Los Angeles Kings

Phaneuf Gone, But Are The Los Angeles Kings Still In On Marleau?

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Kings bought out Dion Phaneuf‘s contract. With Phaneuf’s contract bought out, the Kings have plenty of cap space, but does that mean that they should still pursue a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Patrick Marleau?

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Phaneuf’s contract is off the books in Los Angeles. Over the past few seasons, fans have seen a huge decline in Phaneuf’s skill-set. The 34 year old defenseman from Edmonton, Alberta hasn’t posted a corsi-for percentage higher than 50% since his 2015-2016 campaign with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Last season, his corsi-for percentage wasn’t atrocious. He mustered up a corsi-for percentage of 49.1. But, keep in mind, Phaneuf was only averaging 15 minutes of ice time per night. This meant that Phaneuf was playing weak competition and it allowed the Albertan to shine. While Phaneuf’s production wasn’t half bad, it didn’t make sense to have a defenseman with a 7 million dollar cap hit to be on the third defensive pairing. 

Phaneuf Opening Up Cap Space For Marleau

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Now that Phaneuf has been bought out, the Los Angeles Kings have a projected cap space of 14.79 million for next season. With that being said, there were rumours circulating around the Los Angeles Kings possibly being interested in acquiring Marleau in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Marleau is coming off a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs. It appears that Marleau’s age has finally caught up to him. He appeared in 82 games for the Leafs, but failed to get to 40 points. Instead, Marleau recorded 16 goals and 21 assists. To be honest, those numbers aren’t half bad, but when you carry a 6.250 million cap hit, there are expectations that you will tally 50+ points. 

Marleau’s Offensive Productivity 

Not only are his point totals down, but he simply isn’t helping to create offensive scoring chances. In the visual below (created by Sean Tierney), you’ll see that Marleau’s carry-in percentage was quite low and his primary shot contributions/60 were low as well. In fact, several Leafs who had rough seasons including Par Lindholm, Connor Brown and Nazem Kadri were all more effective in generating scoring chances than Marleau.

offense

visual created by Sean Tierney, data from EvolvingWild and Corey Sznajder

In addition, Marleau was often playing on forward lines that weren’t effective. In the visual below from Tierney, you’ll see Marleau played on four different lines last season. He played alongside Nazem Kadri and Connor Brown for a bit, but that line simply wasn’t effective. The line’s expected goals against/60 (xGA60) was quite high and his expected goals for/60 (xGF60) was quite low. When Mike Babcock tried to change things up, he put Marleau on the same line with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Unfortunately, that line wasn’t effective either. 

The only line that really gelled well for Marleau was when Babcock put Marleau, Kadri and Nylander together. The line did put up a low xGA60 and a high xGF60, but this line didn’t see that much ice time as the first and second line were far more effective at generating expected goals throughout the course of the season.

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visual by Sean Tierney, data from MoneyPuck.com

So, Is A Marleau Trade Worth It?

Based on the data that we’ve looked at, it’s evident that the Kings aren’t acquiring Marleau to boost their offense. Instead, they are looking to add a veteran who has one more year left on his deal in a cap-dump trade. The Kings would be essentially doing the Toronto Maple Leafs a favour. But, in order for the Kings to make this trade, they’d need some more value from Toronto. The Maple Leafs would have to make this trade attractive enough for the Kings because no team is going to just take a bad contract and say thank you. That being said, if Kings general manager Rob Blake can get an extra prospect or a mid-range draft pick from the Leafs, it would make the trade more appealing.

If I’m sitting in Blake’s shoes, I would rather go for one of the Leafs’ prospects. I think you can rule out Jeremy Bracco, who had an outstanding season with the Toronto Marlies (Maple Leafs AHL affiliate), but you might be able to land a solid prospect like Mac Hollowell or Yegor Korshkov. 

stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, moneypuck.com, EvolvingWild, Corey Sznajder

visuals from Sean Tierney

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs: Dubas Delivers Again, Jake Muzzin To The GTA

Earlier this evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs made a significant trade with the Los Angeles Kings.

