The first real trade deadline domino has fallen for the LA Kings with the trade of Jeff Carter. Who will benefit the most?
The purge of the LA Kings championship teams continued Sunday night with the trade of Jeff Carter to the Pittsburgh Penguins in return for two conditional draft picks. The 36-year-old had eight goals and eleven assists in forty games for the Kings so far this season, spending most of his time on the wing. The Kings will be retaining half of Carter’s salary ($2.6 million) for the rest of this season and next.
Make no mistake. It always hurts when an icon that helped bring your team its greatest moments leaves. Despite the pain, this was an entirely necessary move for the LA Kings. Remember, this season was supposed to be a season where the team wanted to see “what they have” in their prospects that are just about NHL ready. While his leadership and presence will be missed, the roster spot Carter occupied is needed for a prospect – especially now that the Kings playoff hopes are fading and they have nothing to lose by “playing the kids.”
Another factor to remember is the Kings were almost at the 50 contract maximum. Trading Carter for draft picks, even conditional, now leaves them with 48 players under contract. They will need open contract spots if they plan to go free-agent shopping this offseason.
So with all that said, who on the LA Kings and Ontario Reign benefit from the Jeff Carter trade the most?
Number one: Matt Luff
This could be the opportunity Matt Luff needed. This will be the third season Luff has seen time with the Kings and might be a “now or never” situation. He has played in eleven games for the LA Kings this season, scoring one goal with no assists while spending most of the rest of this season on the taxi squad.
He was recently sent down to Ontario and has been lighting it up for the Reign, scoring three goals and one assist in only four games. Luff is a restricted free agent at the end of this season, so this is the chance he needs to prove to the Kings he should be offered a new contract.
Number two: Martin Frk
Remember this guy?
Signed by the LA Kings last season to a one-year contract, he made quite the impression with the Ontario Reign and especially at the AHL All-Star Classic Skills Competition – shattering the record for the hardest shot. His play earned him a call up to the Kings, where he continued to develop chemistry with rookie Gabe Vilardi. In 17 games with the Kings, Martin Frk scored six goals along with two assists – and earned himself a two-year contract extension in the process.
Going into this season, there was excitement to see the continued development of Martin Frk. This came crashing down after only one game, as he suffered a groin injury which has kept him sidelined for a vast majority of this season. He has recently been sent to Ontario (thankfully clearing waivers) to get some playing time. The Carter trade provides an opening for Frk when he is ready to return to the LA Kings.
Number three: Arthur Kaliyev and the ELC club
It is pretty well known by now that the LA Kings do not want to burn the first year of their prospects. If they do not make any more trades, Carter’s spot in the lineup could still be used to get their “look” at the NHL level. Given that Carter played mostly right-wing, the first of the prospects that should be given a shot is Arthur Kaliyev.
Let’s face it. The LA Kings are a goal-starved team. The calling card for Arthur Kaliyev is that he is a pure goal scorer, so it seems like a perfect fit. In fact, in his one and only NHL game, Kaliyev lit the lamp. Since he has already played that one goal, he can play six more games before the Kings would have to decide whether or not they’re willing to burn the first year of his ELC.
If the Kings choose not to burn the first year of Kaliyev’s ELC, then there are others currently playing for the Reign that are waiting for their turn. Players like Samuel Fagemo, Akil Thomas, and dare I say, Alex Turcotte could be rotated through that lineup spot without burning the first year of any of those players’ ELC’s.
These are interesting times, Kings fans. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!