Hey I was out of town a few days, and the days I was in town I didn’t feel like blogging. Anywho, I heard the Los Angeles Kings did some trades. There was the Marian Gaborik and Nick Shore for Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson deal first. Then we had the Darcy Kuemper for Tobias Rieder deal more recently. Let’s start with the smaller move shall we?
Anytime you get any sort of trade value out of a backup goalie, it’s a good deal. The Kings did this last season sending Peter Budaj out to Tampa Bay for Ben Bishop. It took a little extra to get that deal done, and...it was sorta weird to roll two good goalies when the team needed, say, a center? Especially since they were requiring their top prospect to learn the pivot on the fly. In the end, the Kings missed the playoffs.
Rieder was sent over to L.A. with no other strings attached besides Kuemper. In fact, the Coyotes ate (a small bit of) some salary in the deal and sent over Scott Wedgewood, who....is a goalie. Actually, he just got waived. Bye, Scott. We won’t forget you. It wasn’t a bad deal at all, and Rieder has scored in the teens regularly with Arizona.
That last point being an issue. “With Arizona”. Someone has to score goals, even on bad teams, and Arizona over the last has been very bad. A third liner off a garbage roster raises a few red flags, but who knows? What is known is that Rieder is a good penalty killer (which the Kings have lots of) and skates fast (which the Kings have less of). I’m not expecting a big goal scorer, more along the lines of a fourth line guy, who could play third line in a pinch. Perhaps he gets a bigger role, a la Alex Iafallo. If Jeff Carter gets back healthy and ready to tear things up, Rieder could slot in with he and Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson.
Then there was the Ottawa Senators move. The Kings have been “saying” they have needed another big top four defender ever since Slava Voynov was removed from the Kings, the NHL, the country, and then from society for a bit, for assaulting his wife. The Kings tried Andrej Sekera, who played two games, and Luke Schenn, who sucked and died. They decided to try a long term solution with Dion Phaneuf.
Phaneuf isn’t too terrible. He’s also not too great. He’s a big guy, who shoots the puck hard and isn’t known for being a passer. He is sorta slow but makes up for it with good stick positioning. Occasionally he gets turn-styled and has trouble getting back into the play. It is very appropriate he wears #3, which belonged to Brayden McNabb before him. There’s more offensive upside, but the defensive is up and down, and I wouldn’t count on Dion to start a whole lot of counterattacks.
Going the other way was Gaborik. Both Phaneuf and Gaborik had atrocious contracts. The Kings took on more salary, and also had to take on an older and less talented version of Nick Shore. That only made sense because Nick Shore was also part of the deal. The older, and more expensive Nick Shore that L.A. got was Nate Thompson.
All in all, the Kings took on $1,100,00.00 more in salary for the foreseeable future, got another fourth line guy from a crappy team (Torrey Mitchell from the Canadiens being the first one), and got a defender who is up and down defensively but provides a good shot. Rieder for Kuemper was an addition of $1,383,750.00 seeing as Wedgewood got waived, and Jack Campbell is the de facto backup now. The backup spot is a bit more of a tossup now, which carries low downside, and Rieder is a German Iafallo which gives the Kings actual depth and speed.
The Kings improved.
Phaneuf is certainly an improvement over Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue, though can be exposed at times. Gaborik was on the outs. Shore for Thompson is pretty awful, but it is the 4C role being swapped so I’m not gonna lose too much sleep over the 4C spot. Thompson higher than that...then yes I will be having nightmares.
All good things for the most part. Great deadline.
The defensive addition was more of a secondary issue the Kings faced. LaDue and Gravel were rotating as the 6 and 7 defenders and their roles were limited. An addition there was nice to have, but wasn’t exactly first priority. That was clearly the offense. Specifically with one spot.
I have blabbed on and on and on about the Kings issues at center over the past years since they won a Stanley Cup. Nick Shore and Nic Dowd, who were the duo constantly looking to be upgraded especially since neither could reliably hold down third line duties, have been replaced by Mitchell and Thompson. Adrian Kempe keeps having to learn center despite being a winger his whole career. Michael Amadio certainly has potential, but he’s clearly being rushed along.
The Kings are flush with fourth liners. Mitchell and Thompson keep getting larger roles than they should have because of this and a severe lack of centers and better talent. Kyle Clifford, Andy Andreoff, Mitchell and Thompson are all roster filler and not fillers. Amadio isn’t trusted fully yet for a big role apparently, and it appears the same is felt regarding Jonny Brodzinski. Even with Jeff Carter back, the 3C spot appears to be Kempe’s to continue to fill even though he is the top six winger the Kings desperately need as well.
The 3C has been a huge point of problems for L.A. since 2014. No one has been able to hold it. Shore, Dowd, Mitchell, Thompson, and even Vincent Lecavalier have tried. The wing depth hasn’t been good enough to float the center a bit, and the center isn’t bolstering the wings either. It’s been mediocre at best success at times with these guys and the third line has been a blackhole. Amadio clearly is the guy who could fill the spot, but if he is actually ready is a toss up. He deserves more of a look than Mitchell or Thompson. But if the Kings don’t trust Amadio, and it appears he’s not quite there for them yet, then they did nothing to address that problem.
Kempe might be good enough to keep learning to be a center. He would be a huge force added if freed up as a winger. Do Thompson or Mitchell make the third line viable even with the wing depth from that? Maybe. Do the Kings make the playoffs with this current roster? Maybe, but I’m not counting on a deep run even if they do make it.
Los Angeles made a great move with Kuemper and Rieder. The Phanuef deal isn’t terrible, though maybe not the godsend the Kings hope for on defense while it also is eating a lot of salary for a long time. If they stand pat though at center and keep holding back Kempe while trying to use him as a stopgap at center, they better really hope Amadio is set for next season or it’s going to be the same problem again.