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas placed a call to Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake and was able to land defenseman Jake Muzzin. In exchange for Muzzin, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi and their first round draft selection in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. 

It’s a solid trade for both sides. The Kings acquire solid prospects, while the Maple Leafs get an elite defenseman.

Jake Muzzin

So far this season, Muzzin has been excellent for the Kings. While times have been tough in Southern California, the Woodstock, Ontario native has made the most of it. In 50 games played, Muzzin has tallied 4 goals, 17 assists, 2 power-play assists, 21:32 average time on ice, 92 blocks, 111 hits and a 50.5 corsi-for percentage. 

The good news for the Toronto Maple Leafs is that Muzzin is rather consistent with his offensive production. In his previous four seasons, he has reached the 40 point plateau three times. The only time that Muzzin failed to reach 40 points in the last three seasons was in his 2016-2017 campaign.

Aside from Muzzin’s statistics, he’s well-known as a great two-way defenseman. In the defensive zone, he’s not timid at all. He’s not shy and will be physical when he needs to. In addition, he doesn’t mind blocking shots.

Plus, he’s pretty good when it comes to getting the puck out of the defensive zone. In the diagram below, I compared Jake Gardiner to Jake Muzzin (using CJ Turtoro’s A3Z Player Comparison Tool). In the diagram, you’ll see that Muzzin blows Gardiner out of the water when you focus on zone exits. 

Where Will Muzzin Play?

Per the below tweet from Darren Dreger of TSN, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will feature Muzzin on his top defensive pairing alongside Morgan Rielly.

While it hasn’t been confirmed which side Muzzin will play on, my assumption is that Babcock will have Rielly play on the right side. Rielly has had some experience playing on the right side and has proven that he can be successful on his wrong side.

With the Toronto Maple Leafs adding Muzzin to the lineup, this means that someone has to shift down. In Dreger’s tweet, he mentions that Ron Hainsey might shift down to the third line. However, as of late, Nikita Zaitsev has been abysmal. I wonder if Babcock will move both Hainsey and Zaitsev down to the third line and have Travis Dermott play with Jake Gardiner.

Of course, if Babcock went through with my proposed lines, you’d have two defensemen playing on their wrong side, but that’s not a big deal. Plenty of defensemen play on their wrong side. Alec Martinez of the Los Angeles Kings, Niklas Hjalmarsson of the Arizona Coyotes, Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers and T.J. Brodie of the Calgary Flames are some of the most notable defensemen who play on their off-side. If they can do it, I’m sure that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be just fine with Rielly and Dermott playing on the other side. 

Recap

With the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring Muzzin, Dubas has delivered once again. He’s strengthened his defensive core and now they look prime to shut down their divisional rivals. 

 
stats from hockey-reference and NHL.com

featured image photo credit – Josh Tessler

Los Angeles Kings

Los Angeles Kings Roundtable: Fire Sale Or No Fire Sale?

The Los Angeles Kings have had a rough season and will more than likely be sellers at the trade deadline.

While they most likely will be sellers, that doesn’t mean that the Kings will be selling assets left and right. They could decide to make minor trades versus trading away big stars like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Jeff Carter, Ilya Kovalchuk and others.

General manager of the Los Angeles Kings, Rob Blake could go either way. In this roundtable post, a few of our writers have decided to discuss whether or not the Kings should have a fire sale. 

Alex Hobson 

When I say somewhat, I mean the Kings should deal pretty much anybody aside from Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. The reason for that is because the Kings aren’t necessarily hurting for prospects at this time. They have guys like Rasmus Kupari and Gabriel Vilardi who could be ready to step into an NHL role as soon as next year, as well as guys like Kale Clague, Jaret-Anderson Dolan and Akil Thomas who will definitely be wearing the black and silver in the near future.

