different than it did at the beginning of February.

Sidney Crosby is the beneficiary of these trades. He’s now skating on a line with Sheary, who he played with during his first stint with the Pens, and Zucker.

Speaking of Crosby, he’s been unbelievable since returning to the lineup from a core muscle injury. The Pens captain has eight goals and 16 assists in the 16 games he’s played post-injury.

“He’s just such an impactful player,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “We are a very different hockey team when he’s in our lineup. He’s been terrific. I think he’s getting better every game. I think his game is gaining more traction, and I think he loves playing this time of year.”

This will be the second game of a four-game road trip. The Pens got their trip starting with a disappointing loss in Washington on Sunday.

“It’s disappointing we didn’t get the result, but I thought we played a much better hockey game,” added Sullivan on Sunday. “It was a competitive game. They’re a good team. We’re a good team.”

As for the Kings, they didn’t really have much to play for between now and the end of the season. They’ll be reduced to playing spoiler between now and the end of the season.

GM Rob Blake managed to swing four trades over the the last few weeks. Here’s the moves they’ve made:

Traded Away: Jack Campbell (Toronto), Kyle Clifford (Toronto) Tyler Toffoli (Vancouver), Alec Martinez (Vegas) and Derek Forbort (Calgary).

Acquired: Trevor Moore (Toronto), 2020 third-round pick (Toronto), 2021 conditional third-round pick (Toronto), Tim Schaller (Vancouver), Tyler Madden (Vancouver), 2020 second-round pick (Vancouver), 2022 conditional fourth-round pick (Vancouver), 2020 second-round pick (Vegas), 2021 second-round pick (Vegas), and 2021 conditional fourth-round pick (Flames).

As you can see from the players and picks they acquired, they’re all about the long-term rebuild.

“We’re at that phase now where the next layer has to step up and contribute,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “The players that have come up from Ontario have shown to this point that they’re ready to go and they understand the structure, that they’re competitive like we thought they’d be, and they’re excited to be here. They give us a little spark, a little jolt of enthusiasm, which we need at this time of year. For as much as they help us out, we’re excited as well. It’s a good mix right now. Something our team dearly needs.”

Nikolay Prokhorkin, Blake Lizotte, Austin Wagner, Mike Amadio, Sean Walker and Matt Roy have all gotten an opportunity to play some more over the course of the season thanks to this rebuild. Cal Petersen has also made four starts since Campbell was shipped to the Maple Leafs.

Kathryn Tappen will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. Alex Faust and analyst Jim Fox will call the action at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Winners and losers of the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline

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A busy day of movement around the NHL has come to an end. There were plenty of big names who were dealt today, as well as a number of draft picks heading to teams hoping to be a club adding pieces at this time of year in the future.

It was a record day of trades, according to the NHL. There were 32 deals made on Monday involving 55 players, breaking the record of 31 trades set at the 2010 deadline. The 2018 and 2019 deadlines combined only saw a total of 38 trades.

So now that the 3 p.m. ET deadline has passed, who are the winners and losers?

Let us know in the comments who you think had the best and worst day.

NHL Trade Deadline tracker
PHT Trade Deadline Live Blog

WINNER: Rob Blake

Already with a strong prospect pool, the Kings GM added to it with a bevy of deals as the franchise retools for the future. Blake turned Jack Campbell, Kyle Clifford, Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez, and Derek Forbort into two 2020 second-rounders, a 2020 third-rounder, a 2021 second-round pick, a conditional 2021 third-rounder, a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick, Trevor Moore, and the rights to Tyler Madden. Let’s also not forget he sent Martinez to the Golden Knights and managed to not have to retain any salary for a player whose contract expires after next season.

Canucks strengthen up front by acquiring Tyler Toffoli

LOSER: Joe Thornton

Maybe he didn’t want a trade, or maybe there wasn’t an option that intrigued GM Doug Wilson enough. But while long-time teammate Patrick Marleau gets to chase after a Stanley Cup in Pittsburgh, Thornton remains in San Jose on a team that is going nowhere, wasting what might be one of his last chances at a championship. — Gretz

WINNER: Embarrassing photos from your youth

Thank you, Christina Marleau.

LOSER: Calgary Flames

With a banged up defense group, GM Brad Treliving added Erik Gustafsson and Derek Forbort. But when you see how wide open the Pacific Division is and how the Oilers attacked the deadline, wouldn’t it have been wise for Calgary to bolster up front as well?

WINNER: Don Waddell

Vincent Trocheck, Sami Vatanen and Brady Skjei will strengthen their center position and blue line. The Skjei addition, however, is a curious one when you remember that he’s signed for four more years with a $5.25M cap hit and the Hurricanes will need space to re-sign Dougie Hamilton and Andre Svechnikov in the summer of 2022. But for a team that wants to build off last year’s run, they’re certainly better than they were on Sunday.

• Hurricanes send package featuring Haula to Panthers for Trocheck

LOSER: Dale Tallon

Florida is chasing a playoff spot and they send Trocheck out and bring in Haula, Lucas Wallmark and two prospects. Oh, and they made the deal with a team also in the wild card mix. Haula can be a UFA this summer, while Trocheck still has term on his deal. If this was an attempt at a wake-up call by Tallon it’s a weird one. We won’t know if the two prospects will make an impact for years, but for the now there’s a lot of hope that Haula can stay healthy and be productive as he once was.

