Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Los Angeles Kings.
31-42-9, 71 points (8th in Pacific Division, 15th in Western Conference)
Playoffs: Did not qualify
As far as seasons go, they don’t get much worse than the one the Los Angeles Kings just endured.
They couldn’t score (30th in goals-for), not even on the power play (27th at 15.8 percent) and they couldn’t stop much from going in (22nd in goals-against), and certainly not on the penalty kill (29th at 76.5 percent).
Ilya Kovalchuk‘s NHL return couldn’t save them — he was simply a massive bust.
Their highest goal-scorer had 22 goals, only two players had more than two goals and just one had more than 60 points. And Anze Kopitar‘s season paled in comparison to his 90-plus point campaign from the year previous.
Jonathan Quick forgot how to stop the puck, posting a tremendously ugly .888 save percentage, by far the worst numbers of his career.
The pain extended all the way to the draft lottery in June where the Kings could have selected, at worst, Kaapo Kakko, if the odds would play out to their 30th-place finish. Instead, they fell three places to the fifth-overall pick… one final kick in the pants.
Here are the moves that have been made since the beginning of the year, per Adam’s story:
Traded Carl Hagelin, who had played only 22 games with the team after being acquired for Tanner Pearson, to the Washington Capitals for two mid-round draft picks
Traded Nate Thompson, who had played only 79 games with the team, to the Montreal Canadiens for a fourth-round draft pick
Traded Oscar Fantenberg, who had played only 74 games with the team, to the Calgary Flames for a conditional pick in 2020.
Bought out the final two years of Dion Phaneuf’s contract
Signed Joakim Ryan to a one-year deal in free agency
The pessimist fan will tell you it’s all doom and gloom right now and they’d be right. The Kings are used to being juggernauts in the Western Conference. Those days are long gone. Next season isn’t going to be pretty.
The optimist, meanwhile, will say the upcoming season — while nearly lost before it even has a chance to begin — is about the kids coming up and a lot of assets coming the team’s way around the trade deadline.
Pending free agents Tyler Toffoli, Trevor Lewis, Kyle Clifford and Derek Forbort could all be on different teams before the season is through. If a team gets really desperate for, say, a goaltender, shipping out Jonathan Quick may become a possibility, too.
That would all add up to cap space to be used up next summer, even with Phaneuf’s buyout hitting it for just over $4 million.
That should offer a glimmer of hope, at least, because there’s not much to suggest this coming season will be any better.
Muzzin was a core player a championship winning team in Los Angeles, and with still one more year remaining on his contract he was one of the more valuable trade chips the team had to move in an effort to begin turning the page and beginning a new chapter. Because he still had term on his contract the Kings were under no immediate pressure to trade him, but it was still a very logical thing for them to do.
In the immediate aftermath of the trade general manager Rob Blake hinted that more changes were coming by saying, “I don’t want to get into specifics of players, but we are actively looking at making moves for the future of the organization.”
At the time the Kings were stumbling toward their worst regular season in years and on track to miss the playoffs for the third time in five years, a stretch that has seen the organization win just one playoff game.
What sort of changes did they make after that?
Other than hiring a new head coach — former Sharks and Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan — it has been a shockingly quiet offseason for the Kings.
They shuffled out a few inconsequential depth players that had almost zero history with the team and made almost zero impact, while adding a depth defender on a one-year, bargain basement deal.
In the middle of all of that the Kings did have, by most accounts, a strong draft with three of top 33 picks, but they are probably at least two or three years away from seeing some sort of a meaningful return on those picks.
In the short-term, the Kings have done next to nothing to move the franchise toward any one meaningful direction.
They are not any closer to a much-needed rebuild and are bringing back the same core of players that has clearly demonstrated over the past five years that it is not good enough to compete for a championship. Or even be a serious threat in the playoffs.