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty have both been Kings right from the start. Ever since their draft years in 2005 and 2008 respectively, they’ve worn the Kings uniform with pride and have been there for the good and the bad. The Kings could entertain offers on guys like Jeff Carter, Jake Muzzin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Tyler Toffoli and still bring back a hefty return without having to upset the fan base and damage morale too much by dealing Kopitar or Doughty.

The Los Angeles Kings are having one of their worst seasons since the mid-2000s, meaning they will more than likely end up with a top five pick in the upcoming draft, meaning they’ll have a chance to add a guy like Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko to their roster. With this, the Kings are in a good position prospect wise, thus shouldn’t feel the need to trade everybody on the team.

Justin Miner

You may have a hard time convincing Kings fans that the future is not all doom and gloom, but there are a few moves that could be made to brighten the forecast. 

Nate Thompson could be an attractive trade chip to a contender looking for depth down the middle. He is the final year of his contract and could provide great value to any team that struggles on the penalty kill. His cap hit is an affordable $1.65M and may enjoy a shot at a title at 34 years old. 

Recently acquired Carl Hagelin could garner some interest, as well. He is currently on injured reserve, but when he is healthy, he is one of the best penalty killers in the game. Any team that is lacking speed on the wing would be wise to add Hagelin. 

If the Los Angeles Kings really want to bring a king’s ransom (pun intended) back to the Staples’ Center, they would be wise to entertain offers for Jonathan Quick. The 32-year-old net minder has five years remaining on his current contract. While this season has not been his best, Quick has always been a big time playoff goaltender. Everyone knows that a great goaltender is key to a successful cup run, and Quick has proven capable by winning Lord Stanley’s Cup twice. With Jack Campbell proving to be a capable starter at the NHL level, the Kings could expedite their rebuild with just one trade. 

Macalem Henley 

Should the Kings have a fire sale at the deadline? Yes. Please. Injecting that into my veins. Mired in massive, long, awful contracts, their recent success can no longer excuse their cap mismanagement. No team fighting for last place should have less than 100’000 dollars in cap space. That is absurd, and is only compounded by their extremely thin farm system. Recoup assets, get some lottery tickets, and hope. There are three groups of trade assets that the Kings need to consider moving for futures.

The first group is getting out from under long, heavy contracts. This is simply for cap flexibility, but may require taking on big, shorter contracts to gain any tangible assets. In this group we have the absurdly paid Dion Phaneuf and Dustin Brown.

Second group are guys you can move for limited assets, such as low-level prospects or picks. Throw Carl Hagelin and even Ilya Kovalchuk in this group (if they can’t, or won’t, repair his trade value).

The final group is players they can get decent returns for. Scoring talents like Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli could be worth a high draft picks or decent prospects, and the same for defenceman Jake Muzzin. The market on Jonathan Quick is relatively unknown, with top-tier goalies rarely getting traded, but with a contract that will take him to his age 39 season and a slew of recent injuries, he should be moved at the deadline as well.

Kyle Pereira  

The Los Angeles Kings are having a not-so-good season thus far, and are looking like sellers at this years trade deadline. Here are some of the names to look out for, as well as potential returns from teams who could acquire them.

Jeff Carter, 34 years old, $5.272 mil for the next 4 years (43 games played, 8 goals, 11 assists, 19 points)

Best return: 2nd rounder OR 3rd rounder + a B-level prospect

Potential teams: Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks

Jake Muzzin, 29 years old, $4 mil for the next 2 years (44 games played, 4 goals, 13 assists, 17 points)

Best Return: 1st round pick OR A-Level prospect OR multiple 2nd/3rd round picks

Potential teams: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders

Tyler Toffoli, 26, $4.6 mil for the next 2 years (44 games played, 7 goals, 9 assists, 16 points)

Best Return: 1st round pick OR B-Level prospect with multiple 2nd/3rd round picks

