The LA Kings acquired some grit in winger Brendan Lemieux, and these three players should be concerned about their long-term playing time.
Just hours after general manager Rob Blake delivered his State of the LA Kings address on Friday night, the team made a move in an effort to get more production and energy from their bottom-six forwards. The Kings and Rangers struck up a deal, sending winger Brendan Lemieux to Los Angeles in exchange for LA’s fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Lemieux was drafted in the second round, 31st overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. He was part of the Evander Kane trade package with Winnipeg in February 2015 and was traded again in the Kevin Hayes deal with the Rangers in 2019.
The 25-year-old leads the league with 59 penalty minutes and was fifth on the Rangers with 61 hits. At 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Lemieux is a big-bodied player who will add a much-needed element of physicality to the LA Kings’ bottom-six forwards. Prior to being traded, Lemieux had two goals and seven points in 30 games.
An interesting tie to the LA Kings, Lemieux played with Gabe Vilardi with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL during the 15-16 season, tallying 23 goals and 48 points in 34 games. Vilardi, of course, is in Todd McLellan’s doghouse right now, playing on the wing along the fourth line. Whenever Lemieux is inserted into the Kings lineup, these three players’ have officially been put on notice.
When Michael Amadio was waived and cleared waivers, it felt like a matter of time before Austin Wagner was next. The former fourth-round pick in 2015 has a ton of speed, but that seems to be about it. He has three goals and seven points in 24 games, but he appears to be trending in the wrong direction after tallying a career-best 21 points in his rookie campaign.
Along the same lines as Amadio and Wagner, Blake Lizotte’s days are numbered in Los Angeles. Once penciled into the 2C, Lizotte is spending his days as the team’s fourth-line center. In his rookie season, the St. Cloud State product scored six goals and 23 points in 65 games. Lizotte has just two goals and two assists in 26 games this season, despite logging a career-high eight percent shooting percentage. When Vilardi eventually moves back to the middle, Lizotte is the odd man out
3. Martin Frk
Frk gets a little more leeway here, simply because he hasn’t played more than ten minutes this season. He was expected to have a much larger impact both on the team and Vilardi’s production, as the two were widely successful in Ontario last year. It’s probably fair to surmise that we’ll eventually see a Lemieux – Vilardi – Frk line at some point in the near future, especially with Frk returning to practice on Saturday.
Still, with several forward prospects close to seeing regular NHL time, Frk will have to make the most of what’s left of the 2021 season. He also comes at a very affordable $725K cap hit next year, but for that kind of money, along with his potential, Frk is also very tradeable.