Doughty is the “young” player in that group and will turn 30 this upcoming season. He is not only coming off the worst season of his career, but is signed for another eight years at $11 million per season. The Kings desperately need to hope this past season was a fluke and not a sign of what is ahead. The same can be said for Quick whose 2018-19 performance put him among the worst performing goalies in the league.
If they are still under the illusion that this core can somehow still compete, they have not done anything to complement them and build around them.
They have yet to make a meaningful trade and have been one of the quietest teams on the free agent market, not even dipping their toes into the pool.
Other than basically swapping out Phaneuf for Ryan on the blue line the Kings seem destined to bring back the same team that looked overmatched throughout the entire 2018-19 season and was one of the worst teams in the NHL.
Sure, it is possible that Doughty bounces back, and it would be nearly impossible for Quick to be as bad as he was in net over another full season. But would that be enough to make make up more than 20 points in the standings and take the Kings from the Western Conference basement and move them back to playoff contention?
There are still a couple of months for things to change and the Kings to do something to alter the course of the franchise, but the longer they go without doing something the more this team is going to flail around in the state of irrelevance it has been stuck in for the past half-decade.
The short-term outlook remains bleak, and they still have not take enough steps to improve the long-term outlook.
To the naked eye, the Colorado Avalanche power play hasn’t been too special through three games against the Calgary Flames. After all, they’re only clicking at 12.5 percent. But keeping that power play off the ice might be the difference between the Flames advancing to the second round or going home early.
Anyone who follows hockey has to agree that the Flames are a deeper squad from top-to-bottom than the Avs. There’s no denying that. Calgary had five different players surpass the 70-point mark in 2018-19 including a defenseman, Mark Giordano. The Avalanche have the high-end talent to match, but their depth players simply aren’t as good.
By giving the Avs power play opportunities, the Flames are essentially preventing their best players from attacking, while giving Avs stars like Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen easy offensive ice time. That’s why Flames head coach Bill Peters has to figure out a way to make sure his team is disciplined and focused throughout Game 4 and beyond.
Let’s look back at Game 3. In all, they took 11 penalties (some were Game Misconducts that were tacked on when the game was out of reach). Calgary fell behind the eight-ball when they gave up a full two-minute five-on-three power play. Oscar Fantenberg took a hooking penalty on MacKinnon while Matthew Tkachuk took a too many men on the ice penalty at the same time.
After Mike Smith made a few good stops, MacKinnon eventually found the back of the net to give Colorado a 1-0 lead. Garnet Hathaway then went to the box for holding Nikita Zadorov, and the Avs forward scored his second power-play tally of the night. That was it. The Flames were done at that point.
“That’s obviously not even close to where we can be,” said Giordano, per the Calgary Sun. “We have to regroup here and stick together as a team but we know our compete level, No. 1, has to go way up. We have to be smarter with our decisions with the puck, our pinches, everything …
“Across the board, there wasn’t much good, honestly, throughout the night. We made that team look and feel good all night.”
Stopping MacKinnon at even-strength is already difficult enough. Giving him added time and space in the offensive zone is a mistake and they can’t keep doing it. The top team in the East, the Tampa Bay Lightning, have already been bounced from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the best team in the West wants to avoid a similar fate, they’ll have to get back to playing to their strengths.
“Everyone has to give a little bit more. Everybody. Me included,” Smith said after Game 3. “We all have to give a little bit more. It’s hard to win this time of year, it’s hard. Everyone needs to play a little bit outside their comfort zone to do what it takes to win.”
Putting the odds in your favor by staying out of the box would definitely help.
After weeks and months of speculation, rumors, scout watching, and hypothetical dreamland trades the NHL trade deadline has officially come and gone.
Who ended up making themselves better? Who ended up making themselves worse? Will any of this matter come playoff time and what sort of impact can it possibly have on the race for a playoff spot and the Stanley Cup?
We take a look at all of that and more in this week’s PHT Power Rankings as we look at the league after the dust has settled on the trading season.
To the rankings!