Potential Teams: Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars

Alec Martinez, 31 years old, $4 mil for the next 3 years (30 games played, 3 goals, 8 assists, 11 points)

Best Return: Multiple 2nd/3rd round picks OR B-Level prospect

Potential Teams: Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders

Josh Tessler

So far, the Los Angeles Kings have had awful season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the Kings problems will be solved over night. The Kings really need to consider a full-blown rebuild. They have many players over the age of 30 (including Anze Kopitar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Carl Hagelin, Nate Thompson, Alec Martinez, Dion Phaneuf and Jonathan Quick) and Rob Blake should look to trade these veterans in order to stock up on prospects and draft picks.

A couple of the players listed above could fetch a big haul including Kopitar and Carter. With the amount of teams across the NHL who need a solid play-making centre, Blake should be able to get some valuable pieces back.

If I were in Blake’s shoes, I would look to attempt to trade Kopitar to the New York Islanders. As of now, the Isles are fighting for a wild card spot, but if they were able to add Kopitar then that’d help solidify a playoff spot. Plus, the Isles have many solid prospects like Kiefer Bellows, Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom and others who they could dangle in front of Blake.

Carter could also get a decent return and the Boston Bruins could potentially be a fit. Plus, Don Sweeney, the general manager of the Bruins could send a pick and an NHL ready forward like Ryan Donato or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.

Ryan Boonstra

The L.A Kings in my opinion need a full reset. their current expensive core is not getting the job done. They have many aging veterans that are close to if not already starting to leave their prime and they would be wise to trade those players before they become dead assets. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying they should trade Anze Kopitar, Tyler Toffoli, or a Drew Doughty, but, they have many other pieces that can bring quality pieces back.

When I look at their current roster I see 5-7 players they could deal in order to clear space and acquire young talent/draft picks. Any of Dustin Brown, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jake Muzzin, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, Alec Martinez, or even Dion Phaneuf should be on the block. While these players all have varying contracts in terms of length, they are all 4 million plus contracts that make up the core of the L.A Kings. They are the players that should be driving L.A’s success, but they are not cutting it. They need a hard reset in order to be successful again.

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

 

Los Angeles Kings: Putting Leipsic on a Pig

On December 2, 2018, the Los Angeles Kings made a minor roster adjustment by claiming winger Brendan Leipsic off of waivers from Vancouver.

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This was the second waiver claim made by the Los Angeles Kings in two days, coming a day after Los Angeles General Manager Rob Blake claimed another winger, Nikita Scherbak, off waivers from Montreal. Considering the Kings are sitting last in the entire National Hockey League standings, it’s hard to see these moves as much more than just cosmetic.

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Last season Los Angeles found itself with 98 points to end the regular season, and comfortably in a playoff position. Despite being the lower seed in the playoffs, they were the favourites of many to beat the upstart Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. A team that averaged nearly three goals a game in the regular season (2.9 according to NHL.com), the Los Angeles Kings could only muster three total goals in a four game series that saw them swept out of the playoffs by the expansion Golden Knights.
To say this season has gone poorly for the Kings would be like describing the Hindenburg disaster as “a bit of a rough landing”. This season, the Kings are barely averaging 2 goals per game (2.1 according to NHL.com), are conceding over 3 goals per game (3.1 according to NHL.com). And whereas last year they finished the season with 98 points, they are currently on pace to finish with 59 points. A difference of 39 points! To put that into context, the Buffalo Sabres were just a horrible team last season, finishing last in the entire league, and yet they still finished with 62 points. To go from a playoff team to last in the league within just a few months, is just stunning. Oh the humanity!

So what have the Los Angeles Kings done to try to right this sinking ship? Well, Rob Blake made every General Manager’s favourite move on November 4 by firing coach John Stevens, and naming Willie Desjardins as interim coach. At that stage the Kings were 4-8-1. That move has largely been equivalent to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the Kings having gone 6-10-0 since then, still firmly holding onto last place.

