The Los Angeles Kings are holding onto a playoff spot for dear life as teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Colorado Avalanche have caught them amidst below-average play as of late. The offence has been carrying the team all season long, but the Kings have areas they would like to improve upon by the deadline to make the playoffs and win.
For the Kings to add what they need, they will have to move pieces. So in that case, we will look at the three most likely candidates to be moved before the 2023 Trade Deadline.
The Kings have been looking to move out a right-handed defenceman for most of the season. They have Drew Doughty, Sean Durzi, Matt Roy, and Sean Walker, along with Brandt Clarke, who is expected to arrive in a full-time role next season. There are a couple of problems with the defensive situation of the Kings. Three of their right-shot defencemen appear to be in the plans for at least 3-4 more years until Doughty’s contract expires. That means Walker and possibly Roy are the odd men out. The Kings could still run with four right-shot defence, but not five.
Walker is the focus, but I’ll get to Roy in the next section. The belief is that Roy is more valuable than Walker, seeing as the latter has been a healthy scratch as of late. Walker logs under 15 minutes a game and doesn’t have the most outstanding all-around stats. Among Kings’ defencemen, he has the fifth most points with nine, has the sixth-most shot blocks, fifth-most hits among defencemen, and the worst penalty minute differential (penalty minutes taken vs drawn).
All of that isn’t very flattering for another team to be interested in, but there is interest. Ottawa Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorian has been attending Kings games, according to Charlie Roumeliotis, and their top concern is bolstering the right side of their defence. Walker is signed through next season at $2.65 million AAV and could be a cheap short-term fix.
Roy is the better option the Kings have to dangle in a trade. They like him more, but his value is also higher. We don’t know for certain which defenceman the Senators are particularly watching, but Roy seems to be the option they would like to add to their top four. In this case, it would free up $3.15 million for this season and next for the Kings to use in an area of need. They have been poking around looking for a left-shot defenceman, and that money could go to someone like Vladislav Gavrikov from the Columbus Blue Jackets or Jakub Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes.
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Roy has fairly good numbers this season and is solid all around. He won’t put up the most points, but he does have five goals and 15 points on the season. He is one of the Kings’ leaders in shifts started in the defensive zone, second among Kings defencemen in hits, and leads them in blocked shots. Roy doesn’t appear to be in the long-term plans, and the Kings could benefit by moving him before the deadline.
If the Kings can pull something off, they have to. It will definitely cost them an asset or more, but they have one of the deepest farm systems and not enough room for everyone to eventually play in the NHL. To free themselves of a good amount of cap space that is stewing in the minors, they have to move out Cal Petersen and his $5 million AAV contract that lasts until 2025. This will not be easy. First, they will have to find a partner that has room in net and the cap space. This likely means a rebuilding team looking to take on contracts for high picks and prospects. Teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks, and San Jose Sharks come to mind.
Another option the Kings may have if they don’t want to pay the price of moving Petersen to a rebuilding team is finding a team in a similar position. At one point in the season, they had the chance to possibly make a deal with the Edmonton Oilers for Jack Campbell or the Vancouver Canucks for Thatcher Demko. It appears that time has passed for those teams. Other goaltenders could start to struggle greatly and provide the Kings with the opportunity, though it would be unlikely.
Petersen has to go if the Kings want to set themselves up for the future or free up cap space to make any additions for this season. The team is slowly slipping out of playoff positioning with the lack of goaltending, and they could use the fresh slate next season with Jonathan Quick’s contract expiring (from ‘Column: Soft goals and inconsistency — Kings’ goaltending woes threaten to derail season,’ Los Angeles Times, Jan. 20, 2023). Moving any of Walker, Roy, or Petersen could help set up a successful rest of the season, offseason, and 2023-24. The Kings will have to sacrifice up at least one of these players, whether it costs them or they get a positive return.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News and trade talks.
You can find more of his work here.