The LA Kings and an unorthodox trade deadline plan

LA Kings (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings organization is already bursting at the seams with high-end prospects. This is how they can continue to get more and bring in established help for future Kings teams.

LA Kings General Manager Rob Blake and company have done a fantastic job of rebuilding what was a very depleted prospect pool. Already armed with what is considered to be amongst the best pipelines in the NHL, they currently have eight draft picks in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft – including six in the first four rounds, per CapFriendly.

The LA Kings have an enviable problem of needing to open up roster spots for what they hope is their future stars, so why the heck do they need more draft picks?

The simple answer is that with the salary cap remaining flat for the foreseeable future, draft picks are worth even more than they normally would be – and the LA Kings are in a position where they can hoard more picks for now without sacrificing the present.

With their playoff hopes beginning to fade, the team may decide by the April 12th trade deadline that it is time to move on from some veterans and maximize their return. Names that have come up in the trade rumor mill include Jonathan Quick, Andreas Athanasiou, Dustin Brown, and Alex Iafallo.

It would certainly hurt to see franchise icons like Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick go. The benefits of trading either or both are even more cap space and additional roster spots. In Quick’s case, it would get the Kings out from under his contract, which has two more seasons left on it after this one. Remember, in any trade scenario, the Kings will most likely be retaining half of his salary.

Based on their play this season, Brown’s trade value is higher than Quick’s. At 36 years of age, Brown currently leads the Kings with fourteen goals. Making the former captain even more enticing is he only has one season left on his contract after this one with an AAV of $5.9M – of which the LA Kings can certainly afford to retain half of to help facilitate the best deal possible.

Younger players like Athanasiou and Iafallo could also be on the move. Athanasiou was brought in on a one-year “prove it” deal and has brought a speed element that the Kings were sorely missing. He could be a fantastic under-the-radar addition to a contending team for a playoff run. Athanasiou will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season.

Iafallo was signed in 2017 as an undrafted free agent and has certainly proven his worth. He has spent most of his time on the top line as Anze Kopitar‘s left-wing, and while not a prototypical first-line winger, he has been serviceable in that role. On a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, he probably slots into a second or third-line role. Still, its players who are willing to do dirty work like Iafallo are what every championship team needs. He is eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season, but the Kings have made it known they would like to keep him.

Of these four, Iafallo is most likely to bring in the biggest return. A desperate team might give up a first-round pick, but that’s highly unlikely. Instead, I see the overall returns as multiple draft picks in the second to the fifth-round range. A caveat here is the Kings should insist those picks be in the 2022 and/or 2023 drafts. Think of this as a three-year plan.

The LA Kings have the pleasant problem of bursting at the seams with prospects, so they really don’t need a plethora of picks for the 2021 draft. Many are expecting the LA Kings to start being playoff contenders beginning next season, and if all goes right, Stanley Cup contenders within a few seasons.

They won’t be expected to be sellers at future trade deadlines but instead become buyers. If they are buyers in the future, the draft capital in 2022 and 2023 acquired this season will come in very handy.

Often, when a team enters “buyer” mode, they wind up sacrificing future assets, whether it’s draft picks, prospects, or both. After two or three consecutive seasons of this, a team will end up with a depleted prospect pool, and not many draft picks to replenish it – the LA Kings know this only too well.

It doesn’t have to be that way for the Kings. For argument’s sake, let’s say LA concentrates on acquiring 2023 draft picks in their current trades. Using this parameter, they could go into the 2023 trade deadline with a draft pick arsenal that looks like this.

  • First Round: one pick
  • Second Round: three picks
  • Third Round: two picks
  • Fourth Round: two picks
  • Fifth Round: two picks
  • Sixth Round: one pick
  • Seventh Round: one pick

I chose 2023 because that is when the Kings could more likely be nearing a championship-contending window. Not counting their own picks, they would enter this season with five extra picks. These extra picks alone could very well bring them some serious help via trade in whatever area they decide they need it.

Remember, players like Tyler Toffoli and Alec Martinez were traded away without getting a first-round draft pick back. The LA Kings would be in a rare position to use draft picks to bring in additional help for their team and keep replenishing their prospect pipeline, which would potentially extend their championship-contending window.

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With a projected flat salary cap for the foreseeable future, building and remaining a contender will require some “out of the box” thinking. The LA Kings are well-positioned for future success, thanks in large part to Rob Blake and the scouting staff’s efforts so far. Now they need to plan for the next step.