So what’s gone wrong? The season started with optimism when Los Angeles won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, signing the former all-star forward to a three-year contract in the off-season. Additionally, they managed to sign their Norris-trophy winning defenseman Drew Doughty to a long-term contract, ensuring they wouldn’t have to risk losing him for nothing in free agency in 2019. It would be easy to point to the injuries of starting goaltender Jonathan Quick, and back-up goaltender Jack Campbell as reasons for their decline, and that is fair to a certain extent. After all, last season they conceded less than 2.5 goals per game, and as mentioned earlier they are now conceding more than 3.1. However, that doesn’t explain the even greater drop in offensive production.

A primary point of concern would be the aging core of the team. Here is a list of players who earn more than 4 million dollars against the salary cap that have contracts that expire well into their thirties. (Courtesy of capfriendly.com)

  • 28-year-old Defenseman Drew Doughty – 11 million until 2027 – 37 upon expiry
  • 31-year-old Centre Anze Kopitar – 10 million until 2024 – 37 upon expiry
  • 35-year-old Winger Ilya Kovalchuk – 6.25 million until 2021 – 38 upon expiry
  • 34-year-old Winger Dustin Brown – 5.875 million until 2022 – 37 upon expiry
  • 32-year-old Goaltender Jonathan Quick – 5.8 million until 2023 – 37 upon expiry
  • 33-year-old Centre Jeff Carter – 5.273 million until 2022 – 37 upon expiry
  • 33-year-old Defenseman Dion Phaneuf – 5.25 million until 2021 – 36 upon expiry
  • 31-year-old Defenseman Alec Martinez – 4 million until 2021 – 33 upon expiry

That’s a problem. The only player on their team earning more than 4 million per year that will be under the age of thirty when his contract expires is the underperforming 26-year-old Tyler Toffoli. This is a huge problem for the Kings. The team is up against the salary cap roof, and those aforementioned contracts are becoming increasingly difficult to move as their productivity declines.

Consider, for example, star free-agent signing Ilya Kovalchuk. Nine times the 35-year-old winger has scored 30 or more goals, including two fifty-goal seasons. In a season that is one-third completed, he has scored five. Five goals. That’s it. He would need to slightly improve to score even 15 for the season. What about 10-time 20 goal scorer Jeff Carter? This season he is on pace to collect less than 15 goals. Last season Anze Kopitar scored 35 goals. This season he is on pace to collect 20. Cast your eye up and down the line-up, and the regression from last season to this season is ubiquitous and severe.

So what needs to be done? The Kings recognize that they need to get younger and faster, anticipating that such changes will lead to them becoming better. But they haven’t done anything to make themselves younger and faster. As much as I love Brendan Leipsic, he has shown himself to be little more than a depth player. I mean if the Vancouver Canucks felt that Leipsic couldn’t help their pitiable forward group, that tells you something. Rob Blake needs to make a bigger move than just waiver wire pickups.

Hockey analyst and insider Elliotte Friedman quotes one NHL executive as saying that “when a General Manager needs a lifeline, there’s thirty others throwing you anchors”. I acknowledge that being a General Manager isn’t easy. Improving your team isn’t easy. Taking risks isn’t easy. We hear that all the time. Well guess what? My job isn’t easy all the time. Your job isn’t easy all the time. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we can sit on our hands and do nothing, complaining to everyone who will listen that our job is so hard. General Managers are paid to do a job, and they are paid well. I’m sick of hearing excuses from them and sections of their fan base telling us that it’s too hard for them to make the necessary changes. Until GM Rob Blake makes a big move, shaking up the core of this team, any other changes are just lipstick, or rather, Leipsic, on a pig.

Thanks for reading. How would you address the issues surrounding the Kings? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Also feel free to yell at me on Twitter. @CanberrasCanuck

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

salary research from capfriendly.com