Last spring, the Stanley Cup drive of the Los Angeles Kings was energized by the trade deadline addition of Marian Gaborik.
So far this season, it’s been mostly about deletions.
Slava Voynov lost to ugly legal proceedings involving his wife. Tanner Pearson lost to a fractured fibula. Mike Richards waived and banished to the minors, a casualty of his declining production and oversized contract.
To make it just to the post-season this year, the Kings may need more help. But so far, that help has come from within.
Dwight King has of late ably replaced Pearson on the new-look “That 70s Line,” and this week that unit has terrorized the NHL. King and his No. 74 fit the requirements to be a member of the line alongside Jeff Carter (No. 77) and Tyler Toffoli (No. 73), and in two games this week that threesome has produced seven goals and 27 shots on net in two L.A. victories.
Four of those goals (three by Toffoli) and 17 of those shots came Thursday at home in a resounding triumph over the Calgary Flames, L.A.’s third straight win and first over the Flames this season. The Kings spotted the Flames a 2-1 lead but roared back with four straight goals to win 5-3.
A loss would have been deeply troubling to Darryl Sutter’s crew. Instead, the win has them creeping closer to a wild card spot, and we all know the Kings know well how to make full use of any old post-season berth.
Still, the question remains; does GM Dean Lombardi have another Gaborik move in him?
Clearly L.A. has needs, particularly on the back end where Voynov’s absence has robbed the team of a good puck mover, a situation made worse these days with Alec Martinez out with a concussion. Brayden McNabb and Jamie McBain have filled in, and veteran Robyn Regehr has been logging minutes like he was 10 years younger, including another 22:08 against the Flames.
Keeping Richards and re-signing Matt Greene after last spring’s Cup win complicated L.A.’s cap situation, as does captain Dustin Brown’s deal. As well, after years of picking high the Kings haven’t drafted higher than No. 29 in four drafts, which takes its toll on the prospect cupboard. Gaborik cost the team a second and a third round pick.
An impact move before the March trade deadline, then, could cost the Kings picks and/or prospects they may not really be able to afford. That said, there’s a chance for a third Cup in four years, particularly with the club seeming to start rolling in recent days.
Would Cody Franson ease the burden on the back end? Probably, but the Kings would be leery of surrendering the first rounder or top prospect the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking for. Jeff Petry of the Edmonton Oilers might be a replacement for the right-hand shooting Voynov.
The Kings know they just have to get in to take a shot at winning it all. That alone may be impossible to resist, even if the cost is heavy.