1. Tampa Bay Lightning — They did nothing, and that is fine. They needed nothing. If it is not broken, do not break it.
2. Nashville Predators — David Poile makes more blockbusters than anybody these days, and he always tends to make his team better as a result. He did that again this season with the Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds moves. Granlund in particular looks like a home run.
4. Boston Bruins —Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson add some nice depth to a team that badly needed it. Not enough is made of the fact they enter the week with the third best points percentage in the NHL.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs — They made their big trade last month to get Jake Muzzin. The best addition for them would be William Nylander returning to form.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets — I find this entire situation fascinating. Never before have I seen a fringe playoff team go all in on trying to win right now. Given the contract situations of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, I can’t say I blame them. This is your best shot, go all in. Having said that, there is a solid chance this all backfires horribly because they are probably still not a Stanley Cup team even with Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, and the rest of their additions. They also have only two draft picks right now in 2019. They also are not a lock for the playoffs. I admire the tightrope walk without a net. This feels like a make-or-break season for Jarmo Kekalainen’s reputation as a general manager.
8. Calgary Flames — Like the Sharks I still question the goaltending. Unlike the Sharks they didn’t make another meaningful move anywhere (sorry, Oscar Fantenberg) else while everybody around them did.
9. New York Islanders — I actually kind of like that they stood pat even as the other top teams in the East got better around them. This was never supposed to be a contending year for the Islanders, it is all a bonus at this point, and this team as it is has gotten them this far, see where it can take them.
10. St. Louis Blues — Their best addition came in the form of a goalie who could stop a few pucks. They have been a different team ever since.
11. Winnipeg Jets — They didn’t get Mark Stone but they did get something that they needed in Kevin Hayes. That center depth was looking sketchy. The other thing they need is for Patrik Laine to start filling the net again … and he just might be ready to do that.
12. Vegas Golden Knights — Mark Stone is a star, and maybe getting away from Ottawa will make the rest of the league take notice. He drives possession, he scores goals, he is a huge addition for a fringe contender in a wide open Western Conference.
13. Carolina Hurricanes — Nino Niederreiter has been a huge addition and hey, look at this, now Jordan Staal is back. He may not be a huge driver of the offense but he is still an outstanding two-way player that will make a surging team even better.
14. Pittsburgh Penguins — They are now making a run at a playoff spot with Erik Gudbranson and Jack Johnson making up one third of their defense.
15. Colorado Avalanche — After watching their season take a cliff dive for a solid two months in the middle of the season they have now earned at least a point in nine of their past 11 games to stay in the hunt. Maybe Derick Brassard will be a better trade deadline acquisition for them than he was for Pittsburgh a year. Scoring in his debut game already puts him off to a better start.
16. Dallas Stars —AddingMats Zuccarello, watching him make a huge impact in his first game, and then watching him leave that game with an injury that is going to sideline him for at least four weeks is a perfect representation of the absurdity that has been the 2018-19 Dallas Stars.
17. Minnesota Wild — It is something of a minor miracle this team is still lurking around a playoff spot. Their captain is done for the season and they traded two of their best players in Granlund and Nino NiederreiterVictor Rask and Kevin Fiala. That is a lot to overcome to earn a playoff spot, but the Western Conference this season is dumb enough to allow it to happen.
18. Florida Panthers — They are 11-5-0 in their past 16 games and for the second year in a row are playing really well in the second half. For the second year in a row it will not matter because the first half was so bad. The positive: They have positioned themselves for a serious run at any free agent (or free agents) they want in the summer.
19. Philadelphia Flyers — Their season has definitely taken on a more optimistic look lately, but the subtraction of Simmonds and the injury to Carter Hart is definitely a bit of a downer at the moment.
20. Montreal Canadiens — Losing six out of eight games has put them on the edge of the playoffs. Do they have enough to outlast one of Pittsburgh, Columbus, or Carolina?
21. Arizona Coyotes — There really was not a reason for them to be active at the trade deadline. There really was not anything to sell, there was no need to buy, they have probably overachieved given the ridiculous injury situation.
