While not the “young, dynamic, left-shot defenseman” the LA Kings are looking for, Alec Martinez would certainly help shore up the team’s blueline.
The 33-year-old defenseman scored two of the biggest goals in franchise history during the 2014 playoffs. First, it was the game-winner in double overtime of Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks that sent the Kings to the Stanley Cup Final. Then of course there was his “jazz hands” celebration after scoring the Cup-clinching goal in double overtime of Game 5 against the New York Rangers.
As the LA Kings fortunes soured after the 2014 Stanley Cup championship, several members of that team became expendable. One of those players was Martinez, who was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights at the 2020 trade deadline for two second-round draft picks. This one really hurt for Kings fans, as Martinez was a long-time fan favorite.
Two seasons after the trade, the Golden Knights find themselves in cap trouble, and the LA Kings could be in a perfect position to take full advantage of it. The AAV on Martinez’s now-expiring contract is $4 million per season, and while that isn’t a lot by current NHL standards, Vegas is projected to have only $2.4 million in cap space available this off-season. Barring any moves to free up some salary-cap space, the Golden Knights simply cannot afford to bring Martinez back — even at a discount. With over $20 million in cap space available going into the off-season, the Kings have no such concerns.
So, what can Martinez do for the Kings if he makes a homecoming?
For starters, he would provide depth and defensive stability on the left side of their defense that was sorely missing last season. After Mikey Anderson, it was a hodgepodge of Olli Maatta, Tobias Bjornfot, Kurtis MacDermid, Kale Clague, and even Christian Wolanin. Martinez would be an obvious upgrade on the left side — especially if Clague is selected by the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft. Tobias Bjornfot isn’t going anywhere, but with Martinez in the fold, it would allow Bjornfot to continue his development on a less demanding third-pair assignment.
Another thing a returning Alec Martinez would bring to the LA Kings would be veteran leadership, which is something else that’s needed on a team that is suddenly lacking in that department. Martinez knows what it takes to win, and having him in the fold to impart that onto the young players on the Kings roster is invaluable.
Last but not least, Martinez would be a fantastic bridge to the plethora of young defensive prospects the LA Kings have on the way. Names like Helge Grans, Sean Durzi, Jordan Spence, Kim Nousiainen, Cole Hults, and Brock Faber, all appear to potentially have NHL futures in front of them, but the fact of the matter is they need more time to develop. Part of the nature of the beast with defensemen is they generally need more time to develop than forwards, and rushing defensemen in particular before they are ready can be disastrous. Bring in Alec Martinez on a two- or even three-year deal and all of the above-named defensive prospects should be in no danger of being rushed to Los Angeles because Mr. Martinez will be holding down the fort until they are ready.
They say you can always go home, and this summer, the LA Kings have an opportunity to bring one of their native sons back. Even at 33 years old, Alec Martinez is still a productive and valuable defenseman to have on the roster. Hopefully, general manager Rob Blake will see it that way as well and we will see a “Welcome Home, Alec Martinez!” banner out in front of the Staples Center.