LA Kings: To trade or not to trade, that is the question

LA Kings (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings are expected to be major players this offseason. If they choose to upgrade via trade, one or more of their prized prospects will have to go, but should they do that?

It took so long to rebuild the LA Kings prospect pool.

There was a time when Michael Amadio, Jordan Weal, and Michael Mersch were considered to be among the top prospects in the pipeline. While I’m sure all are great guys, it didn’t bode well for the future of the Kings in the latter half of the 2010s. The result was several losing seasons, and suddenly the two Stanley Cup championships felt like a distant memory.

They say it’s always darkest before the dawn, and those losing seasons yielded several high draft picks. Those picks, in turn, have helped make the LA Kings prospect pool one of the best in the NHL. Names like Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Rasmus Kupari, and Samuel Fagemo are just a few of the prospects that Kings fans are looking forward to in the near future.

While the prospect pool is now loaded, the LA Kings still need to emerge from the rebuild they have been enduring over the past few seasons. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2018, and they haven’t won a playoff game since 2016.

Even with all the optimism for the future, it appears the fanbase is beginning to get restless about the current product, as evidenced by the fact that TV ratings for Kings games were down this season, although fans could not attend games in person. The prospects should bring the Kings success in a few years, but the team must become relevant again soon in a hyper-competitive Los Angeles sports landscape.

So what should the LA Kings do?

The Kings have options here. First, they could do nothing outside of the organization and begin to weave their prized prospects into the team starting this season. It can be assumed at least their number one prospect, Quinton Byfield, will be in Los Angeles this season as it is highly unlikely he goes back to the OHL.

As far as the others go, while it is very exciting for some to think that the rest of the prospects will be joining Byfield at the Staples Center this season, it simply is not a good idea. Despite their collective extraordinary talent, prospects need time to develop, and thrusting all of them into the NHL before they are ready would not only stunt their development but almost certainly lead to another disappointing season for the Kings.

The LA Kings will have approximately $15 million in cap space this offseason after re-signing their own RFA’s. With that kind of cap space, the team could make a substantial offer to any unrestricted free agent they desire.

Some of the big UFA’s hitting the market include Gabriel Landeskog, Alex Ovechkin, Taylor Hall, Brandon Saad, and Dougie Hamilton, among others, will be available. Landeskog, Ovechkin, and Hall will most likely be returning to their former teams, so that leaves Hamilton, Saad, and even Mike Hoffman as the big fish that would be up for grabs.

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If the LA Kings strike out in the UFA market or choose not to take that route, that leaves trades as the route they will have to go to improve the team. With a deep prospect pool and plenty of salary-cap space, the Kings can certainly pursue just about any player that may come available.

In fact, my colleague Ryan Sikes wrote a great article on some potential RFA’s the Kings could make trade offers for LA Kings: Three RFA forwards to consider trading for. Looking at that list, any Kings fan would be extremely excited at the idea of landing any of these players. Unlike the unrestricted free agents, there is a catch, however.

In a trade scenario, the Kings will have to give to get.

In a trade negotiation, the LA Kings’ obvious position of strength is their prospect pool and draft capital. It’s a great problem to have, but the Kings almost have too many great prospects and not enough spots on the big club for them. I know that sounds very weird, but bear with me.

If the Kings will be a playoff contender starting next season, they will need to improve the team now, as they won’t have years to wait for all the prospects to reach their full potential. I am not saying trade all the prospects – far from it. With a prospect pool as deep as the Kings, however, they will be able to trade one or two of them to improve the team now without sacrificing the future.

So with that said, which prospect(s) would get traded. Of course, part of that answer depends on the Kings trading partner and their needs. Quinton Byfield is untouchable, so he isn’t going anywhere, but what about the others? I recently ran a poll on my Twitter account to see what readers think who another untouchable prospect might be (Quinton Byfield is already assumed to be off-limits).

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60 percent of those who responded said right-wing Arthur Kaliyev should not be included in any trade packages. Although I believe no player is ever untradeable (I still vividly remember the Gretzky trade), I have to say that I think the LA Kings should do everything they can do to hang on to Arthur Kaliyev.

That leaves Alex Turcotte, this year’s first-round draft pick, Rasmus Kupari, Tyler Madden, Samuel Fagemo, Akil Thomas, Helge Grans, Brock Faber, Jordan Spence, and Kale Clague (assuming Seattle doesn’t take him in the Expansion Draft). as potential trade bait. Even though they aren’t considered prospects anymore, young players like Gabe Vilardi and Tobias Bjornfot could be included in the equation as well.

To acquire a young, dynamic player like Sam Reinhart, William Nylander, Patrik Laine, Mikhail Sergachev, Zach Werenski, or another young high profile player that could potentially become available, it will cost the LA Kings a combination of their young assets listed above.

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It is a gamble to trade your young high potential but unproven talent that might lead the team to future success to acquire another team’s young talent that is already potentially at its ceiling. The talent the LA Kings would get in return will help the team now, which could lay the foundation for future success.

To trade or not to trade, that is the question indeed.