22. Buffalo Sabres —Brandon Montour is a decent enough addition, and maybe he looks better away from the mess that is the Ducks, but he is not really someone that is going to move the needle for this team. They still have two first-round picks even after trading one for him.
23. Chicago Blackhawks — The combination of a seven-game winning streak driven by a spike in shooting percentage and a weak Western Conference created the illusion of a team that might still be able to make the playoffs. Did that stop them from shopping some veteran players that maybe it’s time to move on from?
24. Vancouver Canucks — Dumping Gudbranson for Tanner Pearson might be addition by subtraction on the blue line and saves them a little salary cap space over the next two years.
25. New York Rangers — They did what they needed to, but man, how could you not feel bad for Henrik Lundqvist when watching him talk about the trade of Zuccarello? He has given so much to that organization and now it seems like he knows he will never get to win a championship with it.
26. New Jersey Devils — Hey, good for Cory Schneider for finishing the season strong. He has had a miserable couple of years and looks to have some confidence back now.
27. Anaheim Ducks — Hopefully getting some time behind the bench will give Bob Murray the information he needs to start tearing this thing down and starting over.
28. Detroit Red Wings — Gustav Nyquist’s no-trade clause probably limited what the Red Wings could do with him, but I’m a little surprised they didn’t try to sell more. They have collected a lot of draft picks the past few years but it seems like there was a missed opportunity for more here.
29. Edmonton Oilers — The trade deadline came and went with little fanfare and the stench of the previous regime’s roster moves still lingers throughout the organization. Yuck.
30. Los Angeles Kings — As of Tuesday they are riding an eight-game losing streak and they really didn’t really do much to look ahead to the future. The offseason could be active. It should be, anyway.
31. Ottawa Senators — Remember the scene in “Pulp Fiction” when John Travolta’s character walks into the Wallace household and is looking around, all confused, trying to figure out where everything is? I imagine that is what is going on in Bobby Ryan‘s head right now.
Well, that was fun. The 2019 NHL trade deadline is over and 20 deals involving 32 players were made on Monday featuring plenty of buyers and sellers. There were a number of of trades in the weeks and days leading up to the deadline, which has some teams strengthening for a Stanley Cup run and others eyeing the future as they hope they are in the midst of building a contender.
As the dust settles, let’s take a look at some winners and losers from the 2019 NHL trade deadline.
WINNER: Columbus Blue Jackets fans
Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky have given no indication they’ll re-sign and made it clear they want to test the market on July 1 as unrestricted free agents. So with that news GM Jarmo Kekalainen didn’t throw away the season and deal them off for futures. He kept them and loaded up to make a playoff run. Adding Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel in separate deals with the Senators showed that they’re all-in to make some noise in the postseason. They also picked up Adam McQuaid for depth on defense and Keith Kinkaid for some insurance in net. For a franchise that’s yet to win a playoff round, good for them. The value in creating some excitement in the market is greater than whatever futures some team would throw their way in exchange for a couple of rentals.
With Kekalainen’s flurry of moves before the deadline, the Blue Jackets currently only own two picks in June’s NHL draft: Round 3 and Round 7 (originally Calgary’s). They could add to that if they end up dealing Panarin’s and/or Bobrovsky’s negotiating rights, but for now the prospect cupboard won’t see many additions when the league gathers in Vancouver. They also don’t have a second- or third-round pick in 2020.
WINNER: Nashville’s power play
The Predators’ power play has been atrocious this season, checking in at an NHL-worst 12.6 percent. The unit was at 21.6 percent last season and in the high teens from 2015-17. Simmonds’ addition will help that and the team’s second line. Since 2013, the 30-year-old forward has scored 74 power play goals and recorded 119 points with the man advantage.
Not only does the 28-year-old blue liner go from one of the worst teams in the league to the defending Stanley Cup champions who are chasing a Metropolitan Division title, neither side wasted any time extending their relationship. Not long as the trade was announced, the Capitals signed Jensen to a four-year, $10M extension.