WINNER: Ilya Kovalchuk and Marc Bergevin

It’s been quite a few months for the Russian forward. After a failed stint in LA, Kovalchuk landed in Montreal, found his passion again and played well and now goes to a Cup contender. Due to that, the Habs GM brought him in for practically nothing and flipped him for a third-round pick. Nice bit of business.

Capitals land Ilya Kovalchuk from Canadiens

LOSER: Everyone hoping for a blockbuster

Since the Coyotes remain in the playoff hunt, it was clear that Taylor Hall was going to stay put. But when rumors started surfacing that the Islanders and Wild had discussed a Zach Parise for Andrew Ladd swap that perked everyone up. Talks between Bill Guerin and Lou Lamoriello, which began about this deal in the summer, never led to anything solid, unfortunately. It would be a complicated deal to make given the salary cap hits for each player, but both reportedly waived their movement clauses to make it happen. Guess we’ll just have to wait until the summer to see if something can be done here.

WINNER: Draft pick hoarders

The climb is too steep, so Bergevin saw the writing on the wall and began looking toward the future. In dealing Kovalchuk, Nate Thompson, Matthew Peca, and Nick Cousins the Habs now have 14 picks in the 2020 draft — a draft they host — and 10 more in 2021. That’s a good amount of assets to stock a prospect cupboard or add some bodies through trades. Or, maybe, through another summer offer sheet?

Same goes for the Senators, who are in a full-on rebuild. GM Pierre Dorion has accumulated 13 picks in the 2020 draft and already has four in the first two rounds in the 2021 draft. Considering how Eugene Melnyk spends his money — sorry, doesn’t like to spend his money — Ottawa will only be able to get to where they want to be by building through the draft.

The Devils have the possibility of owning three first-round picks in 2020 if certain conditions are met following the Taylor Hall and Blake Coleman trades. Detroit has six in the opening three rounds this June, and we already mentioned LA above.

LOSER: Colorado Avalanche

Joe Sakic’s two moves Monday were adding Vladislav Namestnikov and goaltender Michael Hutchinson. With the injuries they’re currently dealing with and the cap space they own to add some pieces, it’s a surprise they were relatively quiet. Maybe Sakic went all-in on Kreider and that was shot down once he re-signed with the Rangers, or the price set was too much for his liking.

You’d think if Sakic was going to give up a prized prospect like a Bowen Byram it would be for a player with term, but no deal of that nature came to fruition or was even rumored to be a possibility. In his eyes, when Nazem Kadri, Matt Calvert, and Mikko Rantanen return, those will be considered Colorado’s additions. We’ll find out in a few months if standing pat was the right move here.

WINNER: Ken Holland

He didn’t complete a massive blockbuster, but the additions of Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Ennis, and Mike Green are strong additions for a team that already has two MVP candidates and is playing in a very winnable division. Depth was their big concern, and they addressed it for a decent price — Gretz

Oilers get Athanasiou from Red Wings; Ennis from Senators

LOSER: Jacob Markstrom

The Canucks goaltender, who has been the team’s MVP this season, is expected to miss the next several weeks after suffering a knee injury over the weekend. That explains why GM Jim Benning went out and acquired Louis Domingue from New Jersey for Zane McIntyre.

Markstrom has played his way into the Vezina and Hart Trophy conversations with what he’s done in Vancouver, and set himself up for a nice raise after July 1.

WINNER: Robin Lehner

He may not get as much playing time as he did in Chicago, but he goes from a sinking ship to a Chicago team that should be a bonafide Stanley Cup contender in Vegas. — Gretz

LOSER: Stan Bowman

He had the right idea, I just don’t know that it worked out the way he thought it would. The Blackhawks absolutely had to trade Lehner and Gustafsson. It would have been nonsensical not to. But everyone in Chicago had to be expecting more than a disappointing young goalie, a prospect, and a second-and third-round pick. Did he overplay his hand? Did he just mess it up? Whatever it is, it was the right idea just seemingly a poor execution of it. — Gretz

WINNER: The Ovechkins

The couple announced their own acquisition on Monday:

LOSER: Overthinking every little thing on Trade Deadline day

Johnny Gaudreau left the ice early on Monday prompting a flurry of speculation that the Flames were about to trade him. Sorry, turns out he just had to pee.

WINNER: New York Rangers

They didn’t trade Chris Kreider and kept him for seven years at a reasonable $6.5M cap hit. GM Jeff Gorton also freed up some cap space for the summer (Tony DeAngelo extension?) and added a first-round pick by sending Brady Skjei to Carolina.

LOSER: New York Rangers

At the same press conference where team president John Davidson announced the Kreider extension he also revealed that Pavel Buchnevich and Igor Shesterkin were in a Sunday night car accident. Buchnevich is considered day-to-day but Shesterkin suffered a rib injury and will be out for the next several weeks. Welcome back to the fold, Henrik Lundqvist.

WINNER: Boston Bruins

GM Don Sweeney added Ondrej Kase and was able to rid himself of 75% of David Backes’ contract in one move. Kase, when healthy, is a productive forward and signed for $2.6M through the end of next season.

LOSER: Dallas Stars

Jim Nill was in on Joe Thornton, but it was a quiet day in Big D. We know they Stars are strong defensively, but their biggest need was help on offense as they sit in the bottom five in the NHL in goals per game. The pressure is on to win in Dallas and taking an inactive approach to the deadline is a gamble. Defense wins championships, sure, but other contenders around them in West look a step ahead of them up front at the moment.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.