I was all ready to sit here and write about the pros and cons of trading for Mike Fisher.
Then this morning, the Nashville Predators made the words in my head utterly moot by trading for the now former Ottawa Senator. This comes on the heels of the Chicago Blackhawks trading Jack Skille and some other garbage for Michael Frolik of the Florida Panthers and some other garbage, which itself came shortly after the Ducks bolstered their defense by taking back Francois Beauchemin from the Toronto Maple Leafs. In that deal, Jake Gardiner, a mid-top flight defensive prospect, went to Brian Burke along with Joffrey Lupul and a conditional pick. Clearly, this trade was motivated by the silly antics and worse costume of Lupul last Halloween. Let’s hope Perry is next.
Unfortunately, the more sober approach tells us that three teams fighting for our playoff spot just improved.
The floodgates may be officially open. If so, Dean Lombardi may have to get while the gettin’s good. Typically a patient man who waits until the deadline or the eve of the deadline to make his deals, not letting a single precious moment of contemplation slip through his laborious neuron-tendrils, one of two things can happen if Lombardi waits too long this year. There may not be anyone left by the trade deadline (February 28th), or the market will have priced the stingy Kings’ GM out based on the over-payments that are likely to come in the weeks to follow (as they always do).
Usually the trade deadline is a flurry, much like the opening of free agency on July 1st. Team’s wait as long as they can before making bold moves or deciding whether they are buyers or sellers. However with the parity in the West, and the utter lack of it in the East, the NHL finds itself with reason to make more trades leading up to the deadline. There are few sellers in the West and with teams finding it hard to break away from a suffocatingly tight playoff race, they are already looking to make deals that can separate them from the herd. On the flip side, in the East there are a bundle of teams that are going nowhere fast.
So who else is out there that suits the Kings’ needs?
Let’s look at those teams locked in the basement.
New Jersey – Lets just get this out of the way. I’m sure Lombardi is talking, or attempting to talk, to Lou about Zach Parise. I will always have a hopeful side that envisions a trade of this caliber. I will also always have the side of me (which possesses a bigger stick than the other side) that says neither will Lou trade his injured superstar leader or will Lombardi make such a drastic move.
Buffalo – Vanek. I want Vanek. Will we get him? Does Dean even want him? Hard to say. I bet he is more available than Parise. He’s big, talented, a bit over-payed and precisely what Kopitar needs. File this under the tab “Pulling your head out of the sand.”
Ottawa – With Fisher gone and Alfredsson out for the season, ain’t nothing worth trading for from the Senators.
New York Islanders – We aren’t getting Tavares or Okposo. Moulson’s days as a Kings are a thing of the past. Moving right along.
Florida – Cory Stillman strikes me as someone Lombardi is going to look at very seriously. I won’t be over the moon if we trade for the aging winger, but he would be an improvement. He has managed 7 goals and 14 assists for 21 points in 38 games on a team that can barely score an empty net goal. Of course, Stillman suffered a shoulder injury this week, which probably only makes him all the more attractive to Lombardi. The other player to look at out of Florida is David Booth. Booth would likely be costly and it is unclear whether his Mike Richards’ induced concussion from last year has left him forever degraded as a scorer.
Toronto – Next. I’ve always liked me some Versteeg, but he doesn’t quite fit our bill.
New York Rangers – Supposedly Gaborik is available. If you enjoy the feeling of oxygen running to your brain, I suggest you purge this thought from your mind.
Edmonton – The most talked about forward as a potential King is Dustin Penner. Penner may just fall into the sweet spot of Lombardi players. Not too expensive (not too cheap either…), is skilled in front of the net and youngish. I firmly believe the question here is purely about price. If Edmonton wants a ransom, they can and will likely get it somewhere else. If they want some quality defensive prospects, which we know they do, then Hollywood is the place to look.
The rest of the West is too close to a playoff spot (13/14th place are just 7 points from 8th place) to be a part of this pre-deadline selling. These are the teams that will likely wait until closer to the deadline to see if they keep slipping or can get closer to the point where they most assuredly want to buy. I have no idea what Columbus or St. Louis are going to do. They could go either way. Colorado is already picking up Forsberg, which makes it seem likely that they will end up buying at the deadline.
Much of the Kings’ trading fate will depend on whether or not Lombardi is willing to trade any of his NHL players. Last year he was most certainly not. This year, is he willing to trade a Wayne Simmonds for the right player (Vanek, Parise, Penner?). Is he willing to part with a top prospect like Forbort or Schenn or Moller? I think we can assume that our 1st round pick is on the table. The quality of player Lombardi is willing to trade will dictate the quality of player we can expect to get back.
Standing pat is an option, but in this writer’s opinion, a bad one.
Missing the playoffs would be a huge blow to this team and with the West only getting tighter and as of yesterday, better, Lombardi can not afford to hang his hat on future development or the free Modin’s and cheap Halpern’s of the NHL. Sure, the team as it stands can still make the playoffs. However in order to properly hedge one’s bets, you don’t simply rely on what you have. You attempt to make it better.
Get us a winger Dean. One strong and fast. One who can put the puck past. One, who unlike Sturm, will last.