No one wanted any of the pieces they may have been dangling, leaving interim GM Keith Gretzky with lots of work to do in the off-season.
Edmonton media has been talking up Alex Chiasson lately for some reason, thinking he could fetch a draft pick. The 28-year-old forward has one goal since Christmas and is still shooting 19.8 percent, which shows you how bad the regression monster has been affecting him since starting the season off strong with 16 goals in his first 30 games.
WINNER AND LOSER: Ottawa Senators
We knew that Pierre Dorion was going to be active and in sell mode with Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and Mark Stone on the market. Now that all three are gone, the Senators brought in a combined package of:
NHL players: Oscar Lindberg, Anthony Duclair Prospects: Vitaly Abramoff, Jonathan Davidsson, Erik Brannstrom Draft picks: Two 2020 second-round picks, 2021 second-round pick, 2019 and 2020 conditional picks
The Stone deal leaves something to be desired, especially since Dorion was unable to get a first-round pick for him.
These moves, however, leave the Senators with a little over $35M in cap space for next season, per Cap Friendly. They won’t spend to the limit just yet, but they will have to at least get to the projected floor of $58M, so they’ll be active before next season. Maybe that includes taking on a dead contract like, say, David Clarkson’s, which is a $5.25M cap hit through the end of the 2019-20 season.
While the draft picks and prospects could turn into something good in the future, right now there is no confidence from the fan base that the future holds anything positive for the team. The inability to extend Duchene, Dzingel or Stone did not sit well with fans and adds to their lack of belief that Eugene Melnyk will spearhead some huge spending spree in a couple of years as he said he plans to do.
Much like Jensen, Stone moves from a bottom team to a Cup contender and gets an extension to boot. Because of tagging issues, the contract won’t be official until March 1, but it will be eight years with an average annual value of $9.5M and a full no-move clause. Stone told TSN that an “ownership commitment to winning” was a big reason why he agreed to the extension with Vegas, which should tell you everything about why he never ended up putting pen to paper on a deal with the Senators.
LOSER: Those hoping for a big move from the Flames
As the Jets, Predators, Sharks, and Golden Knights loaded up, the Flames stayed quiet, only making a depth move on defense by picking up Oscar Fantenberg from the Kings and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2020. GM Brad Treliving had a maximum price in mind that he would pay to add a big name like Mark Stone. What Ottawa and other sellers were looking for was apparently too rich for his blood.
Treliving wasn’t going to part with prospect Juuso Valimaki, and is pleased to go into battle with his current lineup.
“Today, there is no mourning,” said Treliving Monday afternoon. “The hearse is not driving by, and none of us are climbing in. We’re pretty excited about our team. The fact that we wake up and I’m going to have a cold beer right now and still have guys like Valimaki in our organization, that’s a pretty good day. “So let’s all put it in perspective. We have a good hockey team.”
Owner of a modified no-trade clause, Staal said repeatedly he did not want to leave Minnesota. He wasn’t dealt and will be staying for at least two more seasons after inking a two-year, $6.5M extension.
This has nothing to do with the deal, as it was a good addition by GM Jim Nill. But the Stars only got to enjoy Zuccarello for barely 40 minutes before he blocked a shot and suffered a broken arm that will keep him out of the lineup for at least four weeks.
Knowing their newest acquisition is out at least a month, Nill didn’t go out and add any pieces on Monday, making it a quiet day in Big D.
The rebuild could take a turn this summer as GM Jeff Gorton will have five picks in the first two rounds of the 2019 draft to play with. He has said he’ll try to use those to acquire players who can step in and make an impact next season. Right now they could have over $20M in cap space this off-season.
There wasn’t much of a goalie market this trade deadline, and Howard, who can walk as a UFA this summer, stayed put. The price Detroit was seeking was reportedly high, but now GM Ken Holland will turn his sights into trying to re-sign the 